ATLANTA (Sept. 17) — For the second time in as many days, Troy Coughlin scored a runner-up finish to defending NMCA Pro Street champion Vinny Budano. Just as it was Saturday night when they finished the rain-delayed final of the Reading race from three weeks ago, Budano managed to catch and pass Coughlin to take the win of this weekend’s regularly scheduled event — the Nitto Tire Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.

“I needed the finish line to get there a little sooner,” said Coughlin, who left Budano by a whopping three hundredths of a second at the Christmas Tree only to be caught and passed before the final stripe, losing with a 6.59 at 214 mph to Budano’s 6.51 at 217 mph. “I wish I didn’t like those guys so much but I do so all you can do is shake their hands and say, ‘Good job.’

“It is frustrating to make the kind of passes we’ve made at the last two events, where it’s almost a perfect pass every time, and still get beat. Even when I hit the tree, he manages to catch us. But this is the way it was supposed to unfold, I guess. I’m happy for Vinny.”

Truth be known, Coughlin competes at a huge disadvantage to Budano, especially when the temperatures soar, as they did this weekend in Atlanta. His JEGS Mail Order Chevrolet Cavalier is naturally aspirated so hot conditions tend to slow him down. Budano’s car utilizes Nitrous Oxide so it creates its’ own atmosphere.

“Maybe we’ll change our car up for next year,” Coughlin said. “For now, we’ll do everything we can to finish the season strong. If we hope for a miracle, maybe one will happen. The championship is a longshot at this point, I know that, but we’ll try our best just the same.”

Budano is four rounds of action ahead of Coughlin in the 2006 National Muscle Car Association’s Edelbrock series heading into the final race of the season, the Nitto Tire NMCA World Street Finals, Oct. 5-8, at Memphis Motorsports Park. Although Budano hasn’t locked up the championship just yet, he merely needs to show up and make a qualifying pass in Memphis to successfully defend his title.

Coughlin will most likely finish second in the final standings, but with three runner-up finishes on his ’06 ledger, he’s anxious to finish the season with a victory.

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