Nelson Piquet Jr. press release
Nelson Piquet Jr began from the front row of the field and led for 15 laps in his No. 30 Qualcomm Autotrac Chevrolet, before being classified 22nd in the season opener of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) at Daytona International Speedway (DIS).
The action got underway on Thursday when 40 trucks took to the 2.5-mile DIS for first practice. Piquet was one of the first out on track with his program focusing on truck balance and mock qualifying runs. He completed 15 laps, ran consistently in the top-six for most of the session and set a fastest time of 49.98. The field was back out on track early evening for final practice. In the second session the team's focus was on getting Nelson comfortable in the draft. He finished third fastest with a best lap of 46.932.
On Friday afternoon, Nelson headed out for qualifying, taking to the track third from last as qualifying order was determined by the reverse result of final practice. The Turner Motorsports team took a clean sweep with its drivers filling the top three starting slots. It was an all-Brazilian front row with Miguel Paludo taking the Keystone Light Pole after his lap of 49.582. Nelson took second after setting a lap just two thousandths of a second behind Paludo with a time of 49.602 and James Buescher lined up third.
The race itself on Friday night was a frantic affair. After falling back slightly after the start of the race, Nelson, predicting a melee in the middle of the pack, opted to ride at the back of the draft. He was proved right when the first of seven cautions came out on lap 19 after the first wreck. He pitted for fuel and right side tires and pitted again under the second caution on lap 43 for fuel only. By the half way point Nelson was running in 10th. When the caution flag was shown again on lap 62, Nelson made a pitstop on lap 66 for fuel and restarted two laps later in 11th spot. On the lap 69 restart he flew up the field to take the lead, which he maintained until just before another caution on lap 84 when he moved to second. On the lap 90 restart Nelson opened a little and with Buescher, who was riding in Nelson's draft, trying to overtake on the inside, he was forced to rise to the top of the track where he lost positions. He worked hard for the remainder of the race to salvage something out of the notorious Daytona Superspeedway. During a green white checkered on lap 104 he was caught up in a wreck he couldn't avoid and, although the team tried to keep the truck running, damage to the radiator put an end to his race with him classified 22nd.
Nelson Piquet Jr: "It's a real shame we couldn't get more out of the race today and we'll have to talk as a team about what went wrong on the restart. At the end I was trying to salvage something, but this track is punishing and it's easy to get caught up in a wreck, which is what happened. I didn't come to Daytona necessarily to win, I wanted to finish well but at the very end we wrecked. We came here with a great truck and had been strong since the beginning so the positive to take out of it is that we know we have a quick truck at the Superspeedways. I hope that we maintain that form on the other tracks."
NCWTS action resumes for race two on March 31st at Martinsville, VA.