The last year for up-and-coming driver Cole Whitt has been truly a roller-coaster ride. At this time last year, he was getting ready to compete in Daytona for Swan Racing. Complete with a big name sponsor and a name that was born to go fast, Cole went into his rookie year with high hopes and a passion to make it to victory lane.
"I appreciate your interest in our team,” Whitt stated in early 2014. “We are going to race our hearts out all season for our fans and turn some heads!"
Unfortunately, Swan Racing folded partway into 2014, and without the support of Speed Stick, Cole Whitt may have simply slipped into the obscurity of auto racing lore, as many other young drivers have before him. Luckily, he landed at BK Racing, where he saw modest success.
The 23-year-old Whitt will enter his second full-time Sprint Cup Series season after progressively climbing the NASCAR racing ranks of the Nationwide, Camping World Truck and K&N series. The Alpine, Calif., native made his transition to stock cars after an early career in open-wheel racing, which included a 2008 USAC National Midget championship. Whitt got involved in auto racing at a young age, and his family has deep roots in the sport.
"It's kind of been in the family, my grandfather raced, my dad, and my cousin, so they kind of all got me into it," Whitt continued.
This season, the relatively unknown driver with the memorable first name joins the Front Row Motorsports racing stable, piloting the No. 35 Ford with support from Speed Stick® for 10 races, including the season-opening Daytona 500.
"I'm really excited and grateful for the opportunity to go racing with Front Row Motorsports and continue my relationship with Speed Stick®," Whitt said. "Bob Jenkins is a smart businessman and has grown his team the right way over the years, and I'm really looking forward to being a part of that growth. The 2014 season was great for me as a driver. We had some important personal victories and some areas where we'll want to improve."
Speed Stick®, known for its line of high-performing antiperspirants and deodorants, previously sponsored Whitt during his rookie year and connected with fans by documenting the driver's first race at the Daytona 500 through a unique, online video series.
"I feel honored to have the support of a great sponsor like Speed Stick® and I look to building on last year's successes," said Whitt. "The Speed Stick® brand is all about giving guys the confidence to step up, particularly in the most stressful situations. It has your back when you need it most. I can't think of a better partner for a young driver like myself."
Additional Speed Stick® brand sponsored races this year will include high-profile events such as the Talladega Superspeedway race in May, the 600-mile event at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the Brickyard 400 at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the Bristol Motor Speedway Night Race.
"Cole Whitt continues to embody the traits that we champion at Speed Stick®," said Bill Van de Graaf, Vice President and General Manager, U.S. Personal Care, Colgate-Palmolive. "In his first year, he impressed fans, teammates and adversaries by continuously stepping up in high-pressure situations. The Speed Stick® brand is excited to be at Cole's side as he reaches for new heights."
Randy Cox will also join the Front Row team to continue his relationship with Whitt as crew chief after leading the young driver's Sprint Cup campaign with BK Racing in 2014. Cox has previously worked with drivers such as Brian Vickers, Kenny Wallace and David Stremme.
"This is an exciting time for Front Row Motorsports," said team owner Bob Jenkins. "Adding Cole Whitt to our program, along with the support of the Speed Stick® team, is another big step in our growth as a young team. We're going to have a diverse mix of experience with our drivers, which, I think, is going to be a big benefit for everyone."
Whitt and the No. 35 Speed Stick® brand Ford team will make their first appearance on track in February for Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway. Whitt understands the difficult road that lies ahead of him, and the uphill battle that teams such as Front Row Motorsports face in today’s economy.
"I wish it wasn't so money driven but that is just part of our sport,” added Cole. “The more money the more speed it seems like. But so many rookies ... must mean something good is happening."
Next week, this column will strive to provide full coverage of the events leading up to the Great American Race including a behind-the-scenes experience with Cole Whitt and his team at the Daytona 500.
2015 brings a new twist to qualifying at Daytona International Speedway (DIS). For the first-time ever, Daytona 500 qualifying, which traditionally features single-car qualifying, will switch to the group qualifying format to set the front row positions for the Daytona 500. The results from qualifying will also set the field for the Budweiser Duel At Daytona 150-mile qualifying races on Thursday, Feb. 19. The results from the Budweiser Duel 150-mile qualifying races will finalize the starting lineup for the Daytona 500 on Feb. 22.