MOORESVILLE, N.C. – After a five-week hiatus, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is back in action at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway this weekend for the 29th Annual Kroger 250. Although the series has slowed down, Joey Coulter, who made his debut behind the wheel of the No. 18 Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) at Daytona International (Fla.) Speedway in February, has still been on the clock and behind the wheel.
The Miami Springs, FL native has utilized his 42-day break, the longest stretch between truck races all year, to get behind the wheel of a dirt late model at Volunteer Speedway, a 4/10-mile short-track, and has spent some time at the track with long-time girlfriend, Jessica Green, spotting for her in the Florida United Pro Truck Series. Last week, Coulter was able to get back behind the wheel of his No. 18 Toyota Tundra, testing at Caraway Speedway in Sophia, N.C. in preparation for this weekend’s event.
After being relegated to a 22nd-place finish due to a four-truck accident on the final lap at Daytona, Coulter knows producing a strong finish at Martinsville this weekend is critical in his bid for the 2013 Truck Series title. In 2012, the 22-year-old driver finished 18th and 30th, respectively, in the first two races of the season at Daytona and Martinsville. Those two finishes haunted him as his worst finishes of the year, and he missed the championship by a mere 19 points. Points that he says ultimately caused him to play catch-up the rest of the season.
Making his fifth start at Martinsville Speedway, Coulter is not only the oldest driver on the KBM roster for this weekend’s event, he is also the only driver within the three-truck powerhouse that has prior experience on the .526-mile “Paperclip” in the NCWTS. Finishing a track-best third in his last visit to Martinsville Speedway (October, 2012), Coulter hopes to further capitalize on his efforts this spring to become the second youngest driver in series history to take home a grandfather clock.
Fortunately, for Coulter, the No. 18 Tundra has a history for being a solid contender at the Virginia track. Since its debut in April of 2010, the KBM Toyota has made six starts, boasting an average finish of 4.33, which includes one pole (Kyle Busch, 2010), one win (Denny Hamlin, 2011), four top-five and six top-10 finishes.
Coulter knows that he is only one of 35 drivers in pursuit of one of the most distinct and iconic trophies in racing, but hopes with his experience, leadership from veteran crew chief Harold Holly and the rich history of the No. 18 at the half-mile Virginia track, there is no better time for his first win than at Martinsville.
Joey Coulter, Driver of the No. 18 NCWTS Darrell Gwynn Foundation Tundra:
What are your thoughts on having a five-week break between the first race of the season at Daytona and the second race of the season at Martinsville? “It’s been kind of tough. Fortunately, I’ve been able to go racing a couple different places and found ways to keep myself busy. It’s a difficult stretch of the season though, you only have one race under your belt and Daytona wasn’t exactly great for us, so we’ve been sitting on that not so great finish for the past five weeks. I’m pumped to get back to the track though, getting that bad finish out of the way and getting a good one in the books.”
You finished 22nd at Daytona, do you feel like you will be playing catch-up the rest of the season? “Not yet. We’ve come back from that situation before, and been ok by the end of the year. I do think it’s important to leave Martinsville with a good solid points day; a good top-three or top-five finish will put us right back in the ball game. Looking at where the points shook out after Daytona, there are a lot of trucks in front of us that are either not running a full season or just had a lucky day, so a solid finish at Martinsville will put us right back in it.”
Harold Holly, Crew Chief of the No. 18 NCWTS Darrell Gwynn Foundation Tundra:
The 18 team participated in a test at Caraway Speedway last week, what did you learn in preparation for this weekend’s event at Martinsville? “The biggest thing we went to Caraway for last week was to shake down and make our tool box a little bit deeper. With the difference in the KBM trucks compared to what we have worked with in the past, we wanted to make different changes to the truck for every condition
that we can expect this weekend at Martinsville; put ourselves in a tight condition, loose condition, and work with the break system. The more we know before we get to the track, the more user friendly our tool box is, so when we get there so we can just fine tune in the two hour practice session on Friday.”
In four starts at Martinsville, Joey’s average finish in the fall (4.0) surpasses his average finish in the spring (23.5), what changes can you see in the track in the spring vs. the fall? “In the spring time typically the track temperatures are down and most of the time there is rain. Therefore, the track surface has a hard time accepting rubber. Whenever that happens, you start getting excessive tire wear and you have to build your set-up around that. In the fall race at Martinsville, the track temps are usually up over 100 degrees, at the hottest part of the day, and the track accepts rubber really well, so you can typically get a lot more aggressive with your set-up in the fall vs. the spring.”
Joey Coulter’s No. 18 Darrell Gwynn Foundation Tundra:
Chassis KBM 005: KBM-005 will make its 2013 debut in this weekend’s Kroger 250. This Tundra has made four career starts, but will make its debut at Martinsville on Saturday. In its last on-track appearance, Germán Quiroga was running solidly in the top-10 before being involved in a three-truck accident with just over 40 laps remaining in the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix International Raceway.