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Pocket change under the seat could’ve paid Cole Whitt’s way to the finish.

He was that close to the third top five of his rookie Camping World Truck Series season, but the No. 60 slowed on the final restart and wiggled with the hopes of getting one last gargle of gas. No luck, and Whitt crept to a 17th-place finish in Friday’s Winstar World Casino 350k.

“Everything was good,” Whitt said. “(Spotter) Chris Lambert, the eye in the sky, was all over it. We were really fast and had a great truck. Really couldn’t ask for anything more out of Turn One Racing. At our best, we were really running good, had a top-five truck all night. We raced our way up there … it wasn’t given to us by pit strategy. We raced for everything we got tonight. I had a lot of fun, and I haven’t had fun in a race in a while. I just wish we could’ve finished the race.”

"We raced for everything we got tonight. I just wish we could’ve finished the race."

Erase the final three miles, and Whitt can walk away from Texas Motor Speedway feeling he and the team gave a complete effort. Whitt qualified 18th but was soon in the top five. A mid-race pit stop for adjustments helped with a loose-late-in-a-run condition and kept Whitt in contention (he ranked fifth in average running position at 6.55).

At the lap 100 mark, Whitt heard, “Cole, you need to save fuel like you’ve never saved before.” Then came, “Save. Save. Save.” Great advice during a 37-lap green-flag run that set up a two-lap shootout, but the gas tank didn’t cooperate.

“Our truck wasn’t far off,” he said. “We’d get loose late in a run. It would drive really good in the beginning, then you would have to hold guys off. Marcus (crew chief Marcus Richmond) made some pretty good calls and got the truck handling better for me. Once we did that, we just drove through the field the one time, got up toward the top five and rode there the rest of the day.”  

Whitt remained ninth in the points standings — sandwiched between fellow rookies Joey Coulter in eighth and Nelson Piquet Jr. in 10th.

The Truck Series has the weekend off before closing the 2011 season Nov. 18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Follow Red Bull Racing Team on Twitter: @RedBullNASCAR.

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