Cole Whitt posted the slowest lap among the open drivers in the first round of qualification for the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway. He will not race on Saturday night.
Cole Whitt has made three previous attempts at Darlington Raceway and none of them have been incident-free. He parked early in 2012, lost 73 laps in 2014 due to an accident, and could not get past lap five last year before damage forced him to retire.
Cole Whitt has made eight previous starts on the two-mile tracks and he has finished better than he started every time. This spring, he started 36th at both Auto Club Speedway and Michigan International Speedway before finishing 26th and 27th respectively.
Cole Whitt would apparently have the lion’s share of resources at Premium Motorsports. While teammate Reed Sorenson has finished at the very back of the pack on this track type in 2016, Whitt scored a 30th at Martinsville Speedway and 28th at Bristol Motor Speedway. He did not get a chance to qualify at Richmond International Raceway when weather canceled qualification.
Cole Whitt had finished better than he started in nine consecutive races entering the Cheez-it 355 at the Glen. In the road course contest, he finished 28th after qualifying 22nd. His streak began at Dover International Speedway this May when he advanced from 36th to 27th.
In five previous attempts at Pocono Raceway, Cole Whitt has finished better than he started in every event. This June he improved seven positions from a 37th-place qualification attempt before getting stranded in 30th with a Rear Gear failure.
Cole Whitt moved out of the No. 98 cockpit this week in order to make room for local favorite Ryan Ellis. This did not result in a lot of speed, however, and Ellis posted only the 40th-fastest lap of 124.977 mph—nearly two seconds slower than leader Martin Truex Jr.
Cole Whitt failed to qualify or race his way into this year’s Daytona 500, so he is looking for a little redemption on this course.
Occasionally change is good for everyone involved. Cole Whitt has earned eight top-30 finishes in his 14 starts this year, but the sister No. 55 car was not entirely up to speed. In the past two weeks, both drivers have finished on the cusp of 30th. Whitt finished 27th at Michigan International Speedway and 30th at Pocono; Reed Sorenson was 31st at Michigan and 28th on the tricky triangle.
If Cole Whitt can finish in the top 30 this week at Pocono Raceway in the Axalta We Paint Winners 400, it will be his fifth such finish in five starts on that track.
Cole Whitt and the No. 30 team need to focus on qualification during weeks when there are more than 40 cars in attendance. In 12 attempts this year, he has failed to make the show twice.
Cole Whitt has made five Dover International Speedway starts in his career and has shown remarkable consistency. Four of his results there ended in a narrow range of 26th through 28th.
Cole Whitt has scored one top-30 in three starts in his current Premium Motorsports ride. The good news is that came in his most recent outing at Texas Motor Speedway when he improved from 37th to 30th.
Cole Whitt was the slowest of the open drivers in the first practice session on Friday and with 41 cars in attendance, he will be the driver going home before Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway.