BRAINERD, Minn. (Aug. 11) – Jeg Coughlin Jr. had one thing on his mind entering the second and final day of professional qualifying at the 26th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals — find a way to beat the heat and move into the top half of the field. At day’s end, he was happy to have accomplished his goal.

“The first goal at any race is to qualify for eliminations,” Coughlin said. “We’ve been lucky enough to do that at every event. After that, you start thinking about positioning yourself for a strong run on race day. Obviously, no matter how equal a track may be, it’s advantageous to have lane choice. At the very least it means you qualified quicker than your first-round opponent.”

Coughlin uncorked a competitive 6.770 at 203.83 mph in Saturday’s first session and held on to successfully place his Chevrolet Cobalt in the No. 8 spot at Brainerd International Raceway. He later ran a 6.778 as temperatures once again soared in the afternoon.

The No. 8 position gives him the all-important advantage of lane choice in the opening round of eliminations over ninth-place qualifier Allen Johnson, who had a 6.771. This is the 13th time in 16 races this year that Coughlin has earned a top-half starting spot heading into eliminations.

“It’s always tough on race day and Allen is probably having the best year of his career so we’ll need to be prepared,” Coughlin said. “He was only a thousandth of a second slower than us so it should be a close race right from the get-go.

“As always, I have supreme confidence in my team. They’ve done a great job of making the necessary adjustments to make us quicker, which showed today when they were able to get us to the top half of the field. I’m sure they’ll have us ready to race in the morning.

“It’s exciting to be here in Brainerd. I’ve won this race twice in Pro Stock and once in Super Stock so we’re comfortable here. I’d love to add another trophy to the collection tomorrow. It would be great to party with these crazy fans again.”

Under the new Countdown to the Championship format, only the top eight racers in Pro Stock entering the U.S. Nationals will be eligible for the 2007 crown. Coughlin secured his spot on the Western Swing, taking the pressure off for the next two events.

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