The racer in Cole Whitt tells him that anything but a win is worth nothing. The realist in Whitt tells him 15th place in Nationwide Series race No. 1 is an impressive achievement.
"We came here to run top 15, and we ended up 15th. It's what we wanted," he said.
A clean run in Saturday's WYPALL 200 capped off the 19-year-old's debut in NASCAR's second-tier series. Whitt's No. 84 Red Bull Toyota was the fastest in final practice at 130.496 mph, and hours before the green flag - with no owner's points as insurance - he timed his way into the show in 23rd.
"We raced with some big names, and I think we learned a lot."
He turned heads in the race, too. Slowly, Whitt worked his way into the top 15 by lap 70 and up to as high as 11th by lap 118. The No. 84 pit crew did its part, picking up two spots for the driver on two separate stops (only eight teams spent less total time on pit road).
"We obviously didn't get the qualifying run we wanted and that made it tough for us to come forward," Whitt said. "The pit crew was on all day. We really made up some spots on pit road. We made some up on the track, too. We raced with some big names, and I think we learned a lot. If I just get some more chances I think I can really run good in the series."
The race was only Whitt's 11th in a stock car. He drove the No. 84 in 10 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event this season, finishing fourth in the championship. He made three prior starts at Phoenix - two in a midget and one in a Silver Crown car, which he drove to victory in the 2009 Copper World Classic. He put whatever experience he had to work during a 57-lap green-flag run to close the race.
"I learned a lot lap-by-lap," he said. "I just kept making mistakes because it was my first time out there. We had a couple of short runs and then the long run at the end that we didn't expect. Our car just got away from us; I drove it pretty hard and maybe wore out the tires too much.
"It's a big learning curve. Once I started figuring [one thing] out it was time to learn something new. I need seat time to figure it out, but I think I can."