FORT WAYNE – The beating heart of it all is back here, past the front desk, through a door hung with fan belts, on the far side of a dim storage area stocked with the tools of the trade at Coe Heating and Air Conditioning.
Open one more door, and a flood of light spills forth.
Welcome to the family room.
It's not like your family room, certainly. Three race cars are wedged in here, modifieds, their tires still flecked with Saturday night's grit. Behind them sits a trailer. High up by the ceiling hang photos, some years and perhaps decades old, men in racing helmets grinning next to or inside of race cars after long-forgotten triumphs.
The family that races together stays together, those photos and this room seem to say. Or, at the very least, has a hell of a lot of fun.
Coes, you see, have been racing under the Saturday night lights forever, it seems, at Baer Field Speedway and every mean little bullring they could get to. It started with the patriarch, Bob Coe, whose photo greets you as you walk in the door – that's he with his trademark cigar, kneeling next to a car with “Bullet Bob Coe” adorning it in flowing script – and it's carried on with his four sons: Mike, Roger, Ron and Scott.
And beyond that?
Well, on this day, Scott, Bob's youngest, has brought a quiet 14-year-old with him. This is his son, Austin. And a couple of weeks ago, he either did the most amazing thing or the thing you'd absolutely expect him to do, being a Coe and all.
In his third feature ever at Baer Field, he won. Came from dead last to do it, too, his father deciding that's where he needed to start instead of second, where Austin qualified.
“He wasn't very happy with me,” Scott says. “But I said I'm really not ready for you to have cars behind you. I wasn't ready for him to be in the middle of the pack, if you will.
“So I said, ‘I'm going to start you at the tail,' and he was mad. But I said, ‘You need to learn how to pass cars. You got up to speed pretty good, now you've got to learn how to pass some cars.' I never dreamt that he would pass them all.”
Austin, either, though he was born to this. He was 4 months old or so, he figures, when he went to his first race. He grew up riding ATVs and driving go-karts. Finally his dad put together a modified for him last fall, with an eye toward bringing him along slowly.
“It took me awhile to get up to speed,” Austin says. “That's really been about the biggest challenge up to this point is just learning how to drive the car fast and still under control, and getting used to just hanging with the field.”
And then there he was, passing the field.
“He didn't look like a 14-year-old rookie out there running around,” says Scott, who won his own feature that night and whose car was in Victory Lane when Austin won his race. “He really looked like he knew what he was doing. We're three weeks in, and the car's barely got any scratches on it. That's not 14-year-old rookie stuff.”
It's been the norm for the Coe Motorsports team this season, however. Scott Coe and teammate Terry Fisher Jr. have dominated the modified division at Baer Field, finishing 1-2 four straight times.
It's a credit, Scott says, to a team that's been together forever; crew chief Ron West and crewman Henry Allen have been with him 30 years, and crewmen Jim Coe and Rich Deel have been around for 15 and 10 years, respectively.
The other crew member, Lyle Johnson, comes all the way from New Castle to provide his expertise as well.
“They're responsible for a lot of this,” Scott says.
The rest has been Bullet Bob and his sons and all those grinning Saturday nights up there on the wall in the family room – to which the family can now add Austin, who, after he won a couple of weeks ago, was ordered to climb out of his ride and take off his helmet, because race officials wanted to know who was really in that car.
“They thought for sure it was either Scott or T.J. (Fisher) driving the car,” Bob Coe recalls.
The patriarch chuckles at the thought.