Cale Coons Shines In Maiden Chili Bowl Prelim


Cale Coons has made a strong impression so far in his rookie appearance at the Chili Bowl Nationals. (Jack Reitz photo)

TULSA, Okla. – There have been numerous family names that have spanned generations at the Chili Bowl Nationals powered by NOS Energy Drink, but one of those has stood out in this year’s edition: Coons.

Of course, the most famous Chili Bowl driver in the Coons household is Jerry Coons Jr., who tied Dave Darland’s record of 24 straight preliminary night feature appearances (2001-’24) on Wednesday and is seeking a staggering 19th start in the championship main on Saturday night. He’ll race in a C-Feature.

That the USAC Triple Crown winner is even in position to make a Driller Day run is impressive, given that his primary ride – the Central Motorsports No. 85 – had engine trouble during his originally-scheduled prelim night on Monday. He jumped into an RMS Racing backup car Wednesday to extend his week.

However, Coons’ other – and perhaps more prominent, after Friday night – role at this year’s Chili Bowl is that of dad. His teenage son, D2 midget standout Cale Coons, is making his Chili Bowl debut this week.

Cale Coons quickly proved that his own racing prowess may rival that of his father, as the 15-year-old won his maiden heat race inside the SageNet Center Friday night and then put together a strong enough B-Feature performance to transfer into his prelim night main event as a first-year participant.

Once in the 30-lapper, the younger Coons kept a cool head on his shoulders and methodically danced through traffic, advancing from 17th to 10th and also setting himself up inside a C-Feature for his Saturday debut at the Super Bowl of Midget Racing.

It was an effort that many onlookers called “wise beyond his years,” a maturity that Cale Coons displayed in front of the FloRacing television cameras all night long as well.

“I think running a micro [sprint] here helped me some,” admitted Coons, who competed in the Tulsa Shootout prior to coming back to Tulsa for Chili Bowl week. “I can’t thank Joe Dooling and my dad enough for giving me such a great car. It was a blast to drive and I’m having so much fun so far. I just saw an opening in the heat race and took it … thankfully it worked out. It definitely wasn’t easy out there.

“[In the qualifier] I really just wasn’t comfortable yet with the huge curb on the top [of the track],” Coons added, “and that probably set us back just a bit. I’ve had a really fast race car underneath me all week long and I think that showed as we got more and more laps under our belt.

If the pressure of a famous father wasn’t enough, Cale Coons also has the spotlight of a famous ride – the iconic Joe Dooling No. 63 – that he’s carrying at the Chili Bowl as well.

Dooling’s entry won the Golden Driller with the late Bryan Clauson in 2014 in an instant classic and has had other notable names, including 2022 Chili Bowl winner Tanner Thorson, in it as well in the past.

Though Coons is young, he has a veteran crew around him that has served him well all week long as he learns what it takes to be fast at Tulsa Expo Raceway.

“Everything about this place is challenging,” he noted. “You have to keep enough wheel spin [up] so that you don’t get too tight or enter [the corner] up too high … there’s so much to think about. I’ve got good people around me, though, and we’re learning every time out there together.”

As fate would have it, because his father also finished 10th during his prelim night feature on Wednesday, Cale and Jerry will compete against one another in the same C-Feature Saturday night.

If that wasn’t enough, the pair will start side by side in the second row, Cale inside and Jerry outside. Both will need to finish in the top five in the 15-lap contest to advance and have a shot at making the $20,000-to-win finale.

It’s a mouthwatering story for pundits and fans alike, but there’s one person inside the Expo who couldn’t bear to see the scenario play out when the lineups were released late Friday night.

“Someone sedate me,” quipped Amy Coons, Jerry’s wife and Cale’s mother, on X (formerly Twitter).

“There’s a good chance I won’t make it through the race,” she added. “But I’m proud of them both.”

Every lap of every feature during Driller Day at the Chili Bowl Nationals powered by NOS Energy Drink, including the efforts of both Cale Coons and Jerry Coons Jr., can be streamed on FloRacing.

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