MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Oct. 7) — Troy Coughlin’s first full season in the Edelbrock National Muscle Car Association’s Denso Pro Street category has been an unqualified success as the former NHRA Pro Stock star already has locked up at least a second-place finish in the series’ championship.

The one man he’s been chasing all year, defending world champ Vinny Budano, is once again the man to beat as qualifying for this weekend’s fifth annual Nitto Tires World Finals in Western Tennessee ended with Budano on top and Coughlin a close second.

Coughlin opened Saturday qualifying at a muggy Memphis Motorsports Park with a respectable 6.51-second pass. His reliable JEGS Mail Order crew then went to work on perfecting their set-up and by day’s end Coughlin had improved to a super-quick 6.45-second, 215-mph clocking. Only one driver was quicker — Budano, who went 6.43 to take the pole.

“It does get a tad frustrating when you do all the right things, run a great series of passes, post a quick number, and look up and see Vinny go just a fraction quicker,” Coughlin said. “I actually feel more for my crew because I know how hard they work and it would be great to get that low qualifier deal every once in awhile for them.

“The main thing is earning a spot in the field and being in control of lane choice, which means you need to qualify high up the ladder. We’ve been able to do that all year and we’re No. 2 again here so we’re in great shape. We’ll lick our wounds and get back after it tomorrow when the real racing starts.”

As much as Coughlin would have liked to have earned the top qualifying position, he’d quickly trade that in for his first NMCA Pro Street win. He’s come very close three times this year, taking home runner-up plaques from three of the first six races on the schedule. A win at the seventh and final race this weekend would be the perfect capper to the season.

“No matter what happens tomorrow I’m already so proud of these guys and the work they’ve done for us this year,” Coughlin said. “We’ve had a great time and racecar they’ve put me in race after race has been quick and safe and capable of winning the event. As a driver and team owner, I don’t know how you could ask for anything more.

“Just like the qualifying deal, I’d love to win this race more for them than anything else. I can tell you this; we’ll have one heckuva celebration if we pull it off.”

Should Budano advance out of the first round, he’ll clinch his second straight NMCA Pro Street championship. Should he lose early, Coughlin could still steal away the title if he can win the event and set a national record.

“I don’t think a national record is in the cards unless a cold front blows through here,” Coughlin said. “And I doubt Vinny will lose in Round 1 since he hasn’t done that all year. But we’ll still give it our all. We’re here to win and we’ll see just have to see how it all falls out.”

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