Cole Whitt is no ordinary 22-year-old. He’s a NASCAR rookie with standout talent, ready to take on the Budweiser Duels tonight. A strong performance would put him in good standing for this weekend’s Daytona 500, despite wrecking in practice last night. Lucky for him, the team chose to repair the car instead of scrap it and go with a back up. Whitt took a few moments to talk with us about his experience as a young driver in the country's premier racing series.

Interviewed by Zach Doell (@thetirekicker)

You had a bit of an incident yesterday. How are you feeling going into the Budweiser Duels tonight? 
It’s a little bit tough. Obviously, we didn’t get the practice we wanted, but the team’s been working hard to recover. Hopefully, we’ll have a good showing and we’ll bounce back. 

We assume you’re hunting for Rookie of the Year. What do you need to do and what are your chances? 
For sure that’s one of our biggest goals. It’s going to be tough, because this is one of the biggest and most talented rookie classes we’ve ever had. We’re just going to have to outrun those guys, but at the same time run our own race.

You raced in less than half of the Nationwide Events last year but still managed a solid 21st on the season. How did that feel? 
It was pretty cool; I actually had a lot of fun last year. I obviously want to race as much as possible, and I missed being a contender for the points, but I never felt any pressure going into a race. It was just all out.

It was very public when Red Bull pulled out of NASCAR. What was that like for you? It was definitely a shock for me. They were honestly doing everything right, things just didn’t work out for them, but I completely support their decision and what they did. Without them I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to come to North Carolina and race stock cars.

It sounds a little generic, but it’s got to be my dad. Without him, I couldn’t be where I am. I owe everything to him.

What’s an average race-day morning look like for you? Any rituals? Nah [laughs], nothing too weird. I get up, go to the track, give some interviews, but it's all pretty normal. 

In any series you’ve raced, professional or amateur, have you had a driver you’ve always enjoyed racing against? 
It’s kind of funny. It’s someone I’ve race my whole career: ­­­­Parker Klingerman. We’ve raced up through the ranks together in midgets, Trucks and Nationwide, and now we’re on the same team in the Sprint Cup level. We’ve always had the competition with each other, and to be on the same team and fighting for the same goal is really cool.

When you’re not in the No. 26 Swan Racing Camry, what is your daily driver? 
Right now it’s a Chevrolet Duramax.

Do you have a favorite car that you’ve raced? 
I’ve always enjoyed the 410 sprint cars.

Who is your role model? 
It sounds a little generic, but it’s got to be my dad. Without him, I couldn’t be where I am. I owe everything to him.

Lots of racing legends look back fondly on their karting days. Do you miss your time in karting? 
[laughs] Not really. I did enjoy it while I was there, but it wasn’t something I would go back and do. I enjoyed Sprint Cars probably the most, I wouldn’t mind going back and trying those, but not really karting.

If you weren't racing, what would you like to do professionally? 
You know, I’m not really sure. My dad has a pretty successful plumbing business back in California, but at the same time I’ve become very mechanical in working on my racecars, so maybe being a mechanic in the race industry.

Follow Cole Whitt and his Camry on Twitter @ColeWhitt. 

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