DALLAS (Sept. 18) — Pro Stock driver Jeg Coughlin Jr. is no more than 30 feet away from information most people in NHRA drag racing would love to have. As teammate to current points leader Dave Connolly, Coughlin and crew chief Roy Simmons have complete access to all the intricate data that has carried Connolly to three straight wins in the last month of racing. It’s an advantage the 50-time national event winner is hoping to capitalize on this weekend when the tour arrives in Dallas.

“We’re teammates in the true sense of the word,” said Coughlin, a three-time series champion who is currently third in the Countdown to Four playoff points. “That’s the way (team owner) Victor Cagnazzi built this operation. Our cars are as identical as two hand-built cars can be, so it behooves us both to work together, which is exactly what we’ve done all year. It’s a big part of why we’re first and third in the points right now.”

Under the new Countdown format, NHRA narrowed the field of drivers eligible for the 2007 title to eight people prior to the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. Since then, Connolly and Greg Anderson have raced to the final round of races in Indy and Memphis, Tenn., with Connolly beating Anderson at both events. That has left the two men a solid first and second in the standings, 102 points clear of the chase pack led by Coughlin.

After this weekend’s race in Dallas and a subsequent event in Richmond, Va., the field will narrow again to just four racers that will battle it out over the final two events to see who wins the championship. Prior to that Countdown to One, the racers will be reseeded in the standings and separated by just 10 points each.

“Barring a catastrophic collapse, Dave and Greg have virtually locked up two of those four spots, so that leaves six of us fighting for those final two slots,” Coughlin said. “As much as we’d like to be up at the top tangling with Dave and Greg at the moment, the reality is we need to concentrate on staying in the top four and making that next cutoff.

“Right now, our JEGS.com Chevrolet Cobalt is third overall, so out of the six cars fighting for the final two spots, we’re in control. But Warren Johnson is in eighth place and he’s only four rounds back so obviously big shifts can happen. Not to mention that the two guys right behind me are less than a round and a half back.”

Coming off a strong semifinal finish in Memphis, which followed a forgettable first-round loss in Indy, Coughlin has an idea of what he needs to do to stay in the mix.

“In my estimation we need to qualify in the top five this weekend and go to the semis at the very least,” said Coughlin, a winner at Texas Motorplex during his 2002 championship campaign. “We locked up a spot in the Countdown to Four with a few races to spare and that allowed us to test some new things. We went out and won Brainerd (Minn.) and thought we were on to something but the car didn’t respond as well in the next two events in Reading (Pa.) and Indy.

“We decided on Friday night in Memphis to go back to our old set-up and it immediately worked out for the better. We qualified really well Saturday and went three rounds on Sunday so we’re feeling better about ourselves.

“Dave’s been running great and he’s taking care of business. We’ve actually had the most consistent car all season on our side of the pit, as witnessed by the fact we lead the Full Throttle Pit Crew Challenge points, so between the two of us we should be able to accomplish our next goal of putting both of Victor’s cars in the Countdown to One.”

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