On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the movie "Days of Thunder," Cole Whitt, who says that at least one of his parents had the character Cole Trickle, aka Tom Cruise, in mind when he was born, will tackle his first road course as a Red Bull up and coming racer.
Whitt will be driving the No. 84 Red Bull Toyota in the K&N Pro Series East at Lime Rock Park this weekend. It will be Whitt's first time at a road course since his shifter kart days when he was growing up in the sport.
"This is my first time at Lime Rock and also the first time on a road course in these cars," Whitt said. "We have two 45 minute practices on race day so that's about as much time on the track as I'll get."
Unfortunately, Whitt is fresh off a disappointing finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway as well. Six laps into last weekend's race at the Magic Mile, he had a pinion problem in the rear gear, forcing him to go laps down in the pits for a 26th place finish.
"It just kind of killed our whole day there," Whitt said. "It was just kind of heartbreaking because we were one of the fastest cars on the track."
"It was hard but we got back out there, which made a big difference," Whitt continued. "We learned a lot about the car and the track for the fall race there."
With the race at New Hampshire last weekend and the upcoming race in Connecticut this weekend, Whitt has been busy just trying to help his team get the car ready for the upcoming road course race.
"We've really been thrashing to get the car ready for the race," Whitt said. "We just finished it this afternoon and we're putting it on the trailer."
"Unfortunately, we haven't had time to really get things where we can get out and get some laps," Whitt continued. "It will be up to me to learn the track and learn the shifting and all that. But I know the car will be good."
Whitt will hearken back to his younger racing days, getting back to his road course roots to prepare for the upcoming race. The young driver grew up racing primarily go karts in southern California and in the Midwest as well.
Early on in his career, Whitt was fortunate enough to hook up with Red Bull Racing.
"I was racing a go kart series that ran all over the country and they had that Red Bull driver search that was going on," Whitt said. "I got invited to do that and a couple of months later, they told me they wanted to meet."
"Things just worked out," Whitt said of his Red Bull relationship. "I've been with them for almost five years now and they have been one of the best sponsors I've ever had."
"Red Bull Racing has helped me get through my racing career," Whitt said. "I wouldn't be here today without them."
Indeed Whitt would not be racing his first year in the K&N Pro Series without the support of his sponsor. He also credits fellow Red Bull teammates Brian Vickers and Scott Speed with mentoring him in his career.
"My shop's just down the road so I'm pretty close with the Cup guys," Whitt continued. "I know Scott real well and Brian's a really nice guy to me. If I ever have any questions, I can always go to them. They've always been there if I need them.
"It's been a struggle at the shop especially what happened to Brian Vickers. It's been tough for everyone but if we can get some good runs going, that would be nice."
In addition to his Red Bull teammates, Whitt has one primary racing idol, who he basically grew up watching race.
"I grew up watching Dale Earnhardt," Whitt said. "Being the intimidator that he was, he was the man I always wanted to be like. That's a pretty high guy to live up to."
Whitt also idolizes his father, who was a racer as well. "Between my dad and Dale Sr.,those are the two guys I look up to," Whitt said.
All in all, Whitt has been pleased with his K&N Series season to date. "We've been one of the fastest cars so far," Whitt said. "So, that's definitely something to be proud of.
"Unfortunately, we haven't been able to win a race yet. We've been close but unfortunately every time we are in contention, something happens."
Whitt acknowledges that he will need to win a few races to have a chance to compete with current points leader and defending champion Ryan Truex for the East championship. But he also knows that the racing gods may turn against Truex just as they have turned against him in a few races, putting Whitt right back into contention.
"You never say never on anything," Whitt said. "We just keep digging."
While Whitt is busy on the track, especially preparing for this weekend's road race, he also keeps busy off the track as well. He enjoys the outdoors, including hunting and fishing, and has even involved himself in helping a big cat preserve in his home state of California.
"I really like to fish and do a little bit of hunting when I have any off time," Whitt said. "But most of the time I'm working on the shop and on my cars. I can't give up that passion and being part of the team."
Whitt is looking forward to the upcoming road course race but he also has an eye to the future. "I really don't know my plans for next year," Whitt said. "I'm sure I'll be with Red Bull and we'll see where it goes with them."
Whitt will attempt his own version of "Days of Thunder." He will tackle the road course in the K&N Pro Series East on Saturday, July 3 at Lime Rock Park in Lime Rock, Connecticut.
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