Thu, 20 Sep 2007, 04:22 PM
By Bob Frey
Photo copyright 2007 Auto Imagery, Inc.
Experiencing the thrill of winning a national event is something that I will never know. But, be
that as it may, I can live vicariously through the drivers whom I've met over the years who have
been good enough to go the distance and win one of the NHRA national events. And no matter how many
times I get to shake the hand of a winner it never gets old and I imagine I will always enjoy it.
To look in their eyes and see the excitement, the joy and, in some cases, the relief of finally
closing the deal is an emotion that I can only dream about. Such was the case after this year's MAC
Tools U.S. Nationals when I got to congratulate Jason Coan for winning his first race, the "Big
Go," in Competition Eliminator. "How does it feel," I asked. "It's unbelievable. That's all I can
say. If I had to win one race this would be it, and to have it be my first win makes it even
When you follow the sport religiously as I do, it's sometimes hard to believe that certain drivers
have never won a national event, and I have to admit that I was surprised when I learned that the
Indy win was the first for Jason. "I came close at the Bristol race in '99 but this is my first
final round since then," he said while clutching his trophy at Indy. "I've been doing it for a wile
but haven't really concentrated on it until the last few years." What he has been concentrating on
is the family business that was started by his father, Dave, in 1976. "We make automatic
transmissions and torque converters, that's our primary business." And while drag racers makeup the
bulk of the business, lately the company has been expanding into other forms of Motorsports. "We've
been doing a lot of monster trucks," Jason said. "We do most of the ones on the Clear Channel
circuit and that includes the 'Grave Digger,' the 'Maximum Destruction' truck and some others."
They also are making transmissions and converters for the off-road and desert racing series. "The
business is going well. We take a lot of pride in our products and, because of that, we have a lot
of repeat business." Even some of the other competitors in Comp use products from Coan Engineering.
"Vinny (Barone), uses our three speed transmissions and converters." Vinny also just happens to own
the car that Scott Richardson was driving in the other lane from Jason in the Comp final at Indy.
Even though he grew up around the sport and his dad's business it wasn't always taken for granted
that he would eventually drive the family car in competition. "Dad raced Comp or something since
the 1970's. He had several drivers but before he would let me race in Comp he made me race my
street car at the track for a year to get the feel of what it was like. He still had the last car
that he ran, a B/EA car, and we had an engine so we made a Super Comp car out of it and that's what
I raced originally. "After trying his hand at bracket racing for a while Jason eventually got the
call to move up to one of the toughest eliminators in NHRA activity. "We bought our first car from
Raymond Martin, and because we had built products for him we knew that it was a good car." Once
they had the car Jason went out and went to his first final round at Bristol in 1999, the first
year that he raced in Competition Eliminator. But, like so many racers, he had to make a decision
shortly after that. "We were getting really busy at work, plus I got married and started a family
so I had to cut back on my racing." A few years later, in 2003, he started actively racing again,
this time in the Jeg's Super Quick series, but he always knew where he wanted to be. "I love racing
in Comp, but it's something that you can't do casually, at least not if you want to be competitive.
It's like a second job. You put in a lot of long days, but winning something like this makes it all
While his father has been involved in the sport for over thirty years he has never driven one of
his cars, at least not on a regular basis. "He had a couple of guys drive for him and they all did
rather well. Dan Nimmo drove dad's front engine dragster back in the '70's and then Stan Whitacre
who still works and, more recently, Allen Wilson, drove. Dad always said that he gets more
enjoyment out of working on the car than driving it. And now that he's getting older, I may
be able to stay up later than him but I can't outwork him. He's really dedicated to seeing that the
car is working perfectly." From the end result you would have to say that dad did his job at Indy
as the car ran very well and Jason drove well, too. A look at the six rounds of racing will find
that Jason has reaction times of 026, 060, .029, .027, .040 and 047 in the final round and, by
anyone's standards, that's very good. "It's nice when it all comes together, when the car runs well
and the driver does his job." And the end result when that happens is usually a win. "Indy is so
tough because of the size of the field, the caliber of the drivers and the way the schedule is.
It's almost like you have three first rounds. It really is nerve wracking."
The car that Jason drove to the Indy win is a new car, or at least a new class. "It's the same
engine combination that we used to run in F/ED. We won the Division 3 championship with it in 2004.
Based on the index we built a car to fit into G/EA and it's been real good to us. Between races
that I've won on the divisional level and ones that Frank Aragona has won we've managed to diminish
the index a little bit but it's definitely been good for us. It looks like I have my best chance to
stay in the top ten in the national points, I've never done that before, and
Coan and family celebrate Indy win.
right now I'm one round out of the lead in Division 3 (behind Bob Bailey)." Jason said that racing
his customers and friends is one of the toughest things about the class. "Bob Bailey is one of my
good friends and customers and you hate racing guys like that but you have to sometimes." The '32
Bantam that Jason drove to the Indy title was built by EasTexas Race cars, (the Super Mod guys),
and features a 187 cubic inch, four cylinder engine that was built by his dad. "We get a lot of
help from CFE Cylinder Heads, Tim Cole at Comp Cams, and Jason at VP Fuels Midwest. Jeff Taylor
helps us a lot also, he does some machine work for us, but dad does all the assembly and the
planning. If it wasn't for the engine people who help us and give us the power we wouldn't be able
to do this. The class is getting so much tougher with more good cars and drivers."
As Jason waited for his turn in the winner's circle he tried to reflect on what it meant to win
Indy. "You just can't put it into words." And then he shared the trophy with his wife, Shay, who
was there with their two daughters, Macy and Marly. "I've known for ever that I wanted to race and
work with my dad in the business. When I finished high school I went to Purdue University and got a
degree in mechanical engineering and I can apply what I know every day at work. It's a lot of fun."
I'm sure it is, but probably not as much fun as winning a race, Indy, an experience that Jason Coan
says is simply, "unbelievable."
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