'A CAR TO BEAT' Being new to this whole stock car thing didn't deter Cole Whitt from aiming high. Entering the 2010 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season, our 19-year-old development driver expected nothing less than to visit victory lane a time or...
'A CAR TO BEAT'
Being new to this whole stock car thing didn't deter Cole Whitt from aiming high. Entering the 2010 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season, our 19-year-old development driver expected nothing less than to visit victory lane a time or two and contend for the championship -- even if he had little to no experience driving cars with fenders.
Whitt closed out his first stock car season at Dover, finishing fourth in the championship without a victory. But his stat sheet is plenty gaudy -- littered with poles, top fives and laps led. Not to mention a season full of seat time.
A look back at Cole Whitt's 2010 season:
THUD: Fast tracks suit Whitt's driving style, and the season finale came at the fastest on the circuit. At Dover, he was fastest in the first practice, second in the second, qualified outside the pole-sitter and led the first 24 laps. Cue the boom. On lap 25, the No. 84's right-front tire failed, sending Whitt into the wall and to the garage. Day -- and season -- done in 26th.
ONE LAST WORD: "Being a complete rookie team, our first time in the series and my first time in a stock car, we did a really good job. We got better as the season went on. We did our job wherever we went, had a car to beat at every single race track. I don't think there are many teams that can say that. We led laps at places from Greenville, to Dover, to Iowa, to the road course. Unfortunately, just racing luck wasn't on our side." -- Whitt
YOU ALWAYS REMEMBER YOUR FIRST: Whitt's first stock car race, the season-opening 156-lapper at Greenville, just so happened to be the longest of his career at that point. But it hardly showed, as Whitt stayed clean in a caution-filled race and was one of three leaders (three times for seven laps). He finished fourth.
CAGED BEAST: "It was a hot Georgia night. It was killer sitting there. It was 140 degrees. It's definitely not enjoyable sitting there with your gear on. Sitting there, waiting. You stop me in the middle of the race ... I get ticked off. I feel held back, want to get going again." -- Whitt on waiting out one of four red flags at Gresham
DEFINING MOMENT: Race No. 3 at Iowa. Whitt, leading the points, established himself as the championship favorite with finishes of third and second in the first two events. He led 31 laps at Iowa before the transmission failed. Day done in 22nd. Next came a ninth at Martinsville and 26th at New Hampshire. All momentum was long gone by mid-season.
SHORT SHIFTS: The No. 84 Red Bull Toyota completed 875.84 miles of racing in 2010, including Mattias Ekstrom's West start at Infineon. By comparison, that distance is a few laps short of NASCAR's two signature events combined -- the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400.
COULDA, SHOULDA, WOULDA: Three finishes outside the top 20 -- 22nd at Iowa (transmission), 26th at New Hampshire (rear gear) and 26th at Dover (tire) -- robbed Whitt of about 220 points. His average finish in the other seven races was 4.0. Fourth place is awarded 160 points. Had those three breaks gone for the good, Whitt would've (there's that word) been neck-and-neck with Ryan Truex all season.
NO WORRIES: "I just kept going, looked out the sides. Kind of kept rolling the rest of the race." -- Whitt on the visual challenges he faced when contact mashed in the No. 84's nose and hood at Lee USA
SILVER MEDALIST: Whitt came oh so close to finding the winner's circle, finishing second three times. He was the points leader after a second at South Boston. Another near miss came at the Lime Rock road course, where he led 12 laps before finishing second to Canadian Andrew Ranger. Later on at Gresham, he emerged from four red flags to finish second.