Piquet races from the back to 6th
A lesser known rookie in the stock car media frenzy this weekend, but far more deserving of the attention...Nelson Piquet had a strong NASCAR Truck Series debut in the season opening event at Daytona, finishing sixth in an incident-packed event from a 22nd starting position.
Piquet, who drove the #1 Toyota Tundra for Red Horse Racing, survived a number of incidents during the race, had worked his way into second place, finally settling into 6th at the finish.
"It was an amazing feeling," said an excited Piquet following the race. "I'm just so happy to be able to finish the race and staying out of trouble, sort of - I had my touches and bumps here and there, but I managed to keep the truck in my hands. It was really tough.
"Just unexplainable - so much pressure and fun all at the same time with the guys all around pushing and bumping.
"There on the last lap, hitting side-by-side and then trusting the last corner and just doing it flat and knowing that it needed to go and then gaining like three or four positions in the last lap of the last corner. It's amazing.
"It's much better than last week [in the ARCA event]. I learned so much last week that it helped me a lot for this race. I'm really happy, the team did an excellent job. I need to thank Toyota and Red Horse for helping me so much."
Quickly passing other cars at the start, it took only 25 laps for him to advance to 12th place, making comfortable use of the draft, and taking advantage of a pileup crash to move up to seventh place.
Piquet would actually jump up to second following a round of stops under the third caution of the race, when different strategies shuffled the order. He lost the draft on the restart though and dropped back, but remained in the top 10.
By the time a fifth caution of the race came out he was already back up to third place but later he had another close moment, when Mario Gosselin spun while trying to get in his draft.
On lap 83 Piquet misjudged a bump-drafting move with Max Papis, who ended up turned sideways and against the outside wall, an incident that the Brazilian apologized for over his radio.
Following the seventh and final caution, Piquet tried to go on his own on the outside line while running in the top five, but he would eventually be forced to get back on the inside line. On the last lap he tried to make the outside work again and would finally crossed the finish line sixth.
"I think it was a bit of my inexperience over here," admitted Piquet. "Everybody was pushing and I had pushed one or two trucks before. He came out, he was by himself, I went to push him and I don't know if I pushed him on the wrong side or if our bumpers didn't line up or what happened.
"The moment that I touched him, he just went off. I really felt bad. I didn't know if it was the right time to apologize on the radio, but I have to give him an apology."
Piquet's Red Horse Racing team-mate Timothy Peters was the winner of the event.
The former Renault Formula 1 driver expects to be on the grid for the second race of the season at Atlanta on March 6, but he has yet to secure a deal to complete the whole season in the #1 truck.