Coulter makes three more stops during the race. The final two stops he only takes two tires each time. The last stop was a gamble. The truck had been hanging around the 10th place all night, but the last stop gave the Chevy a little extra grip and helped Coulter finish third.
“We didn’t start off all that great, and I was a little worried,” Coulter said in his postrace news conference. “We got stuck but the guys on the team kept fighting. Harold made a pretty gutsy call for two tires, and it paid off. The truck had been a handful, but that was the right call. It worked.”
South florida ties
Like Sisco, Coulter grew up around racing — although he definitely came from a different background.
A 2008 graduate of Palmer Trinity School in Cutler Bay, Coulter grew up in Miami Springs and started racing go-karts at 8 years old at a little track near Opa-Locka Airport. When that closed, he would have to travel across Alligator Alley to drive on Florida’s west coast.
Coulter started driving stock cars at Punta Gorda Speedway at 15. He would later drive in the Hooters Pro Cup Series as well as the ARCA series before getting his big break last year with Richard Childress Racing.
Friday’s race was just his second at Homestead — his hometown track. It has taken Coulter a lot to get where he is now. His father Joe bought two garage suites at the track so Joey’s 50 friends and family who came to the track could watch the race in style.
“My friends really had no idea what I was doing,” he said. “When I told them I race, they were like, ‘What? Are you on the track team?’ Now they think it’s pretty cool. They come here and say they can’t believe this is what I was doing all those years. Truthfully, I was doing that to get to here.”
With about 10 laps left Friday, spotter P.J. Bryant got on the radio and told Coulter to give it one last shot. “You have plenty of gas, plenty of tires and plenty of engine,” Bryant said. “Lets use it all up.”
Coulter didn’t need to be told to go all out because that was his mentality since qualifying. Although he needed a miracle to win the truck points title, he wasn’t mathematically eliminated. “I need every point I can get,” he said before qualifying 11th.
Yet Bryant’s words to go hard to the checkered flag had a number of meanings. Coutler is leaving Richard Childress Racing after two seasons to join Kyle Busch Motorsports next year. Friday was his last race in the No. 22 truck. Make it count, Bryant was saying.
Ironically, Busch was up at the front of the field. “I don’t care if he’s your new boss or not, go get him,” Bryant said jokingly. OK, he wasn’t joking.
“They said they want to drive for a championship and want me to do it,” Coulter said of Busch Motorsports. “How do you say no to that?”
With Coulter leaving, Friday was bittersweet for the crew.
Holly, the crew chief, shook hands with the guys in the pit once the race ended, slowly pulling off his headset and carefully putting it away. Holly is joining Coulter with Kyle Busch next year. The rest of the crew is in limbo. Childress Racing hasn’t announced who will drive the No. 22 next year, and there is no guarantee the crew will be retained.
“We may all be unemployed come Monday,” one crew member said.
And although Friday’s race came to a quick end with a solid third-place finish, Coulter’s crew had one more race in it — Saturday’s Nationwide Series car race. It was only the second Nationwide race for Coulter as he tries to move up through the ranks.
Next year, he will do so with some different faces helping him.
“You build a relationship with people,” Cisco said. “We know what Joey wants, he knows what we want. We’ve become friends. You’re together 25 weeks a year. We’re going to miss him. But we’re still going to see him. And we’re going to try and beat him. That’s our job.”