SONOMA, Calif. (July 27) — Reigning series champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. came within a whisker of his 40th career Pro Stock win Sunday, settling instead for runner-up honors behind his Victor Cagnazzi racing teammate Dave Connolly at 21st annual Fram-Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway.

It was a thrilling final with Connolly and Coughlin posting nearly identical elapsed times on the Sonoma Valley quarter-mile — 6.627 for Coughlin to a 6.628 for Connolly. The difference came at the starting line, where Connolly left first by a .012- to .022-second margin, resulting in a .009-second holeshot victory.

“I hated to give one up on a holeshot but you have to look at the big picture and Dave’s win helped him jump up in the top 10, which was the No. 1 goal for the team this weekend,” Coughlin said. “He was actually in before we raced and we got after it against one another, trust me. He just had a better light this time and took the win. My congratulations go out to Dave and his crew.

“One thing we always try to accomplish at every race is keeping the Cobalt ranked in the top three or four of every session. We were able to do that throughout qualifying and eliminations so I couldn’t be happier. We’ve got a great racecar here.”

Coughlin’s run to his 63rd professional-level final-round appearance included wins over both KB Racing drivers — 2006 champ Jason Line and three-time titlist and current points leader Anderson, who are both ahead of him in the ’08 POWERade standings. He also erased Ron Krisher, who uses Victor Cagnazzi horsepower that’s on par with Coughlin’s powerplant.

The victory over Line reversed a recent trend of close loses as this time Coughlin’s .018-second holeshot yielded a two-thousandths of a second win at the top end. Coughlin was sharp at the Tree again when he faced Anderson, putting .037 on his friendly rival that helped him collect the wire-to-wire win.

“There’s still a lot of time left to finish as high as we can in the points before the Countdown starts in Charlotte,” Coughlin said. “We raced both of our teammates and both of those KB Racing cars today so it was a battle from start to finish. To run as well as we did takes a load off our shoulders.

“The car was good and I was pleased with my driving so we’ll head over to Brainerd (Minn.) for the next race with a lot of confidence.”

The Chevrolet Cobalt posted the second quickest elapsed time of the first round (6.606), third quickest E.T. of the quarterfinals (6.619), and quickest E.T. of the semifinals (6.637), meaning he carried lane choice into the money round. Remarkably, even though he was quick all day, he didn’t have lane choice against Line or Anderson.

The 38-year-old Coughlin trails only Warren Johnson (96 wins), Bob Glidden (85), and Greg Anderson (56) for total number of Pro Stock wins. Including his wins in various sportsman categories, Coughlin has 52 national event trophies to his credit.

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