DENVER (July 12) — Reigning series champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. pulled off two nearly identical 7.04-second passes Saturday at Bandimere Speedway to qualify mid-pack for the elimination field of the 29th annual Mile-High NHRA Nationals.

Starting the day looking for an improvement in their previously posted elapsed times, Coughlin and crew got their Chevrolet Cobalt to cover the quarter-mile in 7.040 seconds at 194.97 mph in the third qualifying session. That’s a good pass in the thin air of Denver, where the previous track record was 7.032 seconds.

“The 7.04 this morning was very encouraging and it got us up to fourth place at the time,” Coughlin said. “We came back this afternoon looking to run a 7.02 and we certainly feel like the conditions were there to make that happen. But when I let the clutch out in Q4 it felt like it pulled the motor down for just a tug there and that cost us.”

Nevertheless, Coughlin ran a 7.043 — another steady run in relation to the field — and gained a good idea of what to expect when racing starts Sunday around noon.

“We should be in real good shape,” said Coughlin, who will face good friend Justin Humphreys in Round 1. ” ‘Hump’ and I both ran 7.040s in qualifying so we’re right there neck-in-neck performance-wise. He’s running really well since he switched over to Allen Johnson’s team and he’ll certainly be a hand full. It should be a great race.”

With identical racecars at this event, at least as far as elapsed times are concerned, the race could come down to the drivers. Both know they won’t have to worry about the racetrack as the owners of the facility, the Bandimere family, have made the track all-concrete since last year’s race. Plus, they installed a cooling system under the first 660 feet to keep track surface conditions perfect at all times.

“We’re definitely happy with the track, and I think I can speak for everyone in that regard,” Coughlin said. “It’s really stellar, and quite frankly I wouldn’t expect anything less from the Bandimeres. The cooling system isn’t new technology but it’s new to drag racing. We’re all enjoying it, including the Top Fuel and Funny Car guys, and I hope more tracks install a system like this. It certainly makes for better racing for the drivers and the fans.”

Throughout the weekend, Coughlin is honoring the 50th anniversary of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which is located in nearby Colorado Springs, Colo. The JEGS pit has been teaming with NORAD dignitaries all weekend.

“It would be great to show them a win tomorrow,” Coughlin said. “These are some outstanding American and Canadian heroes and it’s an honor to represent them at this event.”

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