Cole Whitt has been tabbed to drive the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet in the 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series.
“Cole is the guy we wanted, and we’re lucky to get him,” said Earnhardt. “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.”
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.”
Whitt got his start racing karts and saw immediate success with eight International Karting Federation championships and two World Karting Association grand national championships. He was the Hoosier Sprint Car Rookie of the Year in 2006 and earned 34 top-10 finishes in 60 USAC starts in 2007 before winning the championship in 2008. Whitt advanced to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in 2010, promptly notching two poles and finishing fourth in points in his first year.
JRM co-owner Kelley Earnhardt told Sirius XM NASCAR Radio's Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody that Whitt's longtime association with Red Bull will end in 2012, in an effort to avoid a conflict with Earnhardr, Jr.'s AMP Energy sponsorship.
In other JR Motorsports news, the team has hired Bruce Cook as crew chief for the No. 5 team, which will run primarily with Earnhardt Jr. in select Nationwide Series races this season. Cook comes to JR Motorsports from Kevin Harvick, Inc., where he served as crew chief in 2011 in the Camping World Truck Series, predominately for the No. 2 KHI Chevrolet, which won the owner’s championship. With Cook atop the pit box, his team scored six wins, 19 top-fives and 22 top-10s. He was also the winning crew chief of the Nationwide Series season-opener