ONE GIANT LEAP FOR WHITT Burned into the back of Brian Vickers' mind is this date: July 1, 2001. He was at the Milwaukee Mile, a 17-year-old kid getting ready to make his Busch Series debut. Other than which direction to drive, Vickers knew ...
ONE GIANT LEAP FOR WHITT
Burned into the back of Brian Vickers' mind is this date: July 1, 2001. He was at the Milwaukee Mile, a 17-year-old kid getting ready to make his Busch Series debut.
Other than which direction to drive, Vickers knew little else.
"Actually Jimmie Johnson - and I didn't know him at all at the time - came up to me out of the blue and said, 'You look like you're lost,'" remembered Vickers, the 2003 champion of NASCAR's second-tier series. "I said I was. And he said, 'Well, all right. Follow me.' He showed me the driver's meeting, driver introductions, where to go ... all that stuff.
"It was an exciting moment, to say the least. It was big league. Everything I had raced up to that point was incredible, but this was another step. Stronger competitors. The cars are faster. Tracks are bigger. I remember having butterflies. Anxiety. Excited. All those emotions."
Cole Whitt has been experiencing those same emotions for nearly two months. Since the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East closed its season Sept. 24, Whitt has invested all of his time and energy into making his Nationwide Series debut this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.
Rest assured, Whitt will be present for all of his pre-race obligations should he qualify into Saturday's WYPALL 200. This is Red Bull Racing Team's first venture into Nationwide competition, so with no owner points to fall back on Whitt and the No. 84 must qualify on time.
"It's going to be fun and cool to see how we stack up against some of the bigger guys," said the 19-year-old Whitt. "I have all the confidence in the world in my team, my cars and everything that we are putting together, so I have no doubt in my mind that we will go out there and run good."
Whitt has reason to be confident at Phoenix. Along with two USAC midget starts at the 1-mile track, Whitt won the USAC Silver Crown portion of the 2009 Copper World Classic, leading the final 83 laps for his first victory on pavement.
"I approach every race in attack mode - go, go, go," Whitt said. "My realistic goal going into any race is to win the race. I don't care if I'm going there with a car that's not good enough to win or a car that's going to win. And I've got a feeling that this car is capable of winning as long as I can live up to it. I'll do everything I can to make sure that we're as fast as we deserve to be."
Vickers offered a single piece of advice to any driver making their Nationwide debut: pick your battles wisely.
"The veterans are going to make sure you understand it's their sport," Vickers said. "There's a fine balance. You have to stand your ground. You can't let those guys think they push you around. But at the same time you don't want to make enemies on your first day, because the veterans can make your life miserable."