Former Formula One driver Nelson Piquet Jr. is making a name for himself in NASCAR after winning Saturday's VFW 200 Camping World Truck Series race at Michigan International Speedway.
Piquet overcame a mid-race accident and then conserved enough fuel in the late going to become the fifth first-time race winner in the Truck Series this year. The Brazilian became only the second driver born outside the United States to win a race in the series. Canadian Ron Fellows has two victories.
"We finally did it. We finally did it," Piquet Jr. said over the radio to his No. 30 Turner Motorsports team after capturing his first truck win in his 42nd start.
On lap 56, Piquet ran behind leader Kurt Busch, who drove the No. 18 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports. While both drivers were battling for the top spot, they made contact, with Piquet spinning around. He pitted for new tires and fuel.
Piquet ran the final 43 laps in the 100-lap race without pitting. While the field made their final round of stops, Piquet grabbed the lead with 12 laps to go. He had enough fuel to cross the finish line 8.1 seconds ahead of his closest competitor, Jason White.
In June, Piquet scored his first NASCAR national touring series victory in the Nationwide race at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. It came in just his third series start. He also won a NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event at Bristol Motor Speedway earlier this year.
Piquet competed in F1 from 2008-09.
"It's an amazing moment that I made it in the Truck Series," he said. "Now we have a K&N, Truck and a Nationwide win. Hopefully, we'll get a Cup win soon."
Piquet has yet to compete in the Sprint Cup Series.
His father, Nelson Piquet, is a three-time F1 world champion and a 23-time grand prix winner on that racing circuit. He was not at Michigan, as he was celebrating his birthday in Las Vegas. He turned 60 years old on Friday.
"This victory is for my team as much for my father, who has been helping me throughout my whole career," Piquet said.
White, who finished second, and third-place Dakoda Armstrong posted their career-best finishes in trucks. Both drivers also gambled on fuel late in the race.
Parker Kligerman, making his debut as driver of the No. 7 Toyota for Red Horse Racing, took the fourth spot. Last week, Kligerman lost his ride with Brad Keselowski Racing but was quickly picked up by Red Horse. Keselowski took over driving duties of the No. 29 RAM at Michigan, placing eighth.
James Buescher finished fifth, followed by Ty Dillon and Joey Coulter, who started on the pole. Busch and Miguel Paludo completed the top-10. Busch dominated most of the race by leading 57 laps.
Two-time series champion Todd Bodine was caught up in two crashes. On lap 46, John Wes Townley bumped Bodine from behind and spun him around. He wrecked again shortly after when he lost control of his damaged car coming out of turn four.
"The aerodynamics on these trucks are so sensitive that you get really aero- pushy and aero-loose," Bodine said. "(Townley) probably got aero-tight and pushed into me. That happens."
With 12 of 22 races now completed, the top-five drivers are separated by just 25 points. Dillon moved into a tie with Timothy Peters for the points lead. Peters finished 13th. Buescher, who remains the only repeat race winner this season, is six points behind, while Justin Lofton trails by 17 markers following his 12th-place run. Kligerman is fifth in the standings.