INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 31) — After a four-month absence from professional competition, Troy Coughlin returned to action at drag racing’s biggest and most prestigious event in grand style when he successfully qualified his Tommy Mauney ’68 Camaro in the field of the 54th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals.

Showing no signs of rust, the veteran racer from Delaware, Ohio, shrugged off the pressure of the “Big Go” and calmly drove his machine through a 6.048 at 238.64 mph in the fourth and final qualifying session to earn the No. 10 spot in the 16-car field.

“It was extremely exciting to make my return at the biggest race of the year,” Coughlin said. “It felt great to be back in the driver’s seat, especially with all my family here to support me. My brother Jeg is racing in Pro Stock and Dad (Jeg Sr.) is here helping us both out with our tune-ups. I even talked my daughter Meghan into coming with me and we’re having a ball.”

The run set-up a first-round showdown with Mike Castellana, who wheeled the world’s quickest and fastest nitrous-assisted racecar through a 6.036 at 237.34 mph to qualify seventh on the grid.

In the first round of eliminations, which was contested Sunday night, Coughlin and Castellana put on a great side-by-side race for most of the quarter-mile until Castellana pulled away for the win. The final numbers had Castellana crossing the finish line in 6.047 seconds at 237.25 mph to Coughlin’s 6.091 at 236.38 mph.

“We picked on the wrong guy in the first round,” Coughlin said. “Mike’s been running great all year and truthfully it wouldn’t have mattered who we would have faced because everyone is tough in this class. It just hurts a little more when you look at the time sheet and see other races you would have won, but that’s the nature of the sport.

“This is only the fourth full run we have made with this new car and it’s incredible to see the ground we’ve gained already. Everyone is doing their part, and doing a great job. This has been the longest time I have ever been out of the driver’s seat and I really wish we could have won against Mike, but I am not disappointed at all in the weekend’s results.”

Coughlin’s qualifying run may turn out to be a pivotal moment in the 2008 JEGS ProMod Challenge championship chase as it knocked point leader Tony Pontieri out of the field. Pontieri’s failure to qualify allowed second-place Josh Hernandez to whittle his deficit to Pontieri from 51 points down to three by the end of Sunday’s action.

“That was a tough break for Tony,” Coughlin said. “It’s still very exciting to see the back and forth in the points though. I’m not sure Josh will let anyone back in if he gets that No. 1 ranking but we’re certainly going to have a great finish to the season no matter what happens.”

Information regarding JEGS ProMod Challenge can be found at

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