HOMESTEAD, FL-NOVEMBER 19: Cole Whitt, former driver of the No. 84 Red Bull Racing Team Toyota, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 19, 2011. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and his team JR Motorsports wasted no time finding a replacement for Aric Almirola, who was announced as the newest driver at Richard Petty Motorsports on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, JR Motorsports announced that Cole Whitt would drive the No. 88 Chevrolet during the 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series season.
Whitt joins JR Motorsports from the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series where he finished ninth in last year's championship standings with one poie, two top-five and 11 top-ten finishes. He also qualified for the last two races of the Sprint Cup season for Red Bull Racing.
"Cole is the guy we wanted, and we're lucky to get him," Earnhardt, Jr. said in a press release. "He's got raw, untapped talent, but we were 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.'
Whitt, who is 20 years old, has three Nationwide starts with two finishes of 15th and one of 17th. He will be a part of a strong rookie class that includes Richard Childress Racing's Austin Dillion and Turner Motorsports' Brad Sweet.
"This is a big opportunity for me, and I'm happy to be a part of the JR Motorsports team," said Whitt. "I'm grateful to Dale, Kelley, and everyone at JR Motorsports for giving me this chance. It's an honor to work with the Eurys, and I will do everything in my power to put this No. 88 team where it belongs in Victory Lane."
Aside from the Cole Whitt announcement, JR Motorsports also announced the hiring of Bruce Cook as the crew chief for the No. 5 team, which will run primarily with Earnhardt, Jr. in select races. Cook comes to JR Motorsport sfrom Kevin Harvick Inc., where he served as the crew chief of the No. 2 KHI Chevrolet Silverado that won the owner's championship in 2011.