Even though an engine part ended Jeg Coughlin Jr.'s day earlier than desired, the JEGS/Mopar Dodge Avenger team left the NHRA Sonoma Nationals with a round win and a coveted spot in Pro Stock's Top 10.
"There's no question the program is going in the right direction," Coughlin said. "It hurts to go out the way we did. We're running well. We've been in that seventh or eighth spot during qualifying, which has been putting us in a tough spot for first round and in an even tougher spot in second round.
"There is no 'nice side' of the ladder in Pro Stock anymore, and then to have a little issue, well, it's hard to advance."
Coughlin beat Warren Johnson on a holeshot by seven inches in the first round then lost to Allen Johnson in the second when a retainer in the JEGS/Mopar Avenger's engine let go during the burnout.
"We had some misfortune against A.J.," Coughlin said. "We had the retainer come apart sometime after the burnout while we were backing up. It's not a dime part, but it's not far off.
"It took a cylinder out of play. I was focused on getting a good start on A.J. because I knew he was going to be right there. I felt like we could run a 6.53 or 6.54 at worst. It was all for naught, because we couldn't get it to go a foot before it put the cylinder out."
The drivers were off the line at almost the same time despite Coughlin being down on power. But Johnson cruised to the finish with a time of 6.517 seconds at 212.46 mph, while Coughlin nursed his car across in 26.729 seconds at 81.78 mph.
"Roy Simmons (engine builder) and the rest of our group will put everything back together," Coughlin said. "We'll make sure it's triple-checked and we'll head to Seattle with a little more momentum."
In the first round, Coughlin got a huge advantage (.033 seconds) off the starting line against WJ and need every bit of his advantage to win. Coughlin crossed the line first with a 6.585 at 211.46 mph. Warren crossed in 6.553 at 210.87 mph. The final margin of victory was .001 seconds.
"We've poked into the top 10 with that win," Coughlin said. "That's definitely been on our to-do list. We need to get more round wins in order to get more confidence coming down these final few races before the start of the Countdown."
Coughlin leaves Sonoma in 10th, the first time since April he's been in the Pro Stock top 10. The JEGS/Mopar Dodge Avenger team now packs up and heads north for the August 3-5 O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in Seattle.
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