Nolen Racing's Windom Contends for the Win Until Slowed by a Deflating Tire; Finishes Eighth
AVONDALE, Ariz., April 9 — Nolen Racing’s Chris Windom ran in second or third place for almost half of Saturday’s USAC Silver Crown season opener at ISM Raceway, and he was never out of the top five until there were just seven laps remaining in the 100-lap race. The native of Canton, Ill. who now lives in St. Louis didn’t get the top-five finish he deserved, however, due to a slowly deflating tire which forced him to drop out with 94 laps complete. He was credited with an eighth-place finish.
The Whiteland, Ind.-based team’s other driver in the race, USAC Triple Crown champion Jerry Coons Jr., a native of Tucson, Ariz. who now lives in Greencastle, Ind., escaped injury when his car caught on fire on the frontstretch with 35 laps complete while he was running ninth. He ended up 17th in the final rundown. It was the first USAC Silver Crown DNF in more than a year for Coons, who finished second in the championship last year.
Both drivers were in the thick of the action and provided a great deal of positive exposure for their sponsors, which include KECO Coatings and Indy Race Parts. Their cars were fast right out of the transporter, as evidenced by Windom posting the second-fastest time in the first practice session. He was just 0.007 off the time recorded by Kody Swanson in that session, and Swanson went on to win the pole and finish second in the race to Bobby Santos.
On Friday Windom qualified sixth and Coons earned the ninth starting spot for Saturday’s race, which was called the Phoenix Copper Cup. It was the 24th Silver Crown race ever held at the track formerly known as Phoenix International Raceway.
Windom zoomed by Kyle Hamilton and into fifth place on the first lap, and then into fourth on lap three when Santos dropped back. The latter pitted on lap 19 but restarted and went on to win.
Kyle Hamilton got by Windom on lap four to push him back to fifth place, but Windom regained fourth on lap 10 by passing Swanson. Windom charged into third on lap 13 when both he and Swanson passed Aaron Pierce. A few laps later the first yellow flew on lap 17 when Kyle Robbins spun in front of the leaders between Turns 1 and 2.
Windom charged into second place shortly after the restart on lap 22, and then stayed in second, trailing only Hamilton, until lap 52. That included the time run under yellow for Coons, who had been saving his tires and running in ninth place before his car’s mechanical issue occurred.
Swanson and David Byrne both passed Windom on lap 52 when he got caught behind a lapped car, which pushed him from second to fourth, but he regained third on lap 67 when Hamilton pitted with mechanical difficulties. Santos passed him on lap 73 to push him back to fourth. At that point Windom was trying to nurse his tire, and Byrne passed him for fourth on lap 88 and he fell back to eighth when the tire forced him to retire just six laps from the end.
The next race is April 29 on the dirt oval at the Terre Haute Action Track in Terre Haute, Ind., which is one of Windom’s favorite tracks. He won that race last year while driving for another team, while Coons finished a solid fifth.
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.
Post-race quotes follow:
Chris Windom: “I was really happy with the car all weekend. I think we had the car to contend for a win, and with about 25 laps to go, the right-front tire started going down. I had a slow leak. I dealt with it for awhile, but the car became undriveable.”
Jerry Coons Jr.: "We had a good-handling car. We had some issues with the engine on qualifying day and found a problem, but there must have been more going on, as it gave no indication before it blew up.”
Photo credit: USAC photos by Al Steinberg