NASCAR Media Conference
March 8, 2011
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, and good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today's NASCAR CAM Video Teleconference in advance of Saturday's Too Tough to Tame 200 at Darlington Raceway. Our guest today is Cole Whitt who is the driver of the No. 60 Red Bull Chevrolet in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Cole joins us from NASCAR's Research and Development Center in Concord, North Carolina.
This is Cole's first full season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck World Series, and he scored his first Top 10 finish with a sixth place effort at Phoenix two weeks ago. Cole currently sits third in the series standings, three points out of the lead.
Cole, this week you're visiting Darlington Raceway for the first time. Talk about how you prepare for such a challenging track?
COLE WHITT: Well, honestly, there is not a whole lot we can do with the way testing is. We're just kind of going in with everything. We squared the truck away pretty early and the truck's in good shape. I've just been going to the shop every day and making sure that our trucks are all squared away. We should be pretty much ready to go by the end of the week.
We've really got a good team, and I can lean on Casey a little bit at the track. Casey will be there racing. So it will be someone there that I can actually talk to. Other than that, there is not a whole lot you can do.
Kind of just have to get in there and get some first laps and just shake it down and get the feel for it and wing it. I think it will be good though.
Q. Cole, the truck series traditionally is dominated by the veteran drivers. But if you look at the point standings there are a lot of newcomers to the series including yourself that are performing really well so far early in the season. What is your take on why the young drivers have been able to come in and run so well this season?
COLE WHITT: You know, I really think a lot of it is because of the new point system. Honestly, I really love the new point system the way that it's come out. It gives guys like us a chance. You've got me running third in points. Clay Rogers is sitting second right now and he was the points leader out of Daytona.
Guys like that, really we wouldn't have a chance if it was dominated the way it was before by the bigger teams. So the new points system kind of gives us a chance. Guys that are more on a budget deal and trying to make our way through racing and trying to get up to where Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer and all those guys are.
We get to run with them day-to-day, so we don't want to lose them to run against them because we want to run against the best. But it's really kind of shaking things up. But I really think the new point system has been a real big improvement and giving guys like us a chance.
Q. Looking ahead, I know you commented about Darlington, but as you look ahead down the road, Martinsville, Nashville, Dover, Charlotte, and you get busy during the summer. What are some tracks that you think you can really shine at or especially are looking forward to running on this season?
COLE WHITT: Really, I'm looking forward to going to this next track here at Darlington. I'm excited to go to a different track and a track that really kind of has a lot of character to it. Also places like Dover. I'm really excited to go to a mile and a half tracks like Charlotte and Atlanta or Texas, I mean. Even Pocono really strikes me as one that stands out.
I really like the bigger tracks. It kind of makes it a little bit tougher because you have to have great equipment to run good on those big tracks. Because I like the speed and the banking and any track where you've got to get up on the wheel and get after it.
Martinsville, I think, is a track that we'll be really good at. I don't know if it fits my driving style, but it's something that Marcus, my crew chief, has a good handle on and I think places like that will be good.
I look forward to going to Bristol. So anywhere with some banking and anywhere with speed is a place that I'm really excited to go to. I think those are the tracks that we'll shine on. But at the same time I think my team's good enough to help me on the shorter tracks and the tracks without any banking where we can make something happen.
Q. I was wondering what some of the biggest differences are. Maybe the adjustments that you've endured as a driver going from the K & N Pro Series Racing to the Camping World Truck?
COLE WHITT: There's actually a lot of differences. Really I think the main thing is the aero department, the way that a truck is really aero dependent. When you get around other trucks, it affects the way the car's handling. You could have a car that handles great out front and really good out in clean air which you could practice all day and have a great car or great truck. But you get into a pack where you're running mid-pack, and you really can struggle with that race truck.
So that's been a big learning curve on learning where is the right place to be on the racetrack around other trucks and what really makes these trucks faster. It's kind of the way they hold themselves in the wind. It's crazy how much you can feel it.
You can feel the trucks when they step out sideways. It can really save you. You can run the trucks a lot freer than the cars. But at the same time you've got to drive them harder because of that same reason. You can really lean on the side of the truck. That's been a big learning curve.
But as far as the horsepower difference, it hasn't been a huge step from the K & N stuff. So the motor issues were no big problem. It was mainly getting used to that different feeling in the air.
Q. Also this weekend in Darlington very similar to Phoenix. A one-day show; practice in the morning, qualify early afternoon and race at night. Is that enough time for a young driver such as yourself to digest all that information and do an entire, what used to be a race weekend, in one day?
COLE WHITT: I like the one race day. It's kind of cool to get in there and you kind of hustle through your day. It's fun. It keeps you entertained and keeps you going. At the same time I do like to have a little time off the track. You go and run that first session and you're like I would like to sit down just for a second and think about what did I do right? What did I do wrong? It's hard to dissect that kind of stuff when you're slamming through your day.
At Daytona we had a day in between which made it a little nicer, but it's hard. You're limited with practice. So there's not a whole lot of time to dissect on exactly what you think is the right way around the track.
I really wish we could have a little bit more time, but at the same time it's the way the racing should be. I feel it should be the one-day deal. It shouldn't be drawn out. At the same time it's hard for a rookie to come in and jump out there and try to do everything. But that's part of being a rookie.
Q. Did you expect to have the success you had after the first two races, and what's been the biggest surprise for you either on the track or off the track in your rookie year so far?
COLE WHITT: You know, honestly I expected to run well. I was hoping for Top 10. I'm a realist. I understand how tough it's going to be. You know, I realize that our equipment is limited to what it is, but it's still really good stuff.
I was really looking forward to going out and running Top 10, and so far we backed that up at Phoenix. I think we'll continue on to do that and hopefully progress into a Top 5 team as the year goes on.
My biggest surprise I would say was probably missing Daytona. You know, it really hit us hard. It took the wind out of our sails big time when we missed Daytona. But at the same time, we got a different truck and got to run the race with my team. Luckily, we really got to get in that race and show everyone that we belonged to be in the race.
That was one thing that was kind of disappointing. There have been some really fast trucks going home showing how strong this truck series is this year. I think it's one of the most competitive years we've ever had. There are a lot of young kids and a lot of good teams.
There has been some great equipment heading home from the racetrack, Which is kind of sad to see, but at the same time it is racing. But missing Daytona really took some wind out of our sails, but it showed a lot about our team how we can rebound back in Phoenix and run in the top six.
Q. Can you kind of talk about your relationship with the sponsor, Red Bull? I noticed looking back all the way to 2004, you were part of the Red Bull driver search, advanced to the semifinals in Sebring, Florida. Is that still pretty clear in your memory when you did that way back almost seven years ago?
COLE WHITT: Yeah, it's been a long partnership. I've really got to thank Red Bull. I couldn't be here today without them, for sure.
Yeah, it started all the way back when I was racing go-karts. We were on our own little deal. Just mom and pop kind of doing the deal. We were heading across the country, racing go-karts. We were really running good.
The Red Bull driver search was going on when the F1 team was look for the next driver. We weren't going to take part in it. Next thing I know I get a call from a guy who runs it, and he's like we want to get you in part of it. I was kind of like, okay, yeah.
So my mom took me up there. We went and ran it, and progressed all the way into one of the semifinal rounds all the way down to Sebring, Florida and some Formula car stuff. It kind of ended right there, and then it really just took off. I thought it was all over. I asked my dad like what do we do? Well, we go racing. That's what we were doing before. We go, keep racing.
We went on for a couple of months and got contacted by Danny Sullivan at the time. He said we really want to meet with you at Red Bull. If you can fly to New York, we'd love to sit down and talk to your parents. Next thing you know they just kind of said here's your sponsorship. Keep doing what you're doing, and we'll move you around when we need you.
Really they stuck with me and kept helping out with racing all the way through the rest of our go-kart career and then on into sprint cars.
I ran all that USAC stuff with Red Bull sponsorship. Next thing you know last year they moved me up into the K & N East series, and we ran with the Cup team there for a while or under the Cup team banner. Now here we are on a truck team trying to make something happen.
Hopefully just keep progressing with those guys, but they've been a great sponsor and got me where I am today. I couldn't be here without them.
Q. Darlington got the nickname "The Track Too Tough to Tame." What do you do to physically and mentally prepare yourself for a track like that, especially never being on it before?
COLE WHITT: I really -- there's not a whole lot I can do. I kind of thrive on those tracks, so I'm really looking forward to going there. Anywhere with some real characteristic to it where you know you've got to get up on the wheel and get after it and make something happen is a track we seem to shine at. So I'm looking forward to it.
I think that's one of the places that we could be good at. We'll see what happens. But I don't really do any of the I-racing or anything like that. So there is nothing I can do there.
It's more of just I go to the shop daily every day and put in just as many hours as everyone in the shop. I'm one of the guys. Just make sure that my trucks are right, and as long as everything's squared away, I know we're good to go and the rest is up to me from there.
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