At NHRA race 17 at Brainerd International Raceway in Minn., this weekend Jeg Coughlin Jr. won Pro Stock Car and Larry Dixon was best in Top Fuel Dragster.
Both Brainerd winners are now playoff contenders, and they carry momentum going into the six-race playoff Countdown to the Championship.
First place Dixon accumulated a 280 point advantage this season, but will lose that when the points are reshuffled at Indianapolis. Jeg Coughlin Jr. is in third place 404 points behind season star Mike Edwards, but he will be within 40 points at the Indy start.
Ten competitors in each class comprise the field eligible for the championship. Ten points will separate each contender with a 20 point bonus going to the low qualifier in each of four pro classes for the season.
Dixon was being chased by his fellow Top Fuel competitors and Coughlin was chasing perennial season winner Mike Edwards. It seems to some that Dixon and Edwards get cheated and lose points they earned. Fans and even team members must remember at the beginning of the season it’s the same for everyone. All teams start from zero knowing that their goal ahead is to get into the playoff in the highest spot.
Jeg Coughlin Jr. understands the playoff. “No matter what you think of the Countdown,” Coughlin said. “You can’t argue that it creates an added level of competitiveness, real excitement.”
The purpose of the Countdown is to create a close competitive environment that is of more interest to fans. Apathy rolls in when drivers have a large point buffer going into the latter part of the season.
Without the Countdown it would be anticlimactic to watch Dixon with a 280 point lead and Edwards with 404 points to burn, go down the strip. With 10 points separations during the Countdown the competition gets revved up. Dixon and Edwards will start the Countdown with just 30 points to spare.
They all have six races to build points again. That’s why momentum is so important at this point.
Explore the telling words of Dixon and Coughlin before and after their Brainerd win.
Larry Dixon (Top Fuel Dragster)
“It was nice to be able to clinch the top seed for the Countdown,” Dixon said. “We’ve done as much as we can in terms of positioning ourselves in the Countdown. That said, though, we absolutely still want to win at Brainerd. There’s still a race up for grabs, and we’ll definitely go there to win it.
“We’re not giving up a race to test anything. This race is a national event with trophies and money on the line, and you wouldn’t sacrifice that for testing. And that’s one of the things I love about this team: they always play to win.”
“I feel fortunate,” said Dixon. “When I lifted; it popped. I got heat-treated a little bit, but I saw the win light.”
Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock car)
“Drama, drama, drama,” Coughlin said. “We all know that what you should run and what you do run can be two different things. In the end, we got in the show and I really feel in my heart we have a top-five car so we’ll have a chance tomorrow.”
“This is as close as we’ve been to the points leader all year,” said Coughlin, “That’s the way the playoff and the Countdown works. We’ve had that work to our advantage for a couple of years and had that work against us last year. This year, we were probably no way shape or form going to contend for our sixth world title, but we are.”
Coming off a recent win going into the playoff carries momentum at a crucial time when 20 point rounds count the most.
Side-by-side racing gets a clean edge.
Four rounds on race day in Indy will likely change that.
FYI WIRZ is the swift presentation of pertinent motorsports topics compiled, condensed and often written by Dwight Drum @ Racetake.com. Quotes provided by NHRA and drag racing team media.
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