Cole Whitt to replace Aric Almirola at JR Motorsports

By Bob Pockrass (, Jan. 04, 2012).

Cole Whitt will get the opportunity he has been looking for as he will drive for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series in 2012.

Whitt, who finished ninth in the Camping World Truck Series driving for Turn One Racing in 2011 and also qualified for the final two Cup races of the 2011 season for Red Bull Racing, will replace Aric Almirola in the No. 88 car, JRM officials announced Wednesday.

Richard Petty Motorsports had announced earlier in the day that Almirola would drive its No. 43 Sprint Cup car in 2012.

“Cole is the guy we wanted, and we’re lucky to get him,” Earnhardt Jr. said in a news release. “He’s got raw, untapped talent, but we are most impressed with his ambition.

“I sought advice and input from people I respect in the industry, and the overwhelming consensus was that Cole has the potential to do great things in this sport.”

The 20-year-old Whitt has three career Nationwide starts with two finishes of 15th and one of 17th.

“This is a big opportunity for me, and I’m happy to be a part of the JR Motorsports team,” Whitt said. “I’m grateful to Dale, [JRM co-owner] Kelley [Earnhardt] and everyone at JR Motorsports for giving me this chance.”

Whitt will be part of a strong Nationwide rookie class that includes Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon and Turner Motorsports’ Brad Sweet.

Whitt will take over the No. 88 car after Almirola went winless and finished fourth in the Nationwide standings. He will be a teammate to Danica Patrick, who will compete in the series full time for JRM in 2012.

JR Motorsports also announced that it has hired Bruce Cook as crew chief for the No. 5 team, which will run select events with Earnhardt Jr.

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