Cole Whitt, the 19-year-old Red Bull development driver, will slip into Pastrana-Waltrip Racing’s No. 99 Toyota to make the third Nationwide Series start of his career this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Whitt finished 15th in his Nationwide debut last November at Phoenix and followed up with a 17th-place showing a week later at Homestead. After his third-place finish Friday at Charlotte, Whitt leads the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points standings with five top 10s in seven races. He’s the youngest driver and first rookie to lead that series’ standings.
So rather than us tell you about his big day Saturday, we’ll let Whitt tell you:
Q: How did this Nationwide ride go down?
A: It kind of came out of the blue, but it was a great surprise. I had no idea this would happen. I’ve been having a blast learning the tracks in the truck, but this will be great. It’s my dream to get to the Cup Series, and now I’m a little closer.
Q: Any big deal going from a truck to a car?
"Competition-wise, it’s the next step up from where I’m at. Being a long race, you can really race at Charlotte, try different lines, up and down."
A: The main thing is the truck versus the car — that’s the biggest difference. I don’t know too much about the Nationwide car; it has changed since last year. But we’ll be fine. The car is pretty well squared away, and I’ll learn about the car little by little. Competition-wise, it’s the next step up from where I’m at. Being a long race, you can really race at Charlotte, try different lines, up and down. I’m just glad I got some laps in the truck race.
Q: You’ve been consistent all year. Why?
A: A good setup and a good situation. You have to have a flawless race. You’re running against Cup guys — the best of the best — so you just run as hard as you can … all day, all night, lap after lap. You can’t really have a mistake in the race. Nor can you have a mistake on pit road and make it harder on yourself. You just drive hard and hope everything works out the way it needs to.
Q: This Nationwide race is a 300-miler. You ready for that?
A: I like the longer races. Longer runs are good for me. On a short run, I’m still learning how that car or truck is going to run. On a long run, I get to feel what the car is doing and how it’s going to run. These long runs, long races, you can come in and work on it. I think it’ll definitely be a long-run car that wins the race.
Q: When you unloaded at Daytona in February, did you think you’d be the Truck Series points leader three months later?
A: It’s pretty cool, really. I’m glad to have this opportunity, this breakthrough season. I’m just looking forward to the season to keep going like it has been. Turn One Racing is excited. I’m excited. We just need to continue on this run and make sure we have trucks that go the distance. As long as we can stay consistent, we’ll be up there in the points.