What makes Cole Whitt, driver of the No. 60 for Turn One/Red Bull Racing in the Camping World Truck Series, tick? Whitt explains it simply as running his life on and off the track “wide open.”
[media-credit id=62 align=”alignright” width=”227″][/media-credit]Whitt’s exposure to his now wide open racing style started at a very young age. And, as with many drivers in the various levels of NASCAR, he credits his family with initiating him in the sport.
“I’d say who got me hooked is my cousin Brandon,” Whitt said. “He used to race and got me started in go kart racing and then moved up into the stock car world with late models.”
“I watched him race the trucks a lot while I was just racing go karts,” Whitt continued. “I’d say my cousin Brandon got me my real start, but my dad and my grandpa all raced so, it’s really been in my family.”
While Whitt’s cousin may have gotten him going in the wide open world of racing, his dad is the one that he credits for his competitiveness in the sport.
“My dad helped me be competitive,” Whitt acknowledged. “A lot of my good characteristics come from my dad.”
“He’s a hard worker,” Whitt continued. “He just raised me that way, to be competitive and be at the top.”
In learning to race wide open, Whitt not only credits his father with being his mentor along the way but also mentions several other racing mentors. Tops among them are Cory Kruseman and Jon Stanbrough, both from the sprint car racing world.
“There have been a lot of people that have helped me along the way,” Whitt said. “I’d say my dad definitely got me my main start. My cousin helped me out.”
“But even along the way in sprint car ranks there are people like Cory Kruseman, who helped me find my way to Indiana and got me my start with Skeeter Ellis,” Whitt continued. “As I was racing out there, I became friends with Jon Stanbrough, who is the ‘King of Indiana’, in sprint racing.”
“I became friends with Jon and we really hit it off,” Whitt continued. “We became good friends and had a lot of good battles throughout our career. Jon helped me out a lot.”
With his support wide open, when did the light bulb go off for Whitt so that he knew that racing would be his career of choice? The young rookie Truck Series driver has an interesting response.
“I don’t think the light bulb has gone off yet if racing is it for me,” Whitt said. “Trust me, if I can do it, I want to do it.”
“The problem is actually being able to do it,” Whitt continued. “It’s hard.”
“So, I’m not saying necessarily this is it for me,” Whitt said. “But at the same time, this is what I want to do for sure.”
“As a kid racing go karts and I was doing good, winning races and championships, it was so much fun just enjoying all that with my family,” Whitt continued. “That was the time where I really wanted to race. That’s when it all happened for me.”
Progressing from his early sprint car racing roots to being wide open in the Truck Series, Whitt has seen his share of ups and downs, especially in this his rookie year. Yet Whitt remains steadfast as well as confident in his abilities.
“You can never quit,” Whitt said. “If it was easy, everybody would do it.”
“Racing is a hard sport,” Whitt continued. “There are ups and downs.”
“Obviously, the days that are great are the days you live for,” Whitt said. “But then the days that are bad, you just want to come back and redeem yourself and be that much better.”
“You love to hate it,” Whitt continued. “It’s tough but it’s almost like an obsession to me.”
Throughout his racing obsession, Whitt has had moments to remember, as well as moments that have broken his heart.
“I’d say probably the pole at Darlington was my best moment,” Whitt said. “Also, running second to Kyle (Busch) at Dover was good.”
“But another good moment would be Charlotte, when we ran third,” Whitt continued. “It was the last run of the day and we were running eighth to tenth.”
“We jumped up to the high groove and worked our way up to third at the end,” Whitt said. “I was pretty proud of that moment too.”
As wide open exciting as his career has been, Whitt also has had his moments of heart break.
“There’s been a few,” Whitt said. “Missing the show at Daytona was crazy and one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had.”
“And also another heart break was blowing the motor at Texas running fourth,” Whitt continued. “And we were running fourth at Atlanta and blew a motor.”
“It seems like we can’t get any luck,” Whitt said. “The days that we run tenth to twelfth all day, nothing can go wrong.”
“You’re sitting there thinking ‘Why couldn’t the motor blow up on a day like that instead of when we’re running up front?’
“I guess that’s part of rookie luck and a first season,” Whitt continued. “You’ve got to pay your dues, just hopefully long enough to cash them in.”
Whitt admitted that he also has some interesting ways to cope with these vagaries of the sport. He not only throws himself into fishing and hunting, but channels all of his energy right back into his racing career.
“My life is pretty much all racing,” Whitt said. “When I’m at home, I go to the shop every day and work on the truck.”
“I grew up that way,” Whitt continued. “My dad wanted me to be ‘hands on.’ It makes me appreciate my equipment more and my team appreciates me working with them.”
What does Whitt want to accomplish for the remainder of this 2011 season? The rookie has only one thing on his mind.
“Hopefully we can get a win,” Whitt said. “We’ve been chasing that win since the beginning of the year.”
“I want to be a front-runner,” Whitt continued. “When I walk through the gate, I want people to know that I’m the guy to beat and that I have a fast truck.”
“More than anything, I want to get a win and win this rookie championship.”
While Whitt focuses on running wide open for the win and the rookie championship, he also acknowledged the need to think, at least briefly, about his future. And that is unfortunately wide open as well.
“I don’t know,” Whitt said simply. “It’s going to be a weird and pretty crazy off season.”
“The rumors started flying this year earlier than they ever have,” Whitt continued. “It’s kind of tough. I really don’t know what’s going to happen.”
“Hopefully we can finish off the season strong and move on to something different,” Whitt said. “Racing is all I’ve ever done.”
“It’s the only way of life that I understand.”