When you’re heading for your first date with an unpredictable, unforgiving and capricious Lady in Black, chances are that things might not go to plan. So according to rising NASCAR star Cole Whitt, that makes it a good time to improvise.
“We kind of just have to get in there and get some first laps and just shake it down and get the feel for it and wing it,” insists the No. 60 Red Bull Chevrolet driver. “Other than that, there is not a whole lot you can do.”
Saturday’s Too Tough To Tame 200 will be Whitt’s first visit to the notoriously difficult egg-shaped, 1.366-mile oval in Darlington, South Carolina, known affectionately as the Lady In Black because of the rubber marks that usually fill the track's white walls during races.
Luckily, he’ll have a bit of a mentor in the form of No. 4 Red Bull Sprint Cup driver Kasey Kahne, who will spend his weekend off in the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra. With two wins in three career truck starts in trucks, including one at the Darlington Raceway, Kahne is likely be a good tutor.
“We've really got a good team, and I can lean on Kasey a little bit at the track, so it will be great to have someone there that I can actually talk to,” Whitt explains. “I've just been going to the shop every day and making sure that our trucks are all squared away. We should be pretty much ready to go by the end of the week.”
'We've really got a good team, and I can lean on Kasey a little bit at the track' – Cole Whitt
A rookie in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Whitt is third overall in points, just three markers out of top spot after two races in 2011. His first Camping World start didn’t end well, after he got caught in a late race pile-up during the season opener at Daytona while challenging for a top-five finish.
But he bounced back last weekend in Phoenix, driving to a solid sixth place in his second career truck start.
And that kind of quick study will come in handy over the summer as Whitt gets ready to tackle some of NASCAR’s most challenging tracks. “I'm really excited to go to mile-and-a-half tracks like Charlotte and Atlanta or Texas. I mean, even Pocono really strikes me as one that stands out,” he says.
“I really like the bigger tracks. I like the speed and the banking and any track where you've got to get up on the wheel and get after it. Anywhere with some banking and anywhere with speed is a place that I'm really excited to go to. I think those are the tracks that we'll shine on. But at the same time I think my team's good enough to help me on the shorter tracks and the tracks without any banking where we can make something happen.”
While Whitt looks forward to the race, he won’t have lots of time to enjoy his time in Darlington, which will have practice Saturday morning, qualifying in the afternoon and then the race the same night. But don’t think that hurry up race day will throw Whitt off his game. “I like the one race day. It's kind of cool to get in there and you kind of hustle through your day. It's fun. It keeps you entertained and keeps you going,” he explains.
“At the same time, I do like to have a little time off the track. You go and run that first session and you're like I would like to sit down just for a second and think about what did I do right and what did I do wrong. It's hard to dissect that kind of stuff when you're slamming through your day.”
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