By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
He didnt receive much media fanfare in Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but Cole Whitt did an incredible job finishing 20th in his second race with TriStar Motorsports.
The little team that could, which has 30 full-time employees and fields an Xfinity Series team in addition to the No. 72 car that Whitt drives, has now begun their season — their first in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series since 2013 — with consecutive top-20 finishes.
Whitt, who started 37th, battled with a loose race car in the opening stage of the race Sunday. However, loose was fast as Whitt actually found himself as high as 19th before the end of the stage.
Between stage one and two, crew chief Frank Kerr turned some wrenches on the machine, but it did little to cure the loose handling of the underdog’s car.
However, the 25-year old Whitt stayed patient like a cagey veteran and just let the field come to him the rest of the day at a track where tire wear is critical.
During a caution late in the final stage, Kerr opted to roll the dice by keeping Whitt — who was showing decent speed at the time — on the track to gain some track position, while the majority of the field pitted. Whitt was able to hang on to his car, and manage his fuel tank to get to the finish in the 20th spot.
Whitt was excited to talk to Motorsports Tribune about the incredible start to his 2017 season.
“Yesterday was an awesome run in Atlanta,” Whitt stated with exuberance. “So far we have exceeded our expectations for the start of the season.
“Between Atlanta, Daytona 500 and even the Duels, we have outperformed our goals. I hope we can keep up the pace moving forward, continue building good cars and maintain solid finishes. We realize it’s not going to be easy, it’s very competitive but I’m extremely proud of the efforts of TriStar, our results so far and look forward to a good season.”
It will be difficult to keep up the current pace, but heading into Las Vegas Whitt sits 17th in the championship standings. That puts him ahead of guys like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and seven-time MENCS Champion Jimmie Johnson.
If Whitt can continue building upon what looks like a career year, perhaps the little team that could will find themselves racing in the top-10 at some point this season.