TERRE HAUTE —
For all but one race during its 2013 racing season, the Terre Haute Action Track has taken a beating from Mother Nature.
Five races have been canceled or postponed at the half-mile dirt oval.
When qualifying started Saturday evening for the combined USAC Tony Hulman/Jim Hurtubise Classic, the dark clouds that ominously lurked to the north of the track seemed to signal that Mother Nature was ready to get her licks in on the track again.
Not this time.
A threatening cell to the north and northwest of the facility produced a lot of lightning, but in the end, it produced nothing else and provided a cool, albeit threatening, visual palate for the race action.
Jerry Coons Jr. provided the rest of the electricity. The Tucson, Ariz. native went flag-to-flag to win the race.
The Jim Hurtubise Classic had been the scheduled race for Saturday, but the Hulman Classic was folded into it after it was postponed on June 21.
To avoid that circumstance again, USAC and Action Track officials moved the feature race up in the card to beat the precipitation. It was a wise move given that, at one point according to the radar, the track was the dry eye in the middle of a circle of thunderstorms.
The original plan was to get the 16 laps in needed to make the race official. In the end, the rain held off and the race went its scheduled 30-lap distance.
Coons Jr. started from pole position. The first lap was aborted after a four-car accident in Turn 2 involving Terre Haute’s Brandon Mattox, Terre Haute’s Jake Simmons, Kurt Gross and Nick Drake. Drake’s car came to rest on top of Mattox’s. No one was injured in the accident.
It was the only yellow flag in a clean feature race. Coons Jr. bested Kyle Cummins at the start and had a comfortable lead over Brady Bacon, who consolidated second position after the first lap.
By the midway point, Coons Jr., Bacon and Tracy Hines had broken away from the field. Bacon asserted himself on Lap 17 as he closed Coons Jr.’s lead to two cars lengths. On Lap 18, Bacon attempted to go low in Turns 3-4, but Coons Jr. had more grip on top and held his ground.
Hines lurked behind the leaders and got within a couple car lengths of Bacon, who closed his gap to Coons Jr. to a car length by Lap 24. Bacon once again tried to pass Coons Jr. low in Turns 3-4 on that lap, but couldn’t get the bite to pull it off.
Coons Jr. was not threatened again from there and was helped when Hines and Bacon traded positions on the penultimate lap with Bacon holding his ground.
Sullivan’s Chase Stockon finished ninth. West Terre Haute’s Braylon Fitzpatrick finished 19th and Blake Fitzpatrick was 20th. Simmons was 21st and Mattox was 23rd.
Jon Stanbrough, Hines and Bryan Clauson won the heat races. Kevin Thomas Jr. was the fastest qualifier. Dave Darland, who finished fifth, exited the race with a 30-point lead over Clauson in the national point standings. Stockon is in fourth.
Tony Hulman/Jim Hurtubise Classic
Feature (30 laps) — 1. Jerry Coons Jr., 2. Brady Bacon, 3. Tracy Hines, 4. Bryan Clauson, 5. Dave Darland, 6. Robert Ballou, 7. Jon Stanbrough, 8. Chris Windom, 9. Chase Stockon, 10. Daron Clayton, 11. Kyle Cummins, 12. Kevin Thomas Jr., 13. Shane Cottle, 14. Justin Grant, 15. Tyler Courtney, 16. Korey Weyant, 17. Nick Drake, 18. Kevin Studley, 19. Braylon Fitzpatrick, 20. Blake Fitzpatrick, 21. Jake Simmons, 22. Kurt Gross, 23. Brandon Mattox.