Five-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. made the two best runs of the day one Friday in his JEGS.com Camaro with a 6.533 and a 6.537 to lead the way at the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals.
“We made two really nice run today with our JEGS.com Camaro; a 6.533 to take the No. 1 spot and a 6.537 on the second run. They were both straight as a string, but the right lane was a little trickier. From second to fourth [gear] we could have made a cleaner run and we were actually better in Q2. We’ll wake up tomorrow, come out for Q3, and see if we can better our time by a little bit.”
Coughlin, who entered Pomona second in the Mello Yello standings behind Elite Motorsports teammate Erica Enders, banked eight bonus points on the day. He was able to trim Enders’ lead from 92 to 88 points, which is important since that is less than three rounds based on the points-and-a-half available in Pomona. Despite the modest gain, Coughlin admits he’s a longshot, although he has not given up hope of winning another title.
“So many things are out of our control,” said Coughlin. “I’ve been here before at the end of the season and I’ve won some championships and lost a few others. In 1997, when I raced in the Lucas Oil Series, I lost two championships on the last day of the season. Our goal is to make good quality runs and win the race. Period. If things fell into place, I’d like to be there to pick up the pieces and shame on us if we don’t. Erica is in a great spot. I’ve love to flip spots with her but It’s not going to happen. I don’t see her or that team making mistakes.”
Enders finished the day as the provisional No. 2 qualifier following a 6.538 in her Elite/Melling Camaro. Earlier in the day, her team announced an extension with Melling Performance for the 2020 season. Fellow title contenders Jason Line and Bo Butner are third and fourth, respectively.
An interesting development on Friday involved four-time world champion Greg Anderson, who shut his Summit Racing Camaro off early on both runs in an effort to qualify in the bottom half of the field and catch Enders in a possible round one match. The plan has so far worked to perfection as Anderson is currently qualified No. 15 and would indeed race Enders if the ladder does not change on Saturday. The bump spot is a 6.687 by Joey Grose and brothers Cristian and Fernando Cuadra Jr. are currently not qualified along with Richie Stevens.