National Dirt
Thursday, 6 October 2016


Jerry Coons, Jr. will run the Petry/Goff Motorsports #25 for the three night "Gold Crown Midget Nationals" at Tri-City Speedway on Oct. 6-7-8, 2016. Jerry Coons, Jr. will run the Petry/Goff Motorsports #25 for the three night "Gold Crown Midget Nationals" at Tri-City Speedway on Oct. 6-7-8, 2016. Rich Forman Photo


Jerry Coons, Jr. has seen plenty of victory lanes throughout his illustrious racing career.  That includes 19 USAC National Midget wins, 17 USAC National Sprint Car victories and seven in the USAC Silver Crown Championship.

One of those 43 career USAC Nationals wins he remembers most is the inaugural “Gold Crown Midget Nationals” at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Illinois back in 2008.  Driving the famed Wilke Racing No. 11 that night, a multitude of things had the USAC “Triple Crown” champ on his toes throughout the 50-lap feature that, in the end, came up roses.

“I remember being so tight on the bottom that I started losing the brakes, then a yellow flag came out and my brakes were gone,” Jerry recalls.  “I was doing everything.  I even pulled the cap off the reservoir just to let out any heat that I could!  Not that it helped anything, but I was just trying to cool the fluid off the best I could.  I was doing anything and everything to cool it.  Luckily, the yellow lasted awhile and cooled the fluid off.”

“There was a lot on my mind that night,” Jerry continued.   “We were trying to develop the Hemi (engine) that year.  We had several DNF’s with the Hemi at Angell Park (Sun Prairie, Wisc.) that year.  It was on my mind at the end if the engine was going to last.”

Jerry is set to return to the site of that victory this Thursday-Friday-Saturday, October 6-7-8 for the 7th running of the “Gold Crown.”  Set to make just his second appearance in the Scott Petry-Terry Goff Motorsports No. 25 beginning Thursday, Jerry’s relationships within his new role as coordinator of USAC’s .25 Midget Series led to him landing the ride.

“The Petry’s are friends with guys who run quarter midgets,” Jerry explained.  “One day, these guys were talking at the quarter midget track about that car.  He gave me Brad Gray’s number and said, ‘hey, there interested in talking to you.’  I gave them a call, then sat down and talked to him and put the deal together.  It was kind of a weird coincidence.”

Petry and Goff are new entrants to USAC Midget racing this season, but they certainly do not lack USAC experience.  In fact, Goff, who maintains the car at his shop along with Gray’s No. 11AG that is driven by Dave Darland, won nine USAC Speedrome Midget races between 1992 and 1996 in addition to his astounding 15 UMRA TQ Midget driving titles. 

Though it is a new ride for the Tucson, Arizona native, Jerry has never had much trouble stepping into a new situation and getting up to speed quickly, something he asserts to the mechanical knowledge he learned as a young, budding racer working on his dad’s racecars.

“Even early on when I was racing and taking care of my dad’s cars, I always worked on them myself,” Jerry said.  “I’ve been able to work with some very good crew chiefs and car owners throughout the years.  Everyone I’ve worked with, I’ve tried to learn and pay attention to what they’re doing and work with them.”

“Sometimes you get into cars and they might be off on their setups and it’s just a matter of getting the car dialed in or finding some little things here and there that need to be straightened out,” Jerry continued.  “I can go into a track with a pretty basic setup in a midget, sprint or silver crown car and go from there while working with the car owner and crew chief together; that’s kind of how I approach it.  I don’t try to be hard headed.  I’m always learning and working together to make the car better.”

Jerry returns to the seat this weekend in Granite City one week removed from a huge weekend of USAC .25 midget racing at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway.  His schedule of racing endeavors, coordinating quarter midget events and raising a family with two young children is quite a balance to maintain.  It’s a schedule which, throughout the season, has curtailed his racing ventures a bit, but not as much as you’d think.  Jerry estimates that he still was able to compete somewhere in the neighborhood of 60-70 events in 2016, including a full-slate of USAC Silver Crown racing for owner Gene Nolen.

Jerry lives a day-to-day schedule that some would consider hectic, though, he admits that it has been pretty manageable, but admits there’s been a few stressful times although it has had little effect on his racing career.

“If I have to miss one or two, that’s part of it,” Jerry accepts.  “We had a great event in Las Vegas last weekend, but now I’m looking forward to getting back in the seat.  I haven’t gotten to run midgets a whole lot this year, so I’m really looking forward to heading to Granite City this weekend.”

The three-day racing weekend is the only occasion all season on the USAC National Midget trail in which the series holds three complete racing programs on three consecutive nights at the same venue.  After a move to a two-day format held on Labor Day weekend in 2015, the “Gold Crown” made the popular move back to its traditional three night-format in the month of October, presenting a unique challenge to competitors.

“Teams that struggle will now have an extra night to dial their cars in and you got guys who are good and it might give them an extra night to dial themselves out,” Jerry joked.  “There’s been a couple years there where I did struggle the first two nights, then we just kind of stabbed at something for Saturday night.”

The year I ran second to Levi (Jones) in 2011, I kind of struggled the first two nights and we threw a little something different at the car and it was good on Saturday.  The same thing happened the next year when I drove for Joe Dooling and Rusty Kunz.  We ended up running second to Kyle Larson on Saturday night.  Hopefully I don’t struggle the first two nights this time around and we can just be consistent every night.”

Despite being one of USAC’s most consistent drivers over the past two decades, Jerry, the 2006 and 2007 USAC National Midget champion, is still searching for his first series win since the 2010 “4-Crown Nationals” at Eldora Speedway, something he hopes to change this weekend at one of his favorite racetracks.

“The ‘Gold Crown’ has always had such good racing; we’ve been able to see some incredible races there over the years,” Jerry said.  “It’s a tough deal to win, but it’s a race you’d definitely like to have your name on, for sure.  The Gundakers have done a great job with the track and it’s a good-paying race.  It’s nice going to a fun racetrack that you enjoy going to for three nights.  It’s certainly a race I’d like to get my name on again.”

All three nights at Granite City, the pit area opens at 3pm with spectator gates opening at 5:30 and racing getting underway at 7.

General admission tickets are $20 on Thursday, $25 on Friday and $28 for the finale on Saturday.  Kids 12 and under are FREE all three nights while pit passes are $35.