MEMPHIS (Sept. 16) — Entering this weekend outside the elite field of four racers that will be in a position to advance to the last round of the POWERade playoffs two races from now, Pro Stock driver Jeg Coughlin Jr. knew he needed a big weekend at Memphis Motorsports Park. With the pressure mounting, the 37-year-old three-time champion coolly delivered a semifinal finish that lifted his Chevrolet Cobalt race team two spots to third place, safely in the fold.

“It’s always better to be above that cutoff line than below it, that’s for sure,” Coughlin said. “I’m glad we’re back in the field but quite frankly it’s where we belong. The guys on this Victor Cagnazzi Racing team have given me a strong racecar all year and we deserve to be in the hunt at this point. It was good to put Indy behind us and get back to winning rounds here this weekend.”

Of the eight racers still alive in the 2007 championship chase, only four will advance to the Countdown to One following the next two events in Dallas and Richmond, Va. The final four racers will then have two races, in Las Vegas and Pomona, Calif., to determine who the ’07 champ will be.

Coughlin began this weekend’s 20th annual Mid-South NHRA Nationals half a round behind the fourth and final spot. He is now one and a half rounds about the mark with eight rounds of racing left before the Countdown to Four is done.

The Delaware, Ohio-based professional beat Mike Edwards and six-time world champion Warren Johnson on the day before getting shuffled to the dodgy left-hand lane and losing to Greg Anderson in the semifinals.

“The left side is usually the one we’re all fighting for at this track but for some reason it was giving everyone fits after that first round,” said Coughlin, who left early on Anderson (.027 to .041 seconds) only to lose by .04 at the other end. “It was really pushing the cars around down low and I had my hands full.

“Now we’ll go out and root for my teammate Dave [Connolly] to beat Greg in the final and keep his car on top of the points. The ultimate goal this season was to have both of Victor’s cars in the title hunt and so far things are working out well. There’s a lot of pressure but our guys are handling it and I’m having a blast behind the wheel.”

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