PHOENIX (Feb. 21) — Temperatures soared at sunny Firebird International Raceway Saturday, keeping elapsed times and top speeds in check for the most part as qualifying for the 25th annual Lucas Oil Slick Mist NHRA Nationals concluded with two rounds of action. In the end, back-to-back world champion Jeg Coughlin successfully kept his Chevrolet Cobalt in the top-half of the field, earning the No. 4 spot with a 6.624 at 208.33 mph from Friday’s first session.

Coughlin’s other three qualifying runs were all close to his official number as he posted a 6.654 at 207.72 mph in Round 2, a 6.643 at 208.20 mph in Round 3, and a 6.650 at 208.23 mph in Round 4.

“We started off with our best run and have gone a little bit backwards since then,” Coughlin said. “The car is very consistent, which is something you always strive for, we just need to figure out a way to finesse the setup and get a little more efficient.

“When you have a day like this you always look at where you finished each round in relation to the other teams. We’re right there in that range but there are definitely a few teams that are a click or two quicker at the moment. But we’re close enough to know we can win this race tomorrow so we’ll switch to race mode and get ready for eliminations.”

As the higher qualified car, Coughlin will enjoy lane choice against first-round opponent Steve Spiess, who qualified 13th with a 6.662 at 206.86 mph in his privately funded Chevy.

“We’ve seen Steve pull off some big upsets so we won’t take him lightly at all,” Coughlin said. “The facts are that any driver that makes the field has the equipment and the ability to win the race so they’re all big rounds to me. It would be great to get past a few of the early rounds and put ourselves in a position to win this race.”

Professional eliminations begin at 11 a.m. with Pro Stock expected to start around noon. The forecast once again calls for clear skies and warm temperatures, putting more pressure on the crew chiefs to find a tune-up that will get them down a tricky racetrack.

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