SURVIVAL OF THE TOUGHEST Three races into the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season, No. 84 driver Cole Whitt is getting the hang of this whole beating and banging thing. In his former life - that of an open-wheel sprint and midget driver - ...
SURVIVAL OF THE TOUGHEST
Three races into the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season, No. 84 driver Cole Whitt is getting the hang of this whole beating and banging thing. In his former life - that of an open-wheel sprint and midget driver - making contact with another car usually spelled certain doom.
But the full-bodied Red Bull Toyota that Whitt drives now can take it. Though beating and banging isn't encouraged, it is essential for survival on short tracks. And perhaps nowhere is the old phrase "rubbin's racin'" more evident than at .526-mile Martinsville Speedway - site of Sunday's UNOH Performance 200.
"When you get into someone in a sprint car or midget, you're going to have a headache the next morning for sure because you usually end up upside down," said Whitt, RBRT's 19-year-old development driver. "This style of racing is a lot easier for me. When you get around other cars you can kind of lean on each other a little. Obviously, you try to take care of your car you don't want to be running into everyone out there. I really like it. It actually makes for better racing. You can get around people a little more and it's a lot easier to pass."
For Elton Sawyer, who along with crew chief Randy Cox heads up RBRT's developmental No. 84 team, Martinsville's a special place. Sawyer, from Chesapeake, Va., started in 25 Nationwide races at Martinsville with seven top-five and 12 top-10 finishes. He also made two Sprint Cup starts in 1995.
"It's a great facility," Sawyer said. "It's a short track, and that's where a large number of the guys got started. It's cool to go back there. I love that race track. Fortunately as a driver I had some success there. I won a late model race and ran well there at that time with the Busch cars. Hopefully we'll have a good run there in the Red Bull car."
After finishes of third and second in the season's first two events, Whitt ran into transmission problems during the May 23 East-West combination race at Iowa Speedway. He finished 38th overall, but was credited with 22nd-place points because that's where he ended up among the East drivers. He lost the points lead and fell to fourth, but is still only 22 points behind leader Max Gresham.
"We've been knocking on the door since the first race," Whitt said. "We've been the car to beat almost every race. I know we're there. At Martinsville, I don't think we'll have any struggles. I know the car will be good. I just need to learn the track. It'd be pretty awesome to get our first win there."