Nolen Racing's Coons Comes on Strong at End to Finish Fourth at Springfield
SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Aug. 23 — Nolen Racing's Jerry Coons Jr. posted another top-five finish in USAC Silver Crown competition Saturday afternoon at the mile dirt track at the Illinois State Fairgrounds and remains second in the series' point standings with three races remaining in 2015.
Saturday's Tony Bettenhausen 100 attracted the biggest Silver Crown field in eight years, as USAC included 37 cars on the event's roster. The day didn't get off to a rousing start for the Whiteland, Ind.-based team when Coons qualified ninth in what turned out to be a 32-car field. That was 0.927 of a second slower than Kody Swanson ran to top qualifying, although Swanson was relegated back to 16th for the start for needing the use of a push truck during time trials.
Swanson, the defending champion and current point leader, came on like a freight train to win the 100-lap race, while Coons' rise to fourth at the checkered was more like a Stealth bomber. Although he was always in the top 10, he didn't crack the top five until the last lap, as he vaulted from sixth to fourth working lap 99 by passing Steve Buckwalter and a fading Chris Windom, who had led from laps 41 through 57.
Prior to the rousing finish Coons played a waiting game with the yellow #20 that is sponsored in part by KECO Coatings and Columbus Container, trying to save his Hoosier tires.
He moved from ninth to eighth on lap nine by passing Jacob Wilson, but then he stayed in eighth place until he reverted back to ninth on lap 31 when Buckwalter passed both Coons and A.J. Fike. Coons and Wilson both passed Fike on the next lap, however, which put Coons back in eighth place.
He was still in eighth, embroiled in a fierce battle with Buckwalter and Wilson, as the race neared the halfway point. Right before halfway Wilson got by him so he was ninth again on lap 50. Twenty cars were still on the lead lap at halfway.
Coons bounced back into eighth after Wilson ended up in the Turn 3 wall on lap 68. He got seventh when the driver right ahead of him, Justin Grant, slowed with a flat right-rear tire on lap 75. Sixth place came a little later when Shane Cockrum faded. Cockrum had led the first 40 laps.
Coons was still in sixth place with five to go, but he had been able to conserve his tires enough to allow him to advance to fourth at the very end.
"I was trying to conserve my tires early," Coons said afterwards. "It paid off, as we had a good car at the end, but it was very hard to pass. I should of qualified better; I just left some on the track."
With the victory Swanson was able to increase his point advantage to 79 points over Coons. Fike is third, 48 points behind him.
The next race is Sept. 6 at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds in DuQuoin, Ill. The final two stops on the circuit are Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio on Sept. 26 and the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, N.Y. on Oct. 10.
More information is available on the series' Web site at usacracing.com.
For more information on Nolen Racing, see NolenRacing.com and follow the team on Facebook and Twitter.
The team is looking for marketing partners; for more information, call (317) 201-0729 or e-mail LKMRestart@gmail.com.
Photo credit: USAC photo by Gene Crucean