Joey Coulter is living a dream right, so far having what he calls a spectacular time at Richard Childress Racing.
Last season in the ARCA Series, Coulter finished eighth in points while winning the Bill France Four Crown Award and his first victory at Berlin Raceway.
Following the final race of the ARCA Racing Series season at Rockingham, Coulter got the surprise phone call from RCR with an offer to drive a second truck for their team.
"I was surprised to say the least," he told me on Wednesday. "After the season finale at Rockingham in the ARCA series, I told Mike Perelli that we’d be doing this again next year and trying to win the championship. Looking over the whole year, there was nothing that stuck out a whole lot that I would say RCR would look at. There wasn’t anything that was really clearly there. I mean, we won at Berlin and we won the Bill France Award, but there never seemed to be that big moment.
"Then a week after Rockingham, my dad called me and said to me that I needed to go over to RCR and they want to talk to you and I was like ha-ha you’re kidding. He said, ‘I’m dead serious. They want you there at 10 o’ clock for a meeting’. So from the ball got rolling and once we got up, there they showed us around the shop and we talked about some things and we signed."
Coulter immediately accepted, ready to make that jump up to the next level.
In his first two starts this year, Coulter has already impressed as he was running up front at Daytona before a tire blew and finished ninth at Phoenix.
"It’s really been going well and everybody over at RCR has been doing an awesome job kind of helping me out with getting ready for the race track and getting a handle on the truck," he said. "It’s really been a good experience. At Daytona, we had a really good qualifying run, we’re running real smart in the top 10 and blew a right front tire and ruined our night, but right before then we were having a real good night. Phoenix, for it being a hard track, to go from being terrible in practice to a finish in the top 10 was really good. The first two races have been really good. I mean, I didn’t think we’d do as good as we did with Phoenix being a tough track."
Helping Coulter find success quickly is the fact that ARCA crew chief Harold Holly came over to RCR with him.
"Working with Harold has been great," he said. "I mean, him and I worked together with the ARCA cars and things have gone well. Our communication has carried well over to the truck. I feel like it’s really gotten better since then too. We’ve working two years with each other and he’s been great with helping me out and he’s been making some great changes to the truck."
Coulter has also been getting help from teammate Austin Dillon and RCR General Manager Mike Dillon.
"He (Austin)’s helped me out so much, epically out there at Phoenix," Coulter said. "He helped me. Mike Dillon has helped me a ton there, too. He’s helped with telling me where I need to be to be in the right place, and like in the right groove."
Coulter began racing in 1998, racing go karts at West Coast Kartway in Naples, Florida, and then also started running the WKA Horstman Gold Cup Series in 1999, followed by the Florida FASTTRUCK Series in late 2005.
In 2007, he moved up to the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series, where he finished in the top 10 multiple times, including top 10s at the 2007 Thanksgiving Classic at Kenly and Baileys 300 at Martinsville Speedway. His first stock car victory, though, would come in December of 2008 at Southern National Raceway Park in Kenly, N.C.
The 2009 season marked his rookie year in the ARCA, which resulted in two poles, seven top-fives, 13 top 10s and a fourth place finish in the season ending point standings.
Coulter feels that experience in ARCA will pay off later in the year.
"For one, when we go to some of these big race tracks, like I haven’t run most of these races, but when we go to places like Michigan, Iowa, Kansas, Chicago, places like that, it’s really going to pay off as I got lots of laps on those race tracks," he said. "You know in ARCA last year, things were really competitive as there were a ton of different winners. Only two people won twice and there were a lot of different people running well and it really showed how good the competition there. I think the type of racing with that crowd of drivers really gets you prepared for the truck series because the competition jumps by 10. So just getting a little taste of that in the ARCA series really helps you out."
Coulter hopes to use that experience to work towards completing his goals.
"Right now our expectation is to finish in the top 10 every weekend," he said. "Overall, for the entire year, we want to win rookie of the year. We feel with the experience from Austin winning it last year will help me a lot. I really don’t think rookie of the year is that far out of reach."
In the first practice at Darlington today, Coulter was 25th quickest as he looks for the right feel in the truck.
"I’m just really excited," he said. "I’ve just been talking to a lot of people about that place. I’ve never been there, never seen it, probably watched the last 10 races there the last couple of weeks trying to learn everything I can. I’ve talked to Austin Dillon a lot. I’ve just been doing a lot of talking to a lot of people. I’ve been trying to figure out what it’s like, what’s the tire wear like, what are some things you need to look out for.
"I’ve heard getting on pit road is really challenging so we’ll see how that plays out. It’s going to be exciting. I know I will have a really good truck when I get there. Austin ran really well there last year and we’re going back with the same set-up and I feel like we have a really good chance to get another top 10."
The truck race is set to start at 5pm EST, and will be shown on SPEED. As part of the set up at 4:30pm EST, there will be a clip shown of Coulter going with his RCR teammates Austin and Ty Dillon to get a makeover.
"That was a lot of fun," he said. "We went to a bunch of different places and you got to watch it on Saturday as it was a lot of fun. I don’t think I’ve spent that much on clothes but it will be cool to show off our new look for the rest of the year. We had a good time."