Coughlin, Ferns, Caruth, Jones a few to look for as All-Star race hits Plymouth Speedway
PLYMOUTH — Rookie of the Year Cody Coughlin, defending USAC Mopar D1 Midget Series champion 16-year-old Taylor Ferns and her Lorz Motorsports teammate, Nate Caruth will compete against defending 2011 JEGS/CRA All-Star Tour champion Erik Jones and 30 other drivers at the “Eric Saunders, I Can, I Will 100” this weekend when the series kicks off at the Plymouth Speedway Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Coughlin, 16, is the defending Howie Lettow Rookie of the Year winner in the series. But with new crew chief Butch VanDoorn – who won the last three All-Stars Tour championships – Coughlin is looking to improve on his sixth-place finish in the points from 2011.
“It’s extremely important to go strong in the beginning,” Coughlin said. “I honestly think if you’re going to win the championship, you can not have a bad race… I think you’ll have to have top-10s every race and definitely some top-fives if you want to win the championship. That’s obviously our goal.”
VanDoorn, 19, hopes a fast start at the .375-mile track will be a good foundation for the season.
“You always want to start the season out solid,” VanDoorn said. “We want to qualify in the top five, finish in the top five and get maximum points. We want to finish every lap to have something going into Winchester. Cody’s really good there, and he loves that place. We need to have a base to build off of going into Winchester so we can play a little more offense instead of defense there.”
Versatility is something that comes natural to 16-year-old Ferns, who drives both on asphalt and dirt.
The ability to wheel a midget or sprint car as well as a stock car has proven to be priceless for drivers rising through the racing ranks. For Ferns, versatility will be the name of the game this season, as she will compete in four different types of cars, including a Silver Crown car.
Ferns is racing a full season in an asphalt late model with the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour for Lorz Motorsports and she will also be competing in a handful of asphalt races with the Traxxas USAC Silver Crown Series for Team 6R. The 16-year old will make a number of midget starts with the USAC Mopar National Midget Series, D1 Midget Series, Badger Midget Auto Racing Association and POWRi Midget Series in the family-owned car. On top of all of that, Ferns will also compete in a sprint car on the pavement in her home state of Michigan when time allows.
“I can’t wait for the season to get started,” said Ferns. “I’ve been counting the days down since my last race, which was the Chili Bowl back in January. I have a lot of races with the late model, Silver Crown, midget and sprint car, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
“This will be my third full year in a midget, so I definitely feel the most comfortable in those cars,” she noted. “On the other side of the coin, even though I feel comfortable in it, I still have more to learn and continue to learn every time I go on the track. I always enjoy competing in the midget, especially against all the USAC national drivers.”
The 2012 JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour will see Ferns in the No. 76 Dodge Charger, with a McGunegill crate engine under the hood. Dan Lorz, brother of car owner Mike Lorz, will turn the wrenches for Ferns this season, as she chases the Howie Lettow Rookie of the Year Award and the series championship.
“With the late model, the biggest thing is getting laps in and finishing races,” said Ferns. “The races are all at least 100 laps, and the longest race I have ever competed in was Turkey Night last year, which was 98 laps. Getting consistent finishes and getting better each race is my main goal at the beginning of the year. If we finish in the top 10, then the top-fives and top-threes will come. I am really looking forward to running the late model.”
Caruth of Ames, Iowa, will also throw his hat in the ring as he competes in the full 14-race schedule with Lorz Motorsports in the ARCA/CRA Super Series.
Caruth will be competing for the series championship, but in addition, this high school senior will have the responsibility of school work.
“It is a normal thing now to miss school for my racing schedule,” Caruth said. “I always get all my makeup work completed before I leave for a race. My teachers are great and help me out a lot. I feel a true role model in this sport is one who can be an example worth following on and off the track. I know that missing school work or not studying for a test is a poor example to follow.”
Caruth began racing at the age of 8, when he dominated the world of go-karts throughout the Midwest in the World Karting Association. He later branched into the modified divisions where he won numerous wins and championship titles. Additionally, Caruth signed with Brella Sports Group in 2011 to further his competitive edge.
Jones from Bryon, Mich. will be defending his 2011 JEGS/CRA All-Star Tour championship.
“We have a lot of momentum from the 2011 season,” the 15-year-old Michigan native said. “It shouldn’t be too hard to carry that over into the new year. When you have a great season like 2011 you just can’t wait to get back on the track, the off season seems like it lasts forever.”
Three-time CRA Super Series Champion Scott Hantz has stepped in to be the head wrench and driver coach for the young driver.
“Scott will be working in collaboration with Venturini Motorsports, my ARCA team,” Jones said. “I am really looking forward to being able to work with so much experience this year and I’m looking to pick up the 2012 season right where we left off.”
The JEGS/CRA All-Star race will take place immediately following the Plymouth Street Stocks race at 2:30 p.m. Following the All-Stars will be the Plymouth Hornets.
Open practice is Saturday from noon to 5 p.m., gates open at 11 a.m. and pit passes will be $50 for a two-day pass or $30 for Sunday. Pit gates open at 8:30 a.m. Sunday and grandstands open at 11:30 a.m. Grandstands prices are adults $15, children 6 to 12 $5, while children 5 and under get in free.