POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 2) — Racing under almost identical conditions, Day 1 leader Jeg Coughlin Jr. was unable to improve on his opening pass of 6.689 seconds at 206.95 mph on Friday, slipping from first place to eighth on the current qualifying ladder of the 43rd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals.

Coughlin posted a 6.692 at 207.82 mph, which showed consistency, but seven racers, including the other three in the Countdown to One title chase, all managed to get around him.

“Tomorrow has become a crucial day,” Coughlin said. “There’s a lot of suspense. There’re two championships on the line. One is the Full Throttle Pit Crew Challenge and the other is the POWERade championship. We’re currently second in both standings so we need to step it up on both fronts.

“We were No. 1 yesterday but we weren’t entirely pleased with the way the car was running. We tried some things today and took a tiny step back so we’ll head in a different direction and get ready for Saturday. The morning round will be the best of the weekend so it’ll be a big session for all of us.”

Saturday’s final two qualifying sessions are scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona.

“Most likely the morning session will be a little bit cooler so we’re excited about that,” Coughlin said. “The main thing we want out of this JEGS.com Cobalt is for it to go straight. As simple as it sounds, a straight line is the shortest way down the strip and when you launch sideways it definitely hampers you. We’ve gotten better but it’s still wanting to kick out on us.

“The team had its backs against the wall last Sunday in Las Vegas and they responded really well and we got to the final. We had to race all three guys in the Countdown, so it wasn’t easy. We always seem to do best when the pressure is at it’s highest so hopefully we can respond tomorrow.”

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