Prior to Saturday’s Nationwide race in Fontana, CA, Cole Whitt eagerly anticipated the opportunity to shine at his homecoming.“I’m excited about finally getting to race there. I watched so many races growing up. That was the closest track to my home, and still I’ve never driven on it or raced on it. It’s going to be pretty cool to do that.” With an opportunity like this, he was prepared to take the necessary risks to earn himself the checkered flag.
After a respectable starting position of 12th, Cole maintained his poise throughout the race, refusing to give up position. As the field entered the latter stages of the race, he started to make one last push to get to the front of the pack. With only 11 laps to go, Cole finally broke into the top-10, was running fast, and making moves. On lap 139 of 150, as they were coming into turn one, it looked as if the rising star had enough room to make the pass and pickoff yet another victim in his race to the finish. But then it happened, as it happens so often to those looking to win big… as he was attempting the pass off of turn two, Cole caught some bad luck as he got squeezed, ran out of room, and made hard contact with the wall – enough to end bring the No. 88 car into the garage with 8 laps to go, ending the team’s day just a few minutes too early.
Joey Logano went on to win the race, holding off Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Brad Keselowski in an entertaining finish to Joe Gibbs Racing's eighth consecutive Nationwide win at the track. The youngest winner in Nationwide history three years ago now has 10 victories at the ripe-old age of 21. Logano is the first Sprint Cup Series driver to win a Nationwide race this season, claiming his second career win at Fontana.
COLE WHITT’S THOUGHTS – “This is disappointing for our whole TaxSlayer team. Certainly not how we wanted to come out of here. We were loose for most of the race and toward the end there we had decent track position. After our final stop we put four tires on and I was trying to get all I could after that restart. I trying to make a pass on the outside and just ran out of room and made pretty hard contact with the wall.”
ROOKIE BATTLE UPDATE – Rookie Cole Whitt has earned one top-five and two top-10 finishes in his first four starts in 2012. He also landed Sunoco Rookie of the Race honors in two of those four events, ranking him second in the rookie standings. He trails rookie rival Austin Dillon by five points.
Fontana Race Report
Race 5 of 33: Royal Purple 300 at Auto Club Speedway
Date: March 24, 2012
Track Specs: 2-mile oval/150 laps
Weather: Sunny; 70 deg.
Race Winner: Joey Logano
Whitt’s finish: 30th