Q&A with NCWTS driver Cole Whitt

7 Jun

Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR

I wrote a feature on rookie Cole Whitt a few days ago, but here are some of the other topics of our conversation that I didn’t have a spot for in that piece. It was really interesting to get the perspective of someone who, at the ripe old age of not-quite-20, has already been doing what he’s doing for over a decade. He analyzed Kansas Speedway for me, too, but I figure I’ll save that for when the races return here in October. Enjoy!

Q: Is it hard to adjust to the tracks so quickly, as you’ve only got a day or two to practice on them?

A: That’s what makes it tough being a rookie. You’re coming to a lot of new tracks for the first time that you’ve never seen, and you’ve got to kind of pick up where you’re at. And all the veterans, like [Jeff] Gordon has been to this track – I don’t know how many times, probably more than I’ve raced. They know where they need to be and what they need to do. It’s always good to get behind one of those guys and just kind of pick up what they’re doing.

Q: What does your preparation for a race look like?

A: There’s not a whole lot. More for me, I try to help the team out a lot. I go to the shop every week, Monday through Friday, whatever we’ve got to do, to help them get the trucks ready and make sure that everything I need to get done is done, in the cockpit of the truck, anything they need me to help with.

But for the most part, it’s just kind of going to the track, making sure most of our stuff is squared away and good to go. A lot of these tracks are new to me. I come to a new track for the first time and have got to kind of just pick it up and go with it. Usually I just rely on [team owner] Stacy [Compton] to just get a couple little pointers and just pick it up as we go.

Q: What’s some of the best advice you’ve gotten from your family, with its history in racing?

A: I remember one time [my cousin] Brandon was telling me … he always talked about this late apex, and it always seemed to work everywhere we went doing go-karts, and that was where I started at. My dad always explained to me: it’s always opening up your entry and getting a late run off the corner, just being able to straighten up your exit a lot and be on the gas a lot more. It seems to apply to almost every track you go to.

Q: Do you have time to sightsee when you go to different places, or is it more fly-in and fly-out?

A: It’s pretty much fly-in and fly-out. My parents got to have a lot of fun in Nashville. I didn’t get to. I had to leave and get out of there, but they stuck around and went to like Grand Ol’ Opry and stuff. I wish I would have got to go, but I get to hear about it at least.

Q: What would you say it takes to get into racing anymore?

A: It’s crazy, the way that times have changed. It’s changed like about the time that I was coming into the sport. It’s definitely not as easy as it was. Even about three or four years ago, before I came into the NASCAR world, almost anyone could kind of do it if you had the skill. Almost anyone could pick you up, when the economy was really well. If you were fast, guys would recruit young kids and really bring them along. Nowadays with the way the economy has changed, you almost can’t do it without a sponsor. You’ve still got to run good at the end of the day, but at the same time, you almost need someone backing you with the money. It’s tough nowadays. Definitely not impossible if you don’t have [the money] – if you’ve got the skill and you’re winning races, beating everyone everywhere you go, things will take care of themselves.

Q: What’s been your favorite track to race?

A: Hands down, probably Dover. It’s just a place that’s fast, it’s got high bank. It’s just a lot of fun to go there. You can really get after it a lot.

Q: What are the best parts and most challenging parts of your job?

A: It’s not a hard job really at all. It’s fun. It’s really enjoyable. Just trying to live it up as much as I can because you never know, one day it could be gone. Fun parts is, like you said, going to new places, and you do get to see different states. At 19 years old I’ve probably been to almost all the states. I haven’t been to, like, Alaska, but I’ve probably at least driven through all of them. It’s pretty cool to say you’ve done that already at 19 years old. I think most challenging would be dealing with – I guess you get a lot of requests through the week. You kind of feel like when you get home from the race track you just want to relax and try to reset and go to the next race, but you end up getting a lot of requests – I guess at least when you’re running good, and get a lot of people wanting to talk to you, but it’s still part of the job.

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