Cole Whitt, still more than a month from his 20th birthday, finished third Friday night and became the first rookie and youngest driver to lead the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points standings.
After his second consecutive top-three finish in Turn One Racing’s No. 60, Whitt leads Johnny Sauter by one point (260-259) entering race No. 8 of the season, the June 4 event at Kansas Speedway.
“Our team has been consistent all year long,” said Whitt, who’ll turn 20 on June 22. “The Cup guys have been running so strong. We were second to them last week (at Dover), third here. We’ve just been consistent, and we’re out-running the guys we need to. This team has been spot on, and the Red Bull/Fuel Doctor truck has been fast. I feel like we’ve won the race — to come home third to those guys and be as fast as we’ve been.”
"I feel like we’ve won the race — to come home third to those guys and be as fast as we’ve been."
It was a messy race under the lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway, with an event record-tying 10 caution flags. It wasn’t messy for Whitt, however, as he avoided a slew of smoke and sparks to keep his truck clean as can be in his first Charlotte start and second on a 1.5-mile track.
He started 11th, ran as low as 22nd and led laps 77-81 after staying out during a series of mid-race caution periods. But Whitt was eventually forced to pit for fresh tires under the sixth yellow. He restarted 19th with 46 laps to go, quickly gained six spots, then three, then four. After dispatching veteran Ron Hornaday Jr., Whitt sat third but was out of time to make a run at Clint Bowyer and race winner Kyle Busch.
Whitt is the only Truck Series driver to complete all 1,134 laps this season, and he’s yet to finish lower than 14th with five top 10s.
“We’re right there,” Whitt said, “but at the same time we take it race by race. Every race is a like a lap. We just need to make every lap and race for wins.”
Earlier Friday, Red Bull Racing Team announced that Whitt will drive Pastrana-Waltrip Racing’s No. 99 Toyota in the May 28 Nationwide Series race at Charlotte.
Kimi Raikkonen, a Red Bull athlete, former Formula One champion and current World Rally driver, finished 15th — on the lead lap — in his NASCAR debut.