Nelson Piquet Jr. translated his first career NASCAR Nationwide Series pole into his first series victory, as the ex-F1 driver scored top honors in Saturday’s Sargento 200 at Road America.
The 26-year-old second-generation driver stretched the fuel mileage of his No. 30 Turner Motorsports Chevy to eek out a 3.272-second win over the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Michael McDowell in the action-packed 50-lap race.
Piquet became the first Brazilian to win a major NASCAR race in what was his Nationwide Series debut.
“I struggled a little bit in the beginning. But when I got some clean air, I took control,” said Piquet, a regular in the Camping World Truck Series.
“The car was great. I just had to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes.”
While road racing veteran Ron Fellows finished third, the story of the race came on the final lap when a hard-charging Jacques Villeneuve made contact with Danica Patrick while battling for fifth.
Patrick, who had one of her strongest NASCAR races to date running solidly inside the top-five, spun into the Turn 5 gravel trap as a result of the contact. She settled for a 12th place result, while the 1997 F1 champion crossed the line in 6th.
Max Papis and Sam Hornish Jr. completed the top-five.
It was not a good day for point leader Elliott Sadler, who enjoyed a top-10 run until spinning after also making contact with Villeneuve with 11 laps to go.
Sadler, however, still leads the championship chase but now only 11 points ahead of Austin Dillon.
Kurt Busch, who started from the rear of the 43-car field after changing his Toyota's transmission after qualifying, rallied to an 8th place result.
John Dagys is SPEED.com’s Sportscar Racing Reporter, focusing on all major domestic and international championships. You can follow him on Twitter @johndagys or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org