Joey Coulter, driver of the No. 18 Gunbroker.com Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM), was feeling really good about his "hotrod" for the majority of Friday's NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. The 22-year-old ran inside the top 10 for the majority of the 100-lap race, advancing as high as the runner-up position, until he got caught up in a four-truck accident on the final lap and ended the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series opener with a disappointing 22nd-place finish.
Coulter, who started the race from the 10th position, had maneuvered his way into the sixth position by the time the first caution of the race occurred on lap 26. After pitting for four fresh tires and fuel, the GunBroker.com Tundra returned the track scored in the fourth position for the lap-29 restart.
With his owner and teammate Kyle Busch restarting from the fourth position, the boss developed a plan to allow Coulter to make his way into the inside lane after the restart and by the time the field returned to the start-finish line, the No. 18 Tundra was in the runner-up position, with Busch behind him in third.
The two KBM Tundras ran second and third for the next 24 laps, until a 13-truck accident slowed the field on lap 54. Veteran crew chief Harold Holly summoned his young driver down pit road for four fresh tires and a full load of fuel. An unusually long pit stop, resulted in Coulter losing several positions when the trucks returned to the track.
Coulter and Holly, were quiet on the radio most of the night, until Coulter finally keyed the radio and said, "I can't believe when and where these guys are pushing. It's really hard for me to stay on the top."
Holly and team were happy about the performance of the GunBroker.com Tundra across the night and it seemed eminent that an improvement over Coulter's 18th-place finish in last year's race would be produced as the race approached the final stages.
However, Coulter got caught in the outside lane, which was slow moving on a late restart, costing the 22-year-old driver several positions in the closing laps. On the final circuit of the 100-lap event, Coulter got caught up in a four-truck accident, which relegated the championship hopeful to a disappointing 22nd-place finish.
"Really bummed the race ended the way it did," said a dejected Coulter. "Our GunBroker.com Tundra was great -- best speedway truck I've ever had. I can't thank Kyle, Samantha, Rick Ren and everyone on the No. 18 at KBM enough for the opportunity this year. It's an honor to be running for their first driver championship."
Coulter's KBM teammates, Kyle Busch in the No. 51 Toyota Care Tundra and Darrell Wallace Jr. in the No. 54 Defy DiabetesTundra, finished second and 12th, respectively.
Johnny Sauter won the Nextera Energy Resources 250 and scored his seventh NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory in 109 races. It was Toyota's 100th win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The No. 18 team owner Kyle Busch finished behind Sauter in the runner-up spot, while Ron Hornaday Jr., Justin Lofton and Jeb Burton rounded out the top-five. Ty Dillon, Miguel Paludo, Ryan Blaney, Matt Crafton and Ryan Sieg comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were six caution periods for 20 laps, with 11 lead changes among six drivers.
Next up for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is short-track action April 6 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.