GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 15) — Reigning POWERade Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. is the third-best qualifier at the 39th annual ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals. A 51-time national event winner, Coughlin posted a 6.680-second quarter-mile pass at 206.51 mph in his Chevrolet Cobalt to secure his spot in the field. He’ll now look to Sunday’s elimination rounds for his first win of the 2008 season.

The qualifying action of this event was shortened to two rounds after rain claimed both of Friday’s sessions. The team, which is owned by Victor Cagnazzi, opened Saturday’s action with a seventh-best 6.716 at 205.72 mph and was able to step it up considerably in Round 2 for their run of record.

“We got a little wake-up call and were able to tune this thing up and move all the way up to third place so we’re pretty happy right now,” Coughlin said. “We ran pretty well earlier but we knew there was room to improve. I have to credit the team because we made some pretty big changes between rounds and they just got it done.

“It was considerably windy in Q2 but it was mostly a tailwind, so that probably helped a bit. When I saw what (Mike) Edwards and some of the others in front of us were running I was confident we’d be stepping it up and we did.”

Coughlin, a 37-year-old from Delaware, Ohio, will open against fellow Buckeye Ron Krisher of Warren, Ohio. Krisher utilizes engines from Cagnazzi’s race shop in Mooresville, N.C., and his crew is now headed by Victor Cagnazzi Racing’s Tommy Utt.

“It’s a tough first-round draw because we know they have the same horsepower that we have,” Coughlin said. “And even though this is their first race with Tommy over there we know how quickly he adapts. It’s like racing a teammate, in essence, and we’ll need to be ready to race if we expect to ring up a round win.”

Aside from the action on the racetrack, Coughlin and crew are celebrating a pair of landmark birthdays this weekend. Jeg Coughlin Sr. turned 70 Saturday, while Cagnazzi enjoyed his 50th birthday Friday.

“It would be the perfect birthday gift for both of them if we can get a win here tomorrow,” Coughlin Jr. said.

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