With the departure of Aric Almirola to Richard Petty Motorsports, the No. 88 Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt, Jr’s company, JR Motorsports, had an opening and Cole Whitt was just the man for the job. On Wednesday afternoon, Whitt was introduced to the JR Motorsports shop as the driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Series entry.
Whitt, who is 20 years old, comes from the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, where he finished ninth in the points standings with one pole, two top-fives, and 11 top-10 finishes. Whitt also qualified for the last two races of the Sprint Cup season.
Whitt will compete for the 2012 Sunoco Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year honors against Austin Dillion of Richard Childress Racing and Brad Sweet from Turner Motorsports.
“Cole is the guy we wanted, and we’re lucky to get him,” 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”
To date, Whitt is the youngest driver to ever win the USAC National Midget chmapionship, as his title winning effort in 2008 put him alongside esteemed former USAC national champions such as Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Kasey Kahne.
The signing of Whitt completes the 2012 driver line-up for JR Motorsports, which will compete in Nationwide Series competition with Whitt in the No. 88 Chevrolet, Danica Patrick in the No. 7 Chevrolet, and Earnhardt Jr. in select races in the No. 5 Chevrolet. All three drivers will compete in the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 25.
“This is a big opportunity for me, and I’m happy to be a part of the JR Motorsports team,” said Whitt, who was introduced to employees Wednesday morning. “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, and I will do everything in my power to put this No. 88 team where it belongs in Victory Lane.”
As if the signing of a new driver isn’t big news, JR Motorsports also announced they had hired Bruce Cook as the crew chief for the No. 5 team which will run primarily with Earnhardt, Jr. in select races. Cook joins JR Motorsports from Kevin Harvick, Inc., where he served as the crew chief of the No. 2 KHI Chevrolet Silverado that won the owner’s championship last season.