Years from now, Cole Whitt can look back on this Friday the 13th as a defining moment in his NASCAR career.
The 19-year-old Red Bull rookie didn’t win Friday’s Camping World Truck Series race at Dover International Speedway. Instead, he finished second, and in finishing second, he said, he absorbed a truck full of information about restarts.
Specifically, restarting against race winner Kyle Busch late in the Lucas Oil 200.
“It’s a big learning curve. A huge learning curve,” Whitt said after the best finish of his seven-race Truck Series career. “Kyle’s just fast. He and I had the field covered, and it was going to come down to the two of us. We had a better long-run truck. He had a better short-run truck. He’s good on restarts … no question.”
And that’s what the 200-lap race came down to — restarts. There were four of them in the final 17 laps after Whitt’s Turn One Racing No. 60 truck led 23 laps prior to that. He was a fixture at the front all day, but the final hurdle he couldn’t clear carried No. 18.
“It just seemed like he (Busch) could get though the initial crack on the throttle. That’s where he would get me,” Whitt said. “We weren’t bad in the second- and third- gear shift. He just seemed to get the throttle down so much better. We got it better at the end, just not good enough.”
Busch gave his nemesis plenty of respect after the race.
“Cole Whitt did a really nice job,” Busch said. “I think he’s got something going on over there. The guys do a really nice job, and he’s fast. He’s quick week in and week out, and this is the first one he’s really contended for — that I’ve been in, anyway.”
Whitt climbed to third in the driver standings, shaving off more than half his deficit on the top spot. He’s now a mere seven points behind leader Matt Crafton entering the May 20 race at Charlotte.
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