Debuting a new sponsor and returning to a track that Cole Whitt had not finished out of the top-10 at , Michigan International Speedway posed some confidence for him and his TriStar team. At the end of the NASCAR Nationwide Series one & only practice in the “Irish Hills”, Whitt and Crew Chief Randy Cox felt they had a good Takagi Toyota Camry for Saturday’s Alliance Truck Parts 250.
“After trying things to find some balance in the No. 44 Takagi Camry, I consulted my teammates a little to make sure I was getting all I could out of the car and track,” said Whitt.
Whitt and his Takagi Camry started in the 23rd position at Michigan and quickly rallied into the top-20 within the first 10 laps of the race. An early caution came at lap seven; riding in the 19th position Whitt said “the car seems alright, there’s just a lot going on out here.”
Whitt was fighting a loose Takagi Camry when the next caution fell. Whitt and Cox decided to take two tires and a full tank of Sunoco race fuel. Restarting in the 28th position, Whitt was quick to maneuver the No. 44 back into the top-20.
Whitt said, “I feel like I’m fighting the car, I’m free in and tight in the center.” Cox replied, “10-4” and they went to work on a game plan for their next pit stop. At lap 64, a caution fell for debris and Whitt said,” I feel a vibration in the drive train area.”
Bringing the Takagi Camry down pit road for four fresh Goodyear’s and fuel, the crew checked over Whitt’s concern, returning him to the track in 18th position.
Whitt stayed there for the next 20 laps before racing p to the 14th position, until a caution fell for debris. “The car is good in the corners, I just can’t get up off the straight away,” exclaimed Whitt.
Another debris caution came with 27 laps to go; Whitt sat in the 16th position on the restart. Rain sprinkles began to fall as Whitt took the checkered flag bringing the Takagi Camry home in the 15th position.
“My guys worked really hard all day and never gave up,” said Whitt. “We seemed to have run over some debris that shot up and knocked off one of our headers; these Pro Motor Engines are so strong that we didn’t skip a beat and still claimed a top-15 finish.”
Whitt continued, “I’m proud of our efforts over the past few weeks. I can’t say enough about the strength of my team. I also greatly appreciate the support from Takagi and team owners Mark and Kathy Smith, without their support this wouldn’t be possible.”
With the top-15 finish Whitt moved the No. 44 Takagi Toyota up five spots in the Owner Point Standings to 22nd. Whitt will be behind the wheel again this weekend as the NASCAR Nationwide Series will take on road course No. 1 on the schedule; Road America.