Nolen Racing's Coons Advances 10 Positions to Finish Fifth at Phoenix
AVONDALE, Ariz., May 1 — Jerry Coons Jr., the only Arizona native entered in Saturday's 100-lap USAC Silver Crown race at Phoenix Raceway, advanced more positions than anyone else in the race when he blasted from the 15th starting position to finish fifth in the Nolen Racing #20 sponsored by KECO Coatings and Indy Race Parts. His performance earned him the event's KSE Racing Products Hard-Charger award.
The USAC Triple Crown champion is now second in the series' overall point standings with two fifth-place finishes in the first two events of the 11-race season.
Coons, a native of Tucson, Ariz., now living in Greencastle, Ind., had to start next to last in the 100-lap Phoenix Copper Cup when he was unable to record a qualifying lap on Friday due to a problem with his car's clutch. The Nolen Racing crew, based in Whiteland, Ind., fixed the problem and he rewarded them with an amazing start in the race, coming from 15th to ninth on the first lap around the 1-mile, semi-banked, paved tri-oval.
One of the positions he gained was at the expense of one of his two teammates for this race, Tanner Swanson of Kingsburg, Calif. Swanson, who qualified sixth, slowed immediately on the start with a mechanical issue and stopped in Turn 3 to bring out the first of six caution flags. He made only 12 laps in all and was scored in 15th position. Although he didn't finish he was definitely fast, as his best lap was a 26.828 on lap seven.
The third Nolen Racing driver in the race, rookie Joe Axsom of Franklin, Ind., started 11th and finished 11th in the team's #120 for another solid finish despite the fact it was his first race at this track. This event was USAC's first event at Phoenix in eight years.
After his amazing start, Coons moved into eighth place on lap eight by passing Davey Hamilton Jr., who retired two laps later. He set his fastest lap of the race on lap 16 with a 26.878, and moved into seventh on lap 25 when the fourth-place driver, Justin Grant, hit the wall between Turns 3 and 4. He advanced to sixth on lap 34 by passing Damion Gardner after a heated battle.
A great deal happened on lap 93, just seven laps from the end. Bobby Santos regained the lead from David Byrne and went on to win the race, while both Davey Hamilton and Coons passed the fourth-place driver, Aaron Pierce, who faded to seventh. Coons held on to fifth the rest of the way.
Axsom almost got a top-10 finish. He moved into tenth on lap 10 and held it until lap 17, but then dropped back to 14th on lap 18 and had to regroup until his perseverance was rewarded with an 11th-place finish. His fastest lap of the race was lap 53, which he turned in 27.565.
Nolen Racing will now prepare for its most challenging week of the year, as it will field multiple cars in three big races at three different Indiana tracks three days in a row.
On Thursday, May 25, Coons, Hunter Schuerenberg of New Whiteland, Ind., and Dakota Jackson of Elizabethtown, Ind. will represent the team in the prestigious Hoosier Hundred USAC Silver Crown race on the 1-mile dirt track at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis. Coons won the Hoosier Hundred in 2011 and 2012.
The following night Coons and Axsom will tackle the paved, 0.686-mile oval at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis in Brownsburg, Ind., for the Carb Night Classic USAC Silver Crown race.
The next night, Saturday, May 27, the team will field three asphalt sprint cars for Coons, Kody Swanson and Shane Hollingsworth of Lafayette, Ind. in the 69th annual Payless Little 500 presented by UAW-GM at the quarter-mile, high-banked asphalt oval of Anderson Speedway in Anderson, Ind. Kody Swanson, Tanner's brother, is the defending winner of the Little 500. (He is also a two-time USAC Silver Crown champion, and he finished second Saturday at Phoenix. He is based in Indianapolis.) Coons finished second in the Little 500 in 2014 and third last year. Hollingsworth also has a third in the event. Gene Nolen of Greenwood, Ind., who owns Nolen Racing, is a member of the Little 500 Hall of Fame. Coons will run the #3 sprint car, Hollingsworth will be in the #20, and Swanson will be in the #4.
The team's complete schedule can be found on its Web site at nolenracing.com and its Facebook page. It's also on Twitter. For information on marketing partnerships, contact Restart Communications at LKMRestart@gmail.com.
USAC's Web site is at usacracing.com. More information on the Hoosier Hundred and the Carb Night Classic is available at TrackEnterprises.com. Anderson Speedway's Web site is at AndersonSpeedway.com.
Post-race quotes follow:
Jerry Coons Jr.: "The car started off good in the race, but we gained a lot of stagger. I feel fortunate to come out with a top five."
Joe Axsom: "The short version is we had a part failure that caused a motor problem. We'll hope for better luck at Lucas Oil Raceway."
Tanner Swanson: "Unfortunately we had a mechanical issue early that ended up eventually hurting the motor, which ended our day prematurely. I want to thank Gene, Kevin, Luke, Mike and the rest of the Nolen team that put together a great racecar for me to drive. Overall we improved during the weekend and in the few laps that we did get to run today, the car felt great. Hopefully in the future I will get to join the team again."