Don’t anticipate Gene Nolen easing off the pedal regarding his expectations as a car owner in the USAC Silver Crown series.
Now in his 26th season in Silver Crown, the Greenwood resident would like nothing more than to capture the series points championship and also win the annual Pay Less Little 500 at Anderson Speedway.
There is, however, a hook.
On May 23, Nolen Racing’s main driver, Jerry Coons Jr., competes in the 70th annual “Night Before the 500” at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis — the third race on the 11-event Silver Crown schedule — during the afternoon.
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The objective is for Coons to make it to Anderson in time for the 67th annual Little 500, which starts at 8 p.m.
Two intense racing competitions separated by little more than the 54-mile drive into the heart of Madison County.
Nolen has the utmost confidence in Coons, a 43-year-old Plainfield resident whose full-time job is as a sales manager for Impact Racing.
“You don’t want people hurt. That comes first. But (Coons) is in good shape. He’s not real heavy. I think that’s the key, what shape he’s in, because the G-forces at Anderson are pretty great, let alone Raceway Park,” Nolen, 72, said.
“In the past I really haven’t cared too much for the points. If you like racing you just want to go race. We’ve won 10 races, maybe 11, in Silver Crown. I have a real good driver. I’ve got some good, good equipment, and I don’t know why we can’t be right up there with them.”
Nolen Racing is headquartered in a 4,200-square-foot building in Whiteland, where 10 of his 13 cars are kept.
The team’s other two drivers are Shane Hollingsworth and Tony Elliott, though the number of races they’ll run this season will by limited due to family and job obligations.
Coons placed second at the 2014 Little 500, while Hollinsworth was seventh and Elliott 26th. The latter placed fourth in the 2013 race with Hollingsworth taking third at Anderson in 2011.
Elliott also ranks sixth all-time in laps led at the Little 500 with 1,059 and came in second in 2008. He has nine top 10 finishes, which places Elliott in a deadlock for fourth all-time in the Little 500 record book.
“The Little 500 is always stressful if you put three cars in it. What worries me this year is that Jerry is going to run a 100-lap race at IRP, then get up to Anderson in a hurry and he has a 500-lapper to run,” Nolen said.
“But I don’t go to the racetrack if I don’t think I stand a chance to win.”
Coons’ driving credentials speak for themselves — 2008 Silver Crown and USAC sprint champion, USAC midget titles in 2006 and 2007. He is one of only five drivers to capture all three of USAC’s national divisions.
It’s a day/night that promises to test Nolen in a number of ways.
But it’s racing. And in Nolen’s opinion, that’s a good thing.
“I remember when I was 11 years old, I listened to the Hoosier 100 and thought, ‘Boy, would that be exciting to be involved with.’ So I did. I started out with midgets and went to sprints and started running Silver Crown and won the Hoosier 100 three times,” Nolen said.
“You just learn to love it. The other thing is there are a lot of good people in racing. Your competitors can be mad at you one minute and happy with you the next minute.”
The mission three weeks from today is for them to be happy for him.
THE NOLEN FILE
Name: Gene Nolen
Family: Son, Greg Nolen, 48; daughter, Tammy Wagner, 43; three grandchildren
High school: Tech (1961)
Favorite all-time driver: A.J. Foyt