Amanda Vincent, NASCAR Correspondent
Nelson Piquet Jr. made his third-career Nationwide Series race opportunity count on Saturday when he put the No. 30 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet on the pole and went on to win the Sargento 200 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
"We knew how great of a road course racer he was, but we didn't know he was this good," No. 30 crew chief Trent Owens said.
I knew I could do it. It was just a matter of being with the right team at the right time.
Michael McDowell drove the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to a runner-up finish and Ron Fellows was third in the No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet.
The win was the second-straight Road America victory from Owens, who guided Reed Sorenson to victory lane at the track last year. Piquet became the second driver to claim a first-career Nationwide win in 2012 from behind the wheel of the No. 30, following in the footsteps of Camping World Truck Series teammate James Buescher, who won the Nationwide season- opener at Daytona International Speedway in February.
"I knew I could do it," Piquet said in victory lane. "It was just a matter of being with the right team at the right time."
McDowell took the lead from Piquet on lap three, but both drivers gave up their track positions to head down pit road on lap five, handing the lead over to Fellows.
Brian Scott drove his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota by Fellows to take over the top spot on lap nine when Fellows fell off the pace because of a cut left front tire.
Scott continued to lead until he pitted a lap later than everyone else during the first caution of the race that came out on lap 11. McDowell restarted the race up front, but lost the lead to the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Max Papis when the race went back to green.
Another caution came out for debris on lap 17, and when the front runners headed down pit road, Miguel Paludo in the No. 32 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet and Danica Patrick in the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet moved into the top-two spots.
Patrick took the lead from Paludo on lap 21, but Paludo reassumed the top spot later that same lap and Patrick was shuffled back to fourth in the running order.
Paludo gave up the lead to pit on lap 21, handing the front spot to the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge of Jacques Villeneuve. Villeneuve ran up front until the yellow flag waved on lap 31. Same Hornish Jr. in the No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge and Justin Allgaier in the No. 31 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet stayed out to restart the race first and second.
Hornish pitted when another caution came out just a couple of laps later, but Allgaier continued to stay out. By that time, Allgaier had lost a few spots on the race track, and Piquet was up front for the restart.
Piquet dominated the remainder of the race.
"Struggled a little in the beginning," Piquet said. "But once I got in clean air, it took off."
Patrick ran second to Piquet following a restart after a lap 37 caution, but lost the runner-up spot to Fellows on lap 40.
McDowell got by both Patrick and Fellows to assume the second spot with nine laps to go.
On the final lap, as Piquet was in a comfortable position about three-and- a-half seconds in front of the rest of the field, Jacques Villeneuve made contact with Patrick, sending her into one of the circuit's gravel traps.
Patrick managed to not get stuck and drove back out for a 12th-place finish. Villeneuve dropped out of the top-five after the incident to finish sixth.
According to Villeneuve, the contact was a result of Papis running him into the grass and Villeneuve not being able to stop and avoid getting into Patrick as a result.
"It didn't involve me, so I don't care," Villeneuve said after the race.
Patrick took a more diplomatic approach in regards to the incident.
"You all can make a decision for yourself what happened there," Patrick said.
Papis finished fourth, and Hornish rounded out the top-five. Villeneuve was sixth.
Scott was the highest-finishing series regular in seventh.