PHOENIX (Feb. 20) — A pair of solid runs on the opening day of qualifying for the 25th annual Lucas Oil Slick Mist NHRA Nationals ended with back-to-back Pro Stock champion a lofty third on the grid. Coughlin opened with a stout 6.624 at 208.33 mph in his Chevrolet Cobalt to earn the spot. He later posted a 6.654 at 207.72 mph in the less favorable left-hand lane.

“No complaints,” Coughlin said. “It’s a good start to the race. I always like it when we open with a good run because it kind of relieves the pressure a bit, so to speak. The guys were certainly fired up for this race and ready to get after it and I believe that’s why we ran so well right out of the trailer.

“We expected more out of the second run, to be honest. It didn’t feel quite right so we’ll dissect the data and see if we have an electrical or fuel issue. We thought we’d at least match the 6.62 from earlier, which would have been good in that lane, but we were dragging an anchor for some reason so we’ll see how to reel that thing in.”

After a rain-soaked season opener two weeks ago that stretched to six days, the entire professional field was all smiles Friday at Firebird International Raceway as the Valley of the Sun lived up to its billing with Chamber of Commerce weather. The high temperature of the day was a perfect 77 degrees.

“Ever since we won here back in 2000 I’ve always enjoyed our visits to Firebird,” Coughlin said. “This is a beautiful part of the country and it’s a real nice place to visit and to race. The forecast looks great for the whole weekend, which is perfect after Pomona. We all needed to dry out a bit.

“We’ll get after it tonight over here at Victor Cagnazzi Racing and get set for another big day tomorrow. I’d like to see us run a better number and by all indications we should be able to do just that. We just need to get the car squared away, and we will.”

Saturday’s final two qualifying sessions are schedule to begin at noon and 2:30 p.m.

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