By Mary Lendzion
Having earned the NMCA Edelbrock Xtreme Street championship in 2017 and 2018, there was no doubt that the very competitive Jessie Coulter was going to try to back them up in 2019.
He began by driving to a 4.67 to lead qualifying and a 4.73 against Tim Knieriem to earn a trip to the Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle at the 11th Annual Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals presented by Mahle Motorsport in April at Atlanta Dragway, where NMCA Edelbrock Xtreme Street drivers were mixing it up with NMRA Edelbrock Renegade drivers.
The Kentuckian followed that with a 4.72 to qualify in the fourth spot and advanced to the second round of eliminations, where he had a super-tight race against Knieriem, at the Inaugural Comp Cams NMCA Memphis Homecoming in May at Memphis International Raceway. Coulter clocked a 4.725 and Knieriem clocked a 4.729 and won with a holeshot.
“Always trying to improve our combination, we decided to test some changes in Memphis and it cost us,” said Coulter, whose Camaro packs a Brian Tooley-built 388 cubic-inch engine on a GM Performance iron block and a Borg Warner turbo massaged by Midwest Turbo/CRT. “We went to Holly Springs for testing and hurt the engine to the point we couldn’t fix it before Joliet. I had been slowly piecing together another shortblock as a spare, but now we needed it in a hurry. I was next day-airing parts and assembled the engine myself just a few days before the event.”
Coulter then cruised to a 4.80 to qualify in the seventh spot and made it to the semifinal, but was forced to get out of the throttle at the 14th Annual Nitto NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing in July at Route 66 Raceway in Illinois.
“With only a few weeks before (the race in) Norwalk, we were testing parts on the dyno when we had a mishap setting the car on fire,” said Coulter. “Luckily, no one was hurt and most of the damage was (done to) hoses. We replaced every hose in the car with help from Holley Performance Products. Brian Tooley got us an engine together for Norwalk and we put my spare in the trailer.”
After a 4.79 to qualify in the eighth spot, he soared to another 4.79 against JC Beattie Jr. to earn another trip to the Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle at the 18th Annual NMCA All-American Nationals in August at Summit Motorsports Park in Ohio.
“Mid-event, we had concerns and decided to swap engines just to see if we could find some ET,” said Coulter. “Turns out we really didn’t have an issue. It was just down on power. With luck on our side, we took the win and put some gap in the points.”
With his eyes on the championship, he put up a 4.79 to qualify in the sixth spot at the final event on this year’s NMCA tour, the 18th Annual NMCA World Street Finals in September at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indiana, and he again arrived at the final round of eliminations, but this time, he had issues which prevented him from competing against Knieriem. Still, the steady-as-they-come Coulter earned the 2019 Edelbrock Xtreme Street championship for the third year in a row.
“Going into Indy, we just needed to qualify decently and stage first round to lock the points up,” said Coulter, whose crew includes Rick Ball, Shawn Rigsbee, Blake Brasel, Alan Felts and Dean Minton. “(In the) semifinals, our converter separated, dumping fluid under the tires and (caused me to) nearly wreck into fellow racer Bill Trovato. I had an angel on my shoulders as it could have been bad. We won the round as it was after the finish line. We got the car back to the pits and jacked the car up. Fluid was running from every hole under the car. It just wasn’t worth the risk to try to make the finals. We had already exceeded our expectations for the weekend.”
The NMCA family is gearing up to celebrate Coulter and his accomplishments at the NMCA Muscle Car Nationals presented by E3 Spark Plugs Awards Ceremony presented by Aerospace Components, Dec. 13 at the Indiana Convention Center.
“It was a tough season and we had to work twice as hard to stay on top, but the emotion of being a three-time champion is over-the-top unreal,” said Coulter.
(Please watch for stories on all NMCA champions to be posted on the NMCA and Race Pages Digital websites and in Fastest Street Car in the days to come.)