JR Motorsports team co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. has announced that Cole Whitt has been tabbed to drive the company's No. 88 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. He replaces Aric Almirola, who was announced yesterday as the new driver of Richard Petty Motorsports' No. 43 Spring Cup entry
Whitt, a 20-year-old native of Alpine, Calif., comes to JRM from the Camping World Truck Series, where he finished ninth in last year's championship standings with one pole, two top-five and 11 top-10 finishes.
"Cole is the guy we wanted, and we're lucky to get him," Earnhardt 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."
The signing of Whitt completes the 2012 driver lineup for JRM, which will compete in Nationwide Series competition with Whitt, Danica Patrick in the No. 7 Chevrolet, and Earnhardt 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 (Earnhardt, Dale Jr.'s sister, who co-owns the team) 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, taking two poles and finishing fourth in points in his first year.