By Richie Murray
Terre Haute, Indiana (May 21, 2021)………Jerry Coons Jr. stands fourth all-time in USAC Silver Crown starts with 176, but after a nearly two-year absence, the USAC career Triple Crown champion will make his return to the series aboard Patty Bateman’s No. 55 in the Sumar Classic on Thursday night, May 27, at Indiana’s Terre Haute Action Track.
At press time, Coons (Tucson, Ariz.) plans to compete for the Bateman team at three USAC Silver Crown events in 2021, starting at Terre Haute, in addition to the dirt miles at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on Aug. 21 and the Du Quoin (Ill.) State Fairgrounds on Sept. 4.
Coons now resides in Greencastle, Ind. and recently started his own business – Fish Window Cleaning – which covers the western Indiana territory. While building the business up and working with his 12-year-old son, Cale, who competes in A-Class Micro Sprints, that doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for his own racing but does give him a little freedom of choice to compete at tracks and events in which he has a personal fondness for.
“With Cale racing, I’m really trying to concentrate on him,” Coons explained. “I feel guilty when I’m at a racetrack racing on a Saturday night, and he’s not, when he could be. I still enjoy (racing) and I do miss being at a racetrack three, four, five times a week during the summer. Some of the racetracks, sometimes, aren’t what I’d go to if I didn’t have to, so I’m definitely being a little bit selective on that sometimes.”
Terre Haute is certainly one of those places that fits that mold for Coons, who’s won three career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car features on the half-mile, including his very first there in 1999.
At the Sumar Classic, Coons has finished as the runner-up twice in 2008 and 2012, 3rd in 2014 and 2015, and took 5th in 2017. In the most recent Sumar Classic run in 2018, he started on the front row and led the opening 10 laps. In fact, the first of his 176 career Silver Crown starts came at Terre Haute in 1998, finishing 10th and capturing Rookie of the Race honors for car owner Ralph Potter.
For Coons, the 2008 Silver Crown champ, Terre Haute simply suits his style.
“I’ve always enjoyed Terre Haute. I think because I grew up running at Manzanita Speedway’s half-mile, I’ve always liked the half-miles,” Coons said of the now-defunct Phoenix, Arizona track. The first time I ever ran at Terre Haute was in a USAC National Midget race for (car owner) Larry Martz. I was leading with five to go when we ran out of fuel, so right off the bat, I felt good at Terre Haute. We’re usually decent there whether it’s in a Silver Crown car and the Sprint Car. We haven’t had any wins in the Silver Crown car there, but we’re always battling up front.”
Coons’ most recent Silver Crown appearance came during the 2019 Ted Horn 100 at the Du Quoin (Ill.) State Fairgrounds for Bateman. Coons qualified 4th in the 38-car field but was forced to drop out with a throttle linkage issue just 44 laps into the 100-lapper.
His one and only previous appearance for Bateman came in a last minute deal that same night when the team’s regular driver, Casey Shuman, was forced to miss the race due to his commitments as the World of Outlaws Late Models series director, whose race was postponed by rain to the following day, creating a conflict with Du Quoin.
Despite his race concluding short of halfway that night at Du Quoin, Coons knew the Bateman team and the No. 55 were special. Getting to victory lane next Thursday at Terre Haute would be extra special for Coons in a myriad of ways, especially for the team who has soldiered on with the series after their driver, and Patty’s husband, Randy Bateman, passed away in 2017 due to ALS.
“The car was great; they had just put together that new DRC and it’s a beautiful racecar,” Coons recalled. “It’s a great situation. Patty’s great, as is Wade (Seiler) who takes care of the car. They’re there to do well, but also to have fun. She’s called me as we’re getting ready for Terre haute asking, ‘what do you want to do here?’ Anything I’ve wanted to do, she’s all on board and ready to go. Not that we really needed to do anything, because the car is a really good racecar. I’m really looking forward to getting in it and running for her; she’s just a great person. Whether we get a win or not, there’s tough competition, but I think we have a good shot at it. To see her in victory lane, it would be very special.”
The 19th running of the Sumar Classic will also feature the Scott’s Custom Colors DIRTcar Modifieds. Pits open at 2pm EDT, grandstands at 3pm, hot laps at 6:30pm with racing to follow. Adult general admission tickets are $30. Infield admission is $20. Pit passes are $35.
Track Enterprises, the promotion company for the Terre Haute Action Track, has also announced a three-day SUPERTICKET, which includes general admission for all three days of the Week of Indy events at Terre Haute for just $75, a $15 savings off the single day prices.
For advance sale Wednesday/Thursday tickets or the 3-day SUPERTICKET, visit www.tracpass.com. Tickets will also be available at the gates on each race day.
The race will be streamed live on FloRacing at https://bit.ly/3dgONXz.