Jeg Coughlin Jr. Leads Pro Stock Qualifiers
At Texas Motorplex - Chevy Cavalier Sets Both
Ends of Track Record
ENNIS, Tex., Sept. 25, 2004 - Two-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. earned his first low qualifying award of the season today at the NHRA Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex after blistering both ends of the track record with a run of 6.774 seconds at 204.35 mph. It is the second career pole award for Coughlin at the Motorplex, his eighth overall and the first time since the NHRA Nationals at Memphis in September 2003 that he's claimed a No. 1 qualifying spot. It is also the fourth time this season that a Chevy Cavalier has started raceday from the lead position.
"Without question, when you look at our pattern of performance at the last few races, we've been striking on it pretty hard," said Coughlin. "The guys at the R & D shop have definitely made more horsepower and that's what has propelled this Jeg's Chevrolet back to the front of the pack. Very rarely in my career have we run top speed at an event, so I think that effort there shows we're on to something.
"This is the most competitive Pro Stock has ever been, and to get that complete of an effort is a big boost for this team. Carl Foltz deserves due credit because he's done a great job with our cylinder heads and we have a lot of great partners who have helped to fine tune this GM racing engine."
While Coughlin is yet to snare a national-event victory in 2004, the 34-year-old Columbus, Ohio native is a previous winner of the Fall Nationals (2002), and he advanced to the final round of the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., earlier this year in March.
"I'm excited about going into Sunday," said Coughlin. "We've shown some performance and consistency with four runs between 6.77 and 6.82, and I think that bodes well for us. This last run, we were off just a hair. We might have miscalculated the effect the sunshine was going to have and set up a shade to the conservative side - it was a little soft. We know this Chevrolet will go from A to B in the conditions we've had, and now we want to see if we can't come out tomorrow and take home a championship."
In addition to its top billing this weekend on the Pro Stock ladder, the Jeg's Mail Order Chevrolet has seen a tremendous resurgence in performance during the last six weeks with a qualifying effort of eighth in Brainerd (Minn.), second in Memphis and fourth in Indianapolis, and has advanced to the semifinals at the last two contests. Currently sixth in the POWERade points standings, Coughlin is hoping a strong finish to the '04 season propels him into the top five of the points standings.
"We'd love to sneak up in the King Demon points and make a strong run toward a top-five finish," said Coughlin. "Realistically, I think we have a shot to poke our way up to fourth if we can really run hard. We've been very fortunate to finish all of our six previous seasons in the top five and we certainly don't want that streak to end now."
Qualified in the No. 2 position behind Coughlin is Chevy Cavalier driver Steve Johns. This race marks the third time this season that Johns has qualified his Cavalier in the second spot and the ninth time in 2004 that he's started raceday at least fourth or better. Johns was the No. 1 qualifier earlier this year at the NHRA Summer Nationals in Topeka, Kan.
"Since Indianapolis, we've actually switched to a new chassis," said Johns. "The Jenkins engine keeps putting out good horsepower and our Chevrolet just keeps making better runs. With the way the field continues to tighten up, all the effort has to be on making a good, clean run. We're certainly a better team than we were at Topeka, but over time we should be - it's been a good effort by this group. We stumbled a little bit there in the middle of the summer but we decided to use this race as a 'get-on-the-horse' event to get ready for next year, and so far we've been successful."
Defending NHRA Fall Nationals champion, and Summit Racing Pontiac Grand Am driver Greg Anderson is qualified in the third spot. Anderson needs to win just one round of eliminations on Sunday to clinch his second straight NHRA POWERade championship.
"We've done all right so far this weekend," said Anderson. "But nothing special and we haven't been able to make that killer run yet. That's what you have to do out here if you want to qualify on the pole, and hopefully tomorrow we'll get it right. Tomorrow's a big day and maybe we can hit the bulls eye. We have an opportunity to collect the points championship and we can't wait to get out here and race.
"We've tried a lot of different things through qualifying to try and learn something about the Summit Racing Pontiac. We ran it differently all four times just trying to find what it liked the best and we did learn quite a bit. Hopefully from the data we got we'll be able to hit it square tomorrow. The last run wasn't bad, it just wasn't what we were looking for or what we wanted. We know we can run better and hopefully we'll have it right for tomorrow."
This is the 11th time in the last 12 races that the 43-year-old Anderson has qualified third or better. Over the last 41 events, Anderson has captured 25 victories, advanced to the final round 30 times and scored 129 rounds of eliminations for an 89% rounds-win average.
"This is where we clinched the championship last year, and we'd like to do it here again, so you can understand why I enjoy racing here at the Motorplex," said Anderson. "It's been a fantastic ride all year long and it's quite a testament to the guys on our Summit Racing Pontiac team that we've been able to lead from bell to bell. There have been so many other things going on that it really hasn't sunk in. We've won a lot of races and have held such a big lead that sometimes you lose track of exactly where you are. But winning the championship is our main goal and it's what we set out to do every year. It's time to get that back in focus since it is the big picture. If we can make it happen tomorrow then Sunday will be our best day this season."
Mike Edwards is another one of the late season chargers who has combined a string of bold, consistent performances into another strong qualifying effort this weekend. The Young Life Pontiac driver is currently in 12th place in the standings, but only 51 points shy of breaking into the top 10 of the Pro Stock standings. Edwards will start Sunday eliminations in the No. 4 position and is coming off another impressive showing at the series' last race in Indianapolis in which the Oklahoma native qualified third.
"Frank Iaconio has done an awesome job during the second half of the season with our engine program," said Edwards. "We've all been working extra, extra hard is it's starting to show in our on-track performance. We're making good runs but all my guys, Alan, Josh and Don have done a terrific job. We struggled during the first part of the season, but you always want to finish on a high note and recently we've been climbing back up. We're real happy with just about everything right now and a top-10 finish is something we're pushing for. We've been there every year since I've been racing and it would be a disappointment if we didn't accomplish that.
"The Young Life Pontiac is a Jerry Haas constructed car we picked up around April and it's taken us a little time to learn it, but it's really come around. It's just a matter of the car getting better and the motors just giving us everything we could ask for. Now, if I could just learn how to let the clutch out then we'd be all right."
Jason Line is qualified in the No. 5 position in a Pontiac Grand Am, Ron Krisher is eighth in a Chevy Cavalier, Bruce Allen is ninth in a Grand Am, Dave Connolly is 11th in a Cavalier, Greg Stanfield is 12th in a Cavalier, Bruce Allen is 12th in a Grand Am, Rickie Smith 13th in a Cavalier, Kurt Johnson is 14th in a Cavalier, Mark Whisnant is 15th in a Cavalier and Warren Johnson is 16th in a Grand Am. The bump was 6.819 seconds and the 16-car field is separated by .045 of a second.
In Funny Car, Tony Pedregon drove the Quaker State Chevy Monte Carlo to the No. 2 qualifying position with a run of 4.810 seconds at 318.02 mph. It is the fifth time this year that the 2003 POWERade Funny car champion has started raceday from the second position, the eighth time in 19 races that he has qualified second or better and the 13th time this season that he's been in the top half of the field.
"The performance has always been there," said Pedregon. "The only thing we have lacked, as a first year team, is information or data. That's something that the farther along we go the more we'll accumulate. This is a very competitive racetrack with a narrow groove so we can thank the engineers at GM for doing their job by enabling us to apply all of that horsepower.
"Starting from the No. 2 spot is without a doubt a great way to start the race on Sunday. We have five races left in the season and our task from here on out is to get in the winner's circle with the Quaker State Monte Carlo."
Del Worsham has the Checker Schuck's Kragen Chevrolet qualified in the No. 5 position, his best effort in time trials since the NHRA Summer Nationals at Topeka.
"By far, since the rules change to 85 percent in Denver, this has been our best outing in qualifying," said Worsham. "Plus, in every qualifying session, the Checker Schuck's & Kragen Chevrolet has consistently climbed closer and closer to the leaders. Going into tomorrow, I feel as good about our chances than I've felt in a long time.
"We stayed in Indianapolis and tested on Tuesday after the U.S. Nationals and made three great runs. We were excited about getting to Reading (Pa.) and showing everyone there what we had, but we were rained out. It's nice to demonstrate that we do have a better racecar than we had three weeks ago. We're still tiptoeing around our setup. Our previous combination had over 500 runs on it and with this one we only have about 50 runs on. The data base to pull from for this combination is not even close to what we were using, but we're getting there."
Other Chevy Monte Carlo drivers in the top 16 include Cruz Pedregon (6th), Tommy Johnson Jr. (7th), Tony Bartone (9th), Ron Capps (11th), Tim Wilkerson (12th) and Phil Burkart (15th).
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