Nolen Racing's Coons Qualifies Third, Finishes Ninth at Terre Haute
Fans are invited to suggest name for new car
TERRE HAUTE, Ind., April 4 — Brand-new race cars are rarely good "right out of the box," but that wasn't the case for Nolen Racing's brand-new Maxim USAC Silver Crown car. With no shakedown event at all, the Whiteland, Ind.-based crew and driver Jerry Coons Jr. used their expertise to arrive at a set-up that allowed Coons to qualify third Sunday afternoon for the 16th annual Sumar Classic 100 at the Terre Haute Action Track.
Strong winds made track conditions changeable all day, and the top two finishers both brushed the wall during the course of the Sumar Classic 100 later that evening. Coons ran very high at times but he never hit the wall, and he brought the car home safely in ninth place in the season opener for the series, the track, and the team owned by Gene Nolen of Greenwood, Ind.
All in all it was a very solid outing for the new Chevrolet-powered car, which is sponsored in part by Columbus Container Inc. and KECO Coatings.
Coons, a native of Tucson, Ariz., who resides in nearby Greencastle, Ind., took just 22.021 seconds to travel over the one-half mile dirt oval in time trials and earn the inside starting spot in Row 2 for the 20-car 100-lapper.
Deciding on the best gear for the feature was a test for all the teams, but especially so for one that was working with a brand-new car. The team made its best guess and unfortunately Coons wasn't able to stay with the leaders when the race started, but he still put on a show in the hotly contested race.
Coons set his fastest lap of the race on lap six with a time of 23.580 seconds while running ninth, and early in the race he was embroiled in a huge battle for that position with Dave Darland and Robert Ballou. That war waged until the first of two full-course cautions came out with 24 laps complete. It was for Austin Nemire, who stopped in Turn 2 with a shredded right-rear tire.
The battle picked right up where it left off after the restart on lap 26. Shortly thereafter Coons was still trying to pass Darland for eighth place but the driver behind him was now Steve Buckwalter. By lap 33 Coons was 0.356 of a second behind Darland and 0.305 of a second ahead of Buckwalter as the three veterans duked it out.
Buckwalter and Bryan Clauson then got into a tussle for tenth place behind Coons, exchanging that position several times. At the halfway point Shane Cockrum was fifth, Chris Windom was sixth, Shane Cottle was seventh, Darland was eighth and Coons was ninth. Behind him Clauson was in tenth, ahead of Buckwalter.
One lap after the halfway point Coons passed Darland for eighth place in the battle of the Triple Crown winners. Clauson also got by Darland shortly thereafter.
The leader, polesitter Justin Grant, hit the wall around lap 54 but kept going. Two laps later Buckwalter slowed in Turn 2 with a problem with his car's steering. He was able to continue to Turn 4 and pulled off the track safely without causing a yellow flag, and the pace remained intense. At that point Coons was eighth, sandwiched between Windom and Clauson, but on lap 59 Clauson passed Coons to push him back to ninth. Darland had regrouped meanwhile, and by lap 62 he was behind Coons in tenth again.
Coons was using both the middle and the high side at that point in an effort to move up, but Clauson was still 2.123 seconds ahead of him on lap 65. Darland wasn't making any headway, as he was some 8.23 seconds behind Coons with 30 laps remaining.
It didn't stay that way for long, however, as Darland was just 1.343 of a second behind Coons on lap 77 while Coons was trying the low groove. Clauson passed Cottle shortly thereafter to advance to seventh. On lap 80 Cockrum was fifth, Windom was sixth, Clauson was seventh, Cottle was eighth, Coons was ninth and Darland tenth.
Nemire brought out the race's second full-course caution nine laps later when he shredded the right-rear tire his crew had replaced some 63 laps earlier. That set up a seven-lap dash to the finish. Windom was fifth, Clauson was sixth, Cockrum was seventh, Cottle was eighth, Coons was ninth and Darland was tenth for the restart.
Up ahead, C.J. Leary got around Grant on the restart and went on to post the victory. Clauson was having fuel pick-up problems, and he slowed dramatically on lap 98 and eventually lost two positions. At the checkered the top 10 were Leary, Grant, Kody Swanson, Brady Bacon, Windom, Cottle, Cockrum, Clauson, Coons and Darland. Coons was 2.147 seconds ahead of Darland at the finish.
"We just didn't pick the right gear for the feature," Coons summarized afterwards. "But we qualified well, and we're very happy with the car. We just fell back right away with the gear issue, and from that point on we were just behind where we wanted to be."
"The car was great for the first time out," added Nolen. "The thing is, we learned more of what not to do than what to do. The car is a jewel. I look forward to racing this season. We’ll give Jerry a better car at the Fairgrounds." (The next USAC Silver Crown race on a dirt track is the historic Hoosier Hundred Thursday night, May 26 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis.)
Fans who'd like to suggest a name for the team's new car can post their choices on the team's Facebook page or Twitter stream.
Nolen Racing's next race is Saturday night, April 30 when the USAC Silver Crown series visits Toledo Speedway's half-mile asphalt oval at 5625 Benore Rd., Toledo, Ohio for the Hemelgarn Racing/Super Fitness "Rollie Beale Classic." Coons finished fourth in this race last year enroute to second in the championship. He won at Toledo in both 2010 and 2012. Non-wing sprint cars are also on the card for that program, which starts at 6 p.m. For more information see toledospeedway.com and usacracing.com.
The team’s complete schedule can be found on its Web site at NolenRacing.com. It includes the three biggest short-track races that will support the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 next month. For more information on marketing partnerships, contact Restart Communications at LKMRestart@gmail.com or (317) 201-0729.