Joey Coulter – Engineer with 49ers and Driver for NASCAR Truck 22

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NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 2011 Rookie of the Year driver and Lee College of Engineering Motorsports junior Joey Coulter is setting his sights for big things in his second season, including some wins and the season championship.

The 2012 season started well for Coulter when he had a strong run at Daytona and made the ESPN highlight reel. Unfortunately, the highlight was his car flying through the air on the last lap.

“Our first race was Daytona,” Coulter said. “We qualified ninth and ran in the top five most of the night. Then we had a green-white-checkered finish and I was pushing Todd Bodine when I got clipped from behind and flipped three times. It wasn’t quite the finish I was hoping for.”

Originally from Miami, Florida, Coulter has been racing his entire life. When it came time to decide where to go to college, UNC Charlotte was his number-one choice.

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“I applied to several schools, but this was the only one I really wanted to go to,” Coulter said. “I was set on the UNC Charlotte motorsports program. I had heard a lot of good things about the school and this is the perfect place to be for racing. When I came to college, my Dad and I moved our race team up to Huntersville.”

Coulter started his driving career at the age of eight, racing go karts. He and his family toured the country with several other Florida racing families for six years doing karting. He then raced short-track cars for two years and did the Hooters Pro-Cup series for two years.

“At that point we got Harold Holly as our crew chief and went ARCA racing with him,” Coulter said. “Harold is fantastic and he totally turned everything around for us. We started having some top finishes and after a race at Rockingham I got a call from Richard Childress Racing. They wanted to meet us to discuss joining their team. We met and then went truck racing in 2011.”

Driving the number 22 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Silverado, Coulter and team ran the full NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2011, winning rookie of the year honors.

“We had an absolutely great year,” Coulter said. “We had a lot of top five and top 10 finishes and finished seventh overall. Winning rookie of year was the biggest accomplishment in my career so far. We raced against a tough rookie class with a lot of talent and great equipment. We raced hard and had a lot of fun completing with Nelson Piquet Jr. all year.”

The feel of racing trucks was very different for Coulter, and being at many of the tracks for the first time was also a big learning experience. He gives a lot of credit for his success to his teammate Austin Dillon, who raced the number 3 RCR truck and won the 2011 overall championship.

“Austin and his team helped us every step of the way,” Coulter said. “Their race engineer is Ryan Sparks, who is a fellow 49er and a good friend. He was absolutely great in getting us up to speed.”

A 2007 UNC Charlotte Mechanical Engineering graduate, Sparks has been at RCR for five years.

“The number 3 and number 22 teams have an open-notebook relationship,” Sparks said, “We share everything, and Joey and Austin worked well together.”

Having a fellow engineer in the driver’s seat is a great advantage, Sparks said. “It’s good to work with a driver who has mechanical engineering ability. He knows how all the components fit together and understand what happens when we make adjustments. He gives us the feedback we need and we understand each other. It makes our jobs easier.”

As a NASCAR driver and engineering student, Coulter has a busy life. He goes to the race shop at least two days a week to practice and work out with the pit crew, and do briefings with his crew chief and race engineer. Since most of the truck races are on Fridays, the team usually leaves town on Wednesday evenings or Thursday mornings.

“I do my homework and studying when I can,” Coulter said. “Sundays are always spent studying all day. I have a lot of friends at school who help me with notes when I’m gone and studying when I’m back. The professors also are extremely understanding and helpful with my schedule.”

In addition to racing the truck and studying, Coulter also races his own late-model dirt car. “My philosophy is you have to find what works for you, and for me that means seat time. So, I try to expose myself to as many scenarios as possible. That’s why I race the dirt car. It puts me into all kinds of different situations and I have to learn how to respond. When we race at so many different tracks, adaptability is critical.”

With one year in the truck series now behind him, Coulter is confident that 2012 will bring even more success. “We’re shooting for the overall championship,” he said. “We’re also planning to win our fair share of races. It’s going to be a fun year.”

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