It’s 1:30 p.m. Friday as Joey Coulter stands in the pit area at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in his full fire suit as a small army of workers tend to his ride.
Coulter, a 22-year-old driver in NASCAR’s Truck Series, won’t crawl into his souped-up Chevy Silverado for that night’s race for almost seven hours. Yet there are few relaxing in his pit stall.
Of his team of 11, each has a specific job. At 1:45, one is spraying down the front end with a silver can of industrial cleaner. The team will wax down the truck — one whose front end will be coated in the rubber from tires in just a few hours — throughout the day.
It is the smallest of tasks in a sport filled with them. Yet they are all important.
“It has to look fast if you want it to go fast,” Coulter says with a wink.
Josh Sisco is 25 years old but is probably carded in most bars he and his crewmates visit as they traverse the United States as members of Coulter’s racing staff.
Sisco grew up in racing, his father Buddy working for the likes of Michael Waltrip, Brett Bodine, Jimmy Spencer, Jeremy Mayfield and Todd Bodine during the past 30 years. Now in his ninth year working on a race crew of some sort, Josh Sisco is a grizzled veteran despite his looks and age.
One of six crew members allowed to hop the wall during a race, Sisco — who is an expert with the air gun as he seemingly takes off five lug nuts quicker than he bolts them down — believes his crew is a team just like one in any other sport.
“It’s a carryover effect. It one guy messes up, it messes up everything,” Sisco said. “We have built a nice smooth rhythm. I look at how we work as how you work at basketball. Your shot can get messed up over time and you start missing more and more. Practice makes perfect. I believe that.”
Coulter’s crew works hard at being as fast as it can be. One slip-up can gum up the works and put Coulter at a disadvantage.
At the shop in Welcome, N.C., the crew spends three days a week working on pit stops. Coulter will take the truck around a parking lot then pull into his pit box. The truck is jacked up. The tires are ripped off, new ones bolted on. Then the jack is released and Coulter punches it. Gone.
This happens at least four times in each of the three days before the truck is packed up and taken to its next destination. The practice does seem to make perfect. Every fraction of a second counts.
In Friday’s race, Coulter slides in for his first pit stop of the night. Four tires go over the wall as four tires come off. Gasman Andrew Harris slips up a little, but still dispenses 22 gallons of racing fuel into the truck from a pair of huge canisters he slings over his shoulder. Each gas canister weighs 90-plus pounds and Harris lifts them as if they weighed half that.
Despite slipping, Harris recovers as the team has one of its quickest stops of the year. Coulter picks up three spots in the process. That doesn’t stop Sisco and front tire man Richard Grey from giving Harris plenty of grief. The NASCAR official assigned to Coulter’s pit also gets his jabs in. The stop was a success, so joking is allowed.
“Even with that [slip] we still got three spots off it,” crew chief Harold Holly says afterward. “These guys in the pits have been flawless all year long. I think their average for the year is around 13.5 [seconds]. That’s pretty awesome to have a year like that. They’ve really come together. They are one of the best, if not the best, team I’ve ever worked with.”