Piquet Jr. wins for 1st time in NASCAR at Road America
Elkhart Lake, WI (Sports Network) - Brazilian driver Nelson Piquet Jr. claimed
his first win in NASCAR by taking Saturday's Sargento 200 Nationwide Series
race at Road America.
Piquet, a former Formula One competitor who is now a regular in the Camping
World Truck Series, started on the pole and led a total of 19 laps in the 50-
lap race on the 4.048-mile, 14-turn Wisconsin road course. He finished 2.26
seconds ahead of Michael McDowell for his first Nationwide victory in just his
After climbing out of his No. 30 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet, Piquet wrapped
himself with a Brazilian flag. Piquet became the fifth different driver born
outside of the United States to win a race in NASCAR's second-tier series. He
is the 26-year-old son of three-time F1 world champion Nelson Piquet.
"I knew I could do it, but it was just a matter of being with the right team
and the right people," Piquet said. "I'm so happy to get this first win in
Nationwide. I'm still missing that truck (win), but it will come soon."
In a race that featured various pit strategies from teams, Piquet last pitted
just after 30 laps were completed. He grabbed the lead for good with 17 laps
to go when he opted to stay on the track while most of other front runners
came on to pit road during a caution.
After the fifth and final restart with 12 laps left, Piquet easily pulled away
from McDowell and then was untouchable from there.
"I struggled a little bit in the beginning, but when I got in some clean air,
I just took control," Piquet noted. "The car was great. I just had to be
careful not to make any mistakes."
Piquet finished seventh in his Nationwide debut in August 2010 at the Watkins
Glen, NY road course. His most recent start came in the 2011 season-finale at
Homestead, FL, where he placed 24th.
Crew chief Trent Owens guided Piquet's efforts at Road America. Last year,
Owens served as crew chief for Reed Sorenson when Sorenson won here.
"I knew how good of road racer (Piquet Jr.) was, but I never realized he was
that good," Owens said. "He's probably the best that I've ever worked with.
This is an awesome win. To win it outright and beat some of the best in the
business in road racing, it's a good feeling, and two in a row, I like this
place right now."
While Piquet picked up the win, Danica Patrick had a potential top-five finish
taken away on the final lap when Canadian Jacques Villeneuve, the 1995
Indianapolis 500 winner and 1997 F1 titleholder, bumped Patrick from behind
and punted her into the gravel trap in turn five. Italian Max Papis overtook
her for the fourth position just before the incident occurred. All three
driver were caught up in traffic at the time.
"When I was behind Danica and Papis was on the outside, maybe he didn't know I
was there, said Villeneuve, who finished sixth. "Down the straight, he pushed
me into the grass just where we hit the brakes. So when I jumped on the
brakes, I was in the grass because of that. I wasn't right next to him, so I
had no idea. I couldn't slow down after that."
Patrick ended up finishing 12th.
On lap 21, Patrick moved around Miguel Paludo to take the lead, but her lead
would be short-lived when she went wide into turn five on that same lap,
allowing Paludo to reassume the position. Patrick's best Nationwide finish so
far is fourth, which came in the March 2011 race at Las Vegas. She set a
record for highest finishing female in a NASCAR national touring series event.
"The bummer is that we weren't able to finish off with a top-five like I felt
we all deserved," Patrick said. "It just would have been good to get a good
result. People sort of say I don't get results, but today, I ran well. I feel
like lately we've been running much better, but we just haven't sort of
finished the deal and gotten the results."
Ron Fellows from Canada finished third, while Papis placed fourth. Sam Hornish
Jr. completed the top-five.
Papis and Hornish both rebounded from a stop-and-go penalty for equipment
leaving their assigned stall areas during their stops. Hornish's mishap
occurred on the second lap, while Papis was charged for the infraction on lap
Kurt Busch, the only Sprint Cup Series regular to compete in this race,
qualified 22nd but had to start from the rear of the field due to an
unapproved adjustment to his car prior to the event. Busch finished eighth.
Sprint Cup is competing on the road course in Sonoma, CA on Sunday.
Elliott Sadler remained atop the point standings despite a 15th-place finish.
Sadler bounced back after Villeneuve turned him around as well with 11 laps
remaining. His points lead is now 11 over rookie Austin Dillon, who finished
18th. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. moved to within 23 points following his 11th-place
06/23 20:41:09 ET
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