Nelson Piquet Jr. is going NASCAR Camping World Truck Series racing full time, and, after a taste of the Truck Series this season, he’s more than ready.
“The racing, the atmosphere, the whole environment — it really attracted me,” Piquet Jr. said Monday. “I was used to racing in Europe with a cold environment and people difficult to work with. It’s very competitive in NASCAR. You live healthy. There are good people around you. There’s no one stabbing you in the back.”
Piquet Jr. and Kevin Harvick announced Monday that they will team in 2011, Piquet driving one of Kevin Harvick Inc.’s vehicles full time in the Camping World Truck Series.
Further details regarding the program will be released at a later date.
Piquet, 25, formerly drove in Formula One. He ran five NCWTS events for Red Horse Racing this season, finishing sixth in his first race at Daytona International Speedway in February. He also drove in one Nationwide Series race, finishing seventh in Watkins Glen, N.Y.
Piquet is the son for former F1 champion Nelson Piquet. He is from Brazil but is living in Charlotte, N.C. He drove for Renault in F1 competition in 2008 but lost his ride with the team the next season.
He said Monday he is committed to NASCAR and hopes to learn quickly. He said his goals next season are to win a few races and the series' Rookie of the Year award.
“My choice was to go for the best team,” he said. “Obviously, I need to learn a lot before winning a race, but being with such a good team should help me get good results. I think they can help me with the transition from open wheel to NASCAR.”
Piquet said he is more concerned with the technicalities of setting up and racing a truck than with the actual on-track competition.
“The different part for me is setting up the car,” he said. “Knowing what to do is difficult — the track bar, tire pressure, wedge, how the tires work, how the tracks work with temperature dropping and the different kinds of tracks — asphalt and concrete differences. And night and day racing differences.”
He said he hopes to race in Sprint Cup but doesn’t want to outrace himself.
“I never know what’s going to happen the first year,” he said. “Obviously, we’re expecting the best. If things go well the first year and we’re fighting for the championship, maybe we’ll have a chance to race Nationwide. There’s a long-term plan to reach Cup when I’m prepared, but I don’t want to start jumping series and thinking I deserve to be in Cup. I know that’s not how it works.”
At KHI, Piquet will join Ron Hornaday Jr., Elliott Sadler and Harvick as drivers.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including "NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport" and "Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told". He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.