Amanda Vincent, NASCAR Correspondent
NASCAR Nationwide Series team JR Motorsports announced on Wednesday that Cole Whitt has been selected to drive the No. 88 Chevrolet in 2012. Whitt replaces Arica Almirola, who on the same day, announced that he was leaving the team to drive the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford in the Sprint Cup Series.
I'm happy to be a part of the JR Motorsports team.
"Cole is the guy we wanted, and we're lucky to get him," JR Motorsports owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. "He's got raw, untapped talent, but we are most impressed with his ambition. I sought advice and input from people I respect in the industry and the overwhelming consensus was that Cole has the potential to do great things in this sport."
When rumors began circulating that Almirola was the lead candidate to drive the No. 43 Sprint Cup car, Whitt was mentioned with the likes of David Ragan and Reed Sorenson and top candidates to drive JR Motorsports' No. 88.
Whitt competed in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series full-time in 2011, finishing ninth in that series' championship points standings on the strength on a top-five and 11 top-10 finishes from behind the wheel of the No. 60 Turn One Racing Toyota. He is also a champion in the USAC ranks.
Whitt competed in the Nationwide Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 28, 2011, driving a No. 99 Toyota prepared by Michael Waltrip Racing. He finished 15th.
At JR Motorsports, Whitt will be a teammate to Danica Patrick, who'll be driving the No. 7 JRM Chevrolet full-time, and Earnhardt, who'll drive the No. 5 JRM Chevrolet on a part-time basis, in 2012.
"This is a big opportunity for me, and I'm happy to be a part of the JR Motorsports team," Whitt said. "I'm grateful to Dale, Kelley and everyone at JR Motorsports for giving me this chance. It's an honor to work with the Eurys (team crew chiefs Tony Eury and Tony Eury Jr.), and I will do everything in my power to put this No. 88 team where it belongs in victory lane.