WHEATLAND, Mo. – Since he began racing regularly at Lucas Oil Speedway, Johnny Coats has been Mr. Consistency.
Coats finished third in the Street Stock division for the third straight season in 2016 on the heels of a second-place finish in 2013. The only missing piece of the puzzle is obvious and has Coats hungry for the new year that fires up in April.
“It sure would be nice to win a championship,” Coats said. “But if it’s meant to be, it will be. If you stress on it all year, it can make it a rough year. You have to kind of take it as it comes.”
Coats might be taking a necessary step in his title pursuit, though. He’s planning to unveil a Tony Jackson Jr.-built Street Stock this season. Track champ Derek Brown drove a TJR-built car last season and Tim Brown piloted a TJR Street Stock to victory in the season-ending Big Buck 50 Presented by Whitetail Trophy Hunt.
“He hasn’t been on a shortage of victories in those cars,” Coats said of Jackson, the veteran Lebanon driver who has made a big impact in recent years for his car-building efforts.
The new car is part choice and part necessity for Coats. After back-to-back August victories at Lucas Oil Speedway, his car was demolished in a September roll-over accident at a $10,000-to-win special in Batesville, Ark.
“After that I hurried and threw a car together than I ran a couple of years ago, for the Big Buck race, and that car wasn’t very good,” Coats said. “I wound up wrecking in the heat race (and finished 23rd in the feature). So the season didn’t end up the way I wanted it to.”
That still shouldn’t diminish what was another rock-solid year for Coats, son of the late Chris Coats who was a track champion at the old Route 66 Speedway in Joplin.
“You always want to win more, but any time you can win a couple of races at Lucas it makes for a good season,” Johnny Coats said, adding that the competition level is the strongest it has been in the Street Stock division.
“Pretty much everybody who shows up nowadays has a pretty good chance,” he said. “A few guys show up in rough equipment, but for the most part everybody puts quite a bit into those cars in the (Street Stock) class any more.
“You have more bigger-paying shows than they do in the Late Model or Modified classes it seems like. They’re coming on more and more every year. You can go and race all over for good money.”
At the forefront is the Big Buck 50, a $5,000-to-win special at Lucas. The fourth annual event is set for Oct. 6-7.
“It’s nice having a big-money race like that at a track we race every week,” Coats said.
Coats’ sponsors include Chris’ Key Shop, Coats Towing, Hatfield Racing Engines, John Meyer Salvage and Coleman Hardware. Sean Stewart is set to return as crew help with a big addition also joining the team – Joplin retired racing legend Bill Street.
“I’m sure he’ll give me plenty of good pointers,” Coats said. “It’s pretty cool that he wants to be around it a little more.”
CREDIT: Lucas Oil Speedway