Nelson Piquet Jr. Earns Top-15 Finish In Short Track Debut
AVONDALE, February 26, 2011: In his first trip to Phoenix International Raceway, Nelson Piquet Jr. navigated the No. 8 Chevrolet Silverado through a caution-filled race to earn a 13th-place finish at the challenging 1.0-mile tri-oval.
Taking the green flag from the 23rd position, Piquet Jr. quickly picked up two positions, but the truck was handling too loosely entering the turns to advance through the field as quickly as he would have liked. Piquet Jr. had taken over the 19th position when the first yellow flag of the evening waved on lap 44 for debris. Crew chief Chris Carrier called the No. 8 to pit road for four tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment.
Emerging from the pits in 16th after a strong stop, Piquet Jr. took the green flag on lap 49. The yellow waved again 10 laps later for a spin in turn two, but the team opted not to visit pit road. Racing resumed on lap 63 which turned into a long green-flag run, ultimately stringing out the field on the short track. With the No. 8 Chevrolet still running loose, Piquet Jr. was passed by the leader on lap 97. Piquet Jr. battled for the free pass position, but was scored as the second truck one lap down when the third caution waved on lap 102. Carrier called his driver into the pits for four tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment, sending his rookie driver back out in the 18th position to reclaim his lost lap.
It would take two more cautions before Piquet Jr. was named the Lucky Dog. Once he earned his lap back on lap 120, the No. 8 machine had solid handling and was capable of running lap times competitive with the leaders. Taking the green flag in the 16th position, Piquet Jr. stated that his tires felt "amazing," and he began his campaign to the front. However, a pair of cautions on laps 124 and 129 resulted in short runs which prohibited him from making the progress he knew his truck was capable of.
On lap 134, while running in the 17th position, a multi-truck wreck erupted in front of the No. 8 Chevrolet. Piquet Jr. skillfully backed the truck down, avoiding the mess and preserving his tires. Taking the green for the final time on lap 140 in 15th place, Piquet Jr. had enough laps to pick up two more positions and lay down his fastest lap of the night.
Kyle Busch took the checkered flag in the Lucas Oil 150, followed by KHI teammates Clint Bowyer and Ron Hornaday. Johnny Sauter and Austin Dillon rounded out the top five.
"I learned a lot this weekend," said Piquet Jr. following the race. "It was my goal to leave here with a top-10 finish, and I think if we had longer green flag runs at the end we could have achieved that. Overall it was a very good day without any problems. The truck had a lot of power, the team had great pit stops, and I gained a lot of knowledge about this type of track. I think we're in a good position to go into Darlington, earn a strong finish and make up the points we lost in Daytona."
The Truck Series has an off weekend before returning to the track at Darlington (S.C) Raceway on March 12th.