Nolen Racing's Coons Eighth, Axsom 12th at Lucas Oil Raceway
BROWNSBURG, Ind., July 24 — Nolen Racing's Jerry Coons Jr. of Plainfield, Ind., posted another solid finish in USAC Silver Crown action Thursday night at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, finishing eighth in the non-stop, 100-lap "Rich Vogler Classic."
The Whiteland, Ind.-based team, which is sponsored in part by Columbus Container and KECO Coatings, also fielded a similar yellow Beast/Tranter Chevy in the event in which Joe Axsom of Franklin, Ind., made his series debut. He never turned a wheel wrong either and finished 12th in a "one-off" appearance in a show reminiscent of the very popular "Thursday Night Thunder" programs. It also supported Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Coons remains fourth in the point standings heading into the next event, which is next Friday, July 31, at the Belleville High Banks in Belleville, Kan. He is the only three-time winner of that track's biggest race, the Belleville Midget Nationals.
Coons qualified sixth in the 19-car field at LORI on Thursday with a time of 21.192 seconds for the 0.686-mile asphalt oval. That was just 0.186 of a second off the time Aaron Pierce ran to earn the pole.
When the green flag dropped a driver ahead of Coons got off to a very slow start. Coons was forced to drop back a bit on the first lap to avoid a collision, and David Byrne and Chris Windom got by him to put him in eighth place. With no yellow flags to tighten up the field he was still in that spot at the checkered, although he had a good battle with the polesitter, Pierce, for much of the race.
Around lap 85 Pierce got around Byrne for sixth place. Coons took the checkered flag just 0.473 of a second behind Byrne and a whopping 10.625 seconds ahead of the ninth-place finisher, A.J. Fike.
"A car in front of me didn't get a good start, and I had to drop back a couple spots," Coons said afterwards. "We got loose as the race went on, and there wasn't anything I could do to fix it. We got all we could get out of it tonight."
Axsom qualified 14th with a time of 21.692 seconds. Jarett Andretti got around both Axsom and Rex Norris III on the first lap, which put Axsom in 15th place. He ran in 15th, sandwiched between Norris and Jimmy McCune, for the first 30 laps. At that point Norris moved up a spot and McCune dropped back, which put C.J. Leary ahead of Axsom and Patrick Lawson behind him, but Axsom was still 15th.
Axsom passed Leary on lap 39 to regain 14th. He moved into 13th place on lap 72 when the driver who had been tenth, Jacob Wilson, dropped out with a broken shock. In the late stages of the race Axsom was running between Andretti and Tim Barber, but he passed Andretti with less than five laps remaining to nail down 12th. He was 0.866 of a second ahead of Andretti and 1.213 seconds behind Norris at the checkered.
"I want to thank Gene Nolen for the ride," Axsom said afterwards. "I've been wanting to drive one of these cars for 20 years. It was a great experience to get to race these cars against these guys. With the race going non-stop there wasn't a break at all, and you really had to keep focused. We were a little too tight at the beginning of the race and too free at the end, but I didn't have any close calls and I'm really glad I got to do it!"
Coons' fastest lap of the race was lap two, which was completed in 22.146 seconds and was the seventh-fastest lap of the race. Axsom's was just a tick slower with a 22.210 on lap five, which was ninth fastest.
All 100 laps were completed in less than 38 minutes.
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