Nolen Racing's Coons Finishes Seventh at Du Quoin; Regains Third in Point Standings
DU QUOIN, Ill., Sept. 5 — Sometimes a driver has to work harder for a top-10 finish than for a victory, when everything goes perfectly.
That was the case for Jerry Coons Jr. Saturday night at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds. The Nolen Racing driver had to fight hard throughout the Ted Horn 100 presented by Casey's General Stores for a seventh-place finish in the 64th edition of the prestigious USAC Silver Crown race on the 1-mile dirt oval known as the Magic Mile.
Coons, a native of Tucson, Ariz., who lives in Greencastle, Ind., topped the first practice session on Saturday with the Nolen Racing #20 Maxim Tranter Chevy, which is sponsored in part by Columbus Container and KECO Coatings. Unfortunately the car experienced an issue with its engine during ProSource qualifications, so Coons was forced to start 16th in the 33-car field.
"The engine issue in qualifying set us back, but the guys did a great job getting it fixed," Coons said afterwards of his Whiteland, Ind.-based team. "I had a great car, but lost a lot of stagger in the race and we were extremely tight. We were still able to get to seventh from 16th though, so it wasn't a bad night considering what we had to overcome."
With the top-10 finish Coons moved from fourth to third in the overall point standings with one race remaining — the 35th Four-Crown Nationals at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio on Sept. 24.
There were seven cautions in Saturday's 100-lap race, which tied a Du Quoin dirt car record. Those cautions kept the field close and intensified the action. There were four lead changes among three drivers, with Chris Windom getting the victory after taking the lead with two laps remaining.
Coons had a great start. He passed two drivers on both the first and the second lap to immediately vault from 16th to 12th, getting by Aaron Pierce, Joe Liguori, Davey Ray and Brady Bacon.
He passed Joey Moughan on lap 15 following a restart to rise to 11th, and moved into the top 10 on the next lap by passing Brian Tyler.
He got ninth on lap 29 by passing David Byrne. He was able to stay in ninth place until the halfway point, when Bacon and Casey Shuman got around him, and he was back in 12th on lap 51 when Tyler got him back.
He inherited 11th when Justin Grant ran over some debris and suffered a flat right-rear tire on lap 57 to bring out the fourth caution flag on lap 58. Coons had set his fastest lap of the race on lap 55 until he surpassed it at the very end, proving that he had managed his car's tire wear extremely well.
Liguori passed Coons on lap 61, shortly after the restart, to push him back to 12th but Coons regained 11th on lap 62 when the driver who had been sixth, C.J. Leary, experienced a problem. Coons was back in the top 10 again on lap 64 when he passed Liguori back, although Liguori kept the pressure up behind him the rest of the way.
With 20 laps to go Coons was still in tenth, but he got ninth on lap 83 when the driver who had been fourth, Shane Cottle, slowed to a stop.
Coons remained in ninth even though he was under intense pressure. On lap 93 he was 0.243 behind the eighth-place driver, Tyler, and just 0.332 ahead of the tenth-place driver, Liguori.
He passed Tyler for eighth on lap 97 following the last restart. Coons got seventh on the very last lap when the driver who had been seventh, A.J. Fike, dropped back. Coons set his fastest lap of the race on the final circuit.
Two other Nolen Racing drivers did not fare as well on Saturday. Dakota Jackson of Elizabethtown, Ind., was seventh in the first practice session and got more comfortable as practice went on. But he had an engine issue in the #201 Twister Tranter Chevy during qualifications, qualifying 26th, and the team was forced to scratch his entry before the race.
"Thanks to Gene Nolen and everyone at Nolen Racing for the opportunity to return to the Silver Crown series," Jackson said. "I look forward to a continued partnership and success with the team."
Hunter Schuerenberg of Sikeston, Mo., did not even get to make a qualifying attempt in the #120 Maxim Tranter Chevy after an accident in Turn 3 during practice.
For more information see the team’s Web site at NolenRacing.com and the series’ Web site at usacracing.com. Fans can also follow Nolen Racing on Facebook and Twitter. For information on marketing partnerships for 2017, contact Restart Communications at LKMRestart@gmail.com.