Jerry Coons Jr. came into the 70th running of the Turkey Night Grand Prix in second place in the USAC National Midget Car standings. He had no chance of catching Bryan Clauson, the leader in the National Midget standings, but Coons said he didn't want to lose hold of second place either.
USAC National Midget Car Driver Jerry Coons Jr.
Jerry Coons Jr. grabs second place in the USAC National Midget Car standings.
He accomplished his goal with a 14th-place finish in the Turkey Night Grand Prix race at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale. It wasn't exactly how he wanted to end his season, but it was enough to keep Tracy Hines in third place in the final National Midget Car standings.
"We're sitting second in points. The big thing is to keep second when we could fall back to third," Coons said before the race. "We want to stay second in points even though the championship is out of reach. The way the season started, the first half of the season, I didn't even think we'd be in the top three."
Coons needed a surge in the second half of the season to crack the top-five in the National Midget standings. That he was in second place at the end of the season was a bit surprising.
"We've been out of the top five for most of the season," said Coons, a driver for Wilke-Pak Motorsports with support from K&N Engineering. "I don't think the season went nearly as well as what we would have liked. I've only had one win. We've run second a ton of times. We've had a couple races we were leading and fell out of. To be honest, it's been a little bit of a disappointing season.
This field's so competitive, you've got to finish races if you want to have a chance at the points."
Coons was the seventh-fastest qualifier in a field of 37 cars for the Midget race at Toyota Speedway. He qualified seven spots ahead of Hines, but was 0.164 seconds off the pace of Kody Swanson's top qualifying speed.
Coons was never much of a factor in the race, falling out of the top 10. But his 14th-place finish was seven spots better than Hines and secured a runner-up finish in the National Midget standings.
Coons has raced in his share of Turkey Night Grand Prix races, but this was his first visit to the traditional Thanksgiving night races in two years.
"I haven't been here in the last two years at Irwindale," said Coons, a driver from Tucson, Ariz. "I went back and ran the last Turkey Night at Ascot. It's kind of a hit and miss. I know we ran it at Ventura and Bakersfield once. I wouldn't even know if it was five or 10."
The Turkey Night Grand Prix has attracted some of the top open-wheel racers over the past 70 years. Clauson won the Midget race and became the first driver to win it in consecutive years since Billy Boat from 1995 to 1997.
"It's certainly one of the biggest races of the year for us," Coons said. "I certainly liked this better when it was on dirt. It's a very prestigious race. It certainly would be one we'd like to add my name to it."
Coons said K&N has supplied him with great products.
"In this sport, you gotta have a good product or we're not going to use it," Coons said. "We certainly appreciate everything K&N does."
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