Jim Coffey has never ran out of gas on the open road.
The race track is another story.
Back on June 1 he found out what it’s like to have an engine sputter and eventually die as the last ounces of fuel are consumed.
Coffey had opened the season at Kern County Raceway Park with five consecutive wins and was only a few laps from No. 6 when the telltale signs, a cough and sputter, began.
“When it started sputtering, the last thing I thought about was it being out of fuel,” Coffey said. “I screwed up on the fuel calculation and ran out under caution with three laps to go.
“It’s kind of embarrassing. Everybody gave me crap for a few days and I deserved it.”
Coffey, who will be looking to get back to victory lane on Saturday night at the half-mile paved oval, remains a bit perplexed about why he came up short on fuel, but vows not to let it happen again.
“Trust me, it was one of those hard lessons,” he said.
Before the fuel shortage Coffey had been the one delivering the hard lessons to his opponents.
He won four of the last five races last season before winning five straight this season.
“I found something in the middle of last year to keep my car consistent and repeatable,” he said. “I can keep my car consistent throughout the race.”
And a rule change this year changing the size of the rear-end gear, which makes it harder to power off the corner, suits his driving style.
“It’s a momentum track and you have to get the car to rotate through the corners," Coffey said. "A lot of guys drive in deep (hit the brakes hard) and gain speed off the corner. I’m good at maintaining speed through the corners.”
One of Coffey’s biggest rivals is his brother, Ed, who is second in points.
The two started racing as youngsters.
“I was 14 and he was 12 when we shared an Odyssey we raced,” Jim Coffey, 47, said.
Jim Coffey got into Mini Sprint racing (he won the track championship in Visalia in 1997) and did that until he started a family in 2005.
“It got expensive, plus I destroyed the car in the last race of the year,” he said. “With a newborn and the expense of racing I had to stop for a while.”
His interest was renewed when he went to KCRP in 2013 and saw a Modified race.
“My wife (Carolyn) and I always thought we’d go racing again and we planned on getting a 360 Sprint Car,” he said. “But I watched that race at Kern and figured we could do that, race in town and it would be cheaper than a sprint car.
“About a month after that I drove up to San Jose and bought a used Modified. It’s the one my brother races now. I bought a new one in 2016 and it’s the one I have now.”
Ed Coffey has finished runner-up three times this season.
“The only (driver) I really help is my brother,” Jim Coffey said. “I don’t want anyone to beat me, but if anyone does I’d like it to be him. We’re working on getting his car better.”
While he’s enjoyed his strong run of late, Coffey knows seeing the same person win all the time can get old for fans and opponents.
But he’s not about to let off the gas.
“I’m not going to stop working hard, my goal is to win every time I go to the track,” he said.