After starting the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) Kroger 250 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway from the 15th position, Joey Coulter was running solidly inside the top 10 before a pit road infraction just 60 laps into the 250-lap event forced the No. 18 Darrell Gwynn Foundation Toyota Tundra to lose valuable track position and ultimately go a lap down to the race leader. However, a solid pit strategy and a never give-up attitude allowed the Florida native to rally from as far back as 29th to finish 15th in his fifth start at the .526-mile “Paperclip.”
“I wasn’t thrilled with my qualifying effort, but I thought we were going to be in pretty good shape for the race,” Coulter said. “The incident on pit road, which was my fault, put us behind early and caused us to play catch-up. Harold (Holly) did a great job keeping up with the truck though and we were able to get our lap back. I really thought we were going to be good there at the end, but everyone started slamming into each other, we got knocked around, and just had to fight for what we had left at that point. We will keep digging. We have gotten ourselves out of holes like this before and it’s still early in the season.”
In the early laps of the second NCWTS event on the 2013 schedule, it looked as if Coulter had a truck to contend for his first Martinsville Speedway grandfather clock. Just 10 laps into the event, the No. 18 Toyota Tundra had gained five positions on track and raced solidly inside the top 10, until the first caution flag was waved at lap 59 for a spin in Turn 2. Hitting pit road for service, the Florida native slid to a stop with his right side tires outside the pit box, forcing his crew to push it inside the box before they could complete the stop. The lengthy stop cost him valuable track position and ultimately a lap to the race leader. When racing resumed on lap 64, the No. 18 Darrell Gwynn Foundation Tundra was scored 29th, one of 14 trucks a lap down.
With four fresh Goodyear tires, Coulter was able to make up ground on the field over the next 41 laps and put himself in position for the Lucky Dog award when the fourth caution flag was displayed for a two-truck incident in turn-four at lap 105.
Crew chief Harold Holly summoned his driver, who complained of needing more side bite on exit, down pit road for fuel and a chassis adjustment. Coulter was scored in the 23rd position on the lead lap when racing resumed at lap 109.
Over the next 36 circuits, the 22-year-old driver raced hard, working his way through traffic into the top 15 before the field was slowed for the seventh time for a spin in Turn 3. With no grip on entry into the corner, Holly brought the Darrell Gwynn Foundation Toyota Tundra down pit road for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment, setting Coulter up for the final 100-lap stint. With several teams electing not to pit, the No. 18 Tundra would be scored in the 21st position for the ensuing restart.
As they normally do at the Virginia short track, cautions bread cautions and three cautions flags slowed the field over the next 58 laps. Early in the run, Coulter was able to work his way back into the top 15 but as the laps winded down, so did the grip in his tires. Scored 16th under the 10th caution, Holly called the No. 18 machine down pit road one final time, making a four-tire stop with a chassis adjustment.
Restarting 17th with less than 50 laps remaining, it was “go time” and the tough trucks got aggressive on the race track. With help from the 9 truck, Coulter spun on the exit of Turn 4, but recovered quickly and only lost two positions. Over the final 11 laps, a determined Coulter fought hard for position and was able to gain four spots, advancing to 15th by the end of the race to collect his third top-15 finish in five starts at Martinsville.
Johnny Sauter went on to win his second consecutive race of the 2013 NCWTS season and his second Martinsville Speedway grandfather clock. ThorSport Racing teammate, Matt Crafton, finished second. Jeb Burton, Timothy Peters and Coulter’s Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) rookie teammate, Darrell Wallace, Jr. rounded out the top-five finishers. KBM’s third driver, Erik Jones, came home ninth in his first career Truck Series start.
There were 11 caution periods for 71 laps and seven different drivers led at least one lap, exchanging the lead 13 times.
Coulter, who gained six positions in the championship point standings and now sits 15th, will make his 50th Truck Series start when the series returns to action next Sunday, April 14 at Rockingham (NC) Speedway for the N.C. Education Lottery 200. Live coverage of the third race on the 2013 NCWTS schedule begins at 2 p.m. ET on SPEED.