By: Brian Wiggins
Nelson Piquet Jr. has raced just about everything that can be raced.
From go karts, to Formula 1 cars, to NASCAR Trucks, Piquet Jr. made his Nationwide Series road course debut Saturday at Road America.
Quickly, he figured it out by sitting on the pole, the first of his Nationwide career.
Getting out to an early lead, Piquet looked to be in control of the race from the very start, setting fast laps and conserving the car, Piquet stuck to his crews strategy.
As the closing stages of the race neared, Piquet was back at the front, ready to take the lead and the win.
Bypassing his teammate, Justin Allgaier, Piquet set sail until the final caution of the race came out, setting up a 12-lap dash to the finish.
Rocketing to a quick start, Piquet jumped to a big lead, never looking back as he went on to claim his first career Nationwide Series win in only his third career start.
“I just can’t the right words. I mean, I knew I could do it,” said Piquet in victory lane. “It was just just a matter of being with the right team and with the right people, right organization. So happy right now for our first win in Nationwide.”
The win is the second consecutive win for Turner Motorsports at Road America, who won the race last year with Reed Sorenson behind the wheel of the car Piquet drove to victory Saturday.
“We struggled a little bit at the beginning. Obviously after I caught some clean air, I just took control. Opened a little gap on the last restart and just maintained it.
“Car was great. Just had to be careful not to make any mistakes.
Car’s great, team’s great, I can’t complain.”
While Piquet had somewhat of an easy last 10 laps, that wasn’t the case from fourth on back in the remaining laps.
Danica Patrick, Max Papis, Brian Scott, Sam Hornsih Jr., and Jacques Villeneuve battled bumper-to-bumper for seemingly the last 8 laps of the race, leading up to the last-lap mess in turn five on the last lap.
Patrick, who ran strong inside the top-five all day, was looking to tie her career best fourth place finish in the Nationwide Series. Behind her, Papis and Villeneuve were charging to get back inside the top-five after pit road issues and a mid-race spin put the two “ringers” in the back of the pack.
Coming into turn five, Villeneuve got his No.22 in the grass, causing his car to wheel-hop getting into the slow corner, sending Patrick spinning into the gravel trap.
When the mess was sorted out, and the dust stopped flying, Papis finished fourth with Hornish, Villeneuve,Scott, Kurt Busch, Cole Whitt, and Justin Allgaier finishing tenth.
Patrick would win up in twelfth for the day.
“I’m going to start of with the positive,” said Patrick to ESPN crews after watching the last-lap incident for the first time. “I ran top-five all day, I took the lead for a brief moment until I learned my lesson getting into turn five.
“That’s the bummer that we weren’t able to finish that off with a top-five like I feel we all deserved.
“It would have just been good to get a good result. People started saying I don’t get good results. But today I did well. I feel lately we’ve been running much better and just haven’t gotten the results.
“Y’all can make a decision for yourself what happened there.”
While the racing on-track was wild, the championship picture for the Nationwide Series looked as though it was going to get turned upside-down once again.
Coming back from a late-race spin, Elliott Sadler remains the series points leader by eleven points over teammate Austin Dillon after finishing fifteenth.
Next up for the Nationwide Series is the Kentucky Speedway, next Friday night.
Sargento 200 Unofficial race results:
1: Nelson Piquet Jr.
2: Michael McDowell
3: Ron Fellows
4: Max Papis
5: Sam Hornish Jr.
6: Jacques Villeneuve
7: Brian Scott
8: Kurt Busch
9: Cole Whitt
10: Justin Allgaier
11: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
12: Danica Patrick
13: Mike Bliss
14: Jason Bowles
15: Elliott Sadler
16: Kenny Habul
17: Victor Gonzalez Jr.
18: Austin Dillon
19: Mike Wallace
20: Brad Sweet
21: Eric McClure
22: Timmy Hill
23: Erik Darnell
24: Tony Raines
25: Jeremy Clements
26: Michael Annett
27: Bill Prietzel
28: John Young
29: Miguel Paludo
30: Tayler Malsam
31: Josh Richards
32: Casey Roderick
33: Alex Kennedy
34: Matthew Bell
35: Kyle Kelley
36: Morgan Shepard
37: TJ Bell
38: Matt Frahm
39: Ryan Ellis
40: Chase Miller
41: Matt DiBenedetto
42: Tim Schendel
43: Jeff Green