Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dale Junior talks about his new hire, Cole Whitt

   Dale Earnhardt Jr. was asked Thursday at Daytona International Speedway about the process that led him and his JR Motorsports organization to pick upstart Cole Whitt as the new driver for the No. 88 Chevrolet. The team's previous driver, Aric Almirola, was hired by Richard Petty Motorsports earlier this month to drive its legendary No. 43 car.

   Q. How did you to pick Cole Whitt over the other drivers who are out there and what you think he brings to your team? 
   Earnhardt: Well, I thought that, no disrespect to any of the guys that we didn't choose, they know who they are, but we considered a lot of different people. I just felt like Cole had some potential that was untapped, that we hadn't ‑‑ he had potential and ability that we hadn't been able to ‑‑ he hadn't even discovered yet, and I feel like in the guys that we looked at, we sort of know what kind of hand and cars they had and what kind of talent they had and where they would take us.

   And I think it's more exciting, a lot more risky but more exciting to go with a guy who you don't really know what he's capable of and could be big things, but you've just got to take that risk. And that's really why I do it. I don't do it to make money. I don't have a whole lot of other reasons to be in the Nationwide Series other than just to help somebody. When I'm able to do that ‑‑ I enjoy seeing what happened to Brad and seeing Eric get a deal like he's got now. That's why I do it, you know.

   It's funner to help the new guy than it is to help the guy that's kind of been through the ringer a few times.  Everybody deserves their opportunity, and I just feel like that was going to be Cole's only shot.

   Q. You had watched Brad Keselowski and seen him on the track and kind of had him on the radar screen.  Did you have that same kind of interest with Cole because this really came together very quickly with Aric leaving.
   Earnhardt: I didn't really watch Cole like I did Brad. I knew Brad before I even thought about hiring him as a driver. I just knew him, knew his family and stuff and would see him and watch him drive and watch him do stuff. And he impressed me, but I didn't have the opportunity to sort of ‑‑ I didn't have the opportunity to watch Cole.

   The only time I really got to see Cole race was at Phoenix in the Cup car when I was out on the track with him. I never watched any of his truck races, never seen him drive before then. But everybody who works in that garage in there that has my phone number called me and told me Cole was the guy.  Every one of them.  People I don't even talk to, people that I don't really have relationships with took time out of their day to call me and say, that's the guy you need to hire. They had no other ‑‑ other than interest in seeing Cole do well and get an opportunity. I thought it said a lot for people to do that.

   And the ones that I reached out to, that was the first guy on their list. I trusted all these people, and I feel like the guy ‑‑ from what I can tell, what I can see, that he deserves an opportunity. This might be his only opportunity, so I wanted to be the one to give it to him.