BEM-VINDO (WELCOME) NELSON PIQUET JR.: Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) welcomes Nelson Piquet Jr. to the team's family of drivers in 2011. The 25-year-old Brazilian, who is the son of three-time Formula One world champion Nelson Piquet, transitioned from open-wheel racing to NASCAR in 2010 when he made his Truck Series debut at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. Piquet Jr. will get behind the wheel as full-time driver of KHI's newest entry, the No. 8 Chevrolet Silverado, in pursuit of 2011 Rookie of the Year honors.
CAREER BEST: When Piquet Jr. made his NASCAR debut at Daytona last year, he proved just how talented he was at piloting a 3,400 pound full-bodied truck by navigating it to a sixth-place finish. Piquet Jr. went on to earn a total of three top-10 finishes in only five Truck Series starts, with his Daytona finish remaining his career-best NASCAR finish.
ATOP THE PIT BOX: NASCAR veteran Chris Carrier has come aboard to lead Piquet Jr. and the No. 8 team in 2011. Coming to KHI from Penske Racing's driver development team, Carrier brings over 30 years of NASCAR experience to the team and has earned wins as a crew chief in each of NASCAR's top three series.
EMMEMУRIA (IN MEMORY): The No. 8 Chevrolet Silverado will carry a very special message on the truck's tonneau cover this weekend in Daytona. The truck bed will feature a decal in memory of the victims of last month's devastating flood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The flood and subsequent mudslides that hit the mountainous region of eastern Brazil is considered the country's worst natural disaster for several decades, killing nearly 1,000 people. Shortly after the event, Piquet Jr. held a fundraiser via Twitter where he matched every donation that was pledged, ultimately donating $40,000 to relief efforts.
CHASSIS HISTORY: The No. 8 team will utilize chassis No. 055 this weekend at Daytona International Speedway. This is a brand-new superspeedway chassis which will make its first laps when it hits the track in Daytona. The truck visited both the wind tunnel and the chassis dyno during the off season, performing extremely well at both.
THOUGHTS FROM THE DRIVER: Nelson Piquet Jr.
After your successful debut there last season, what are your feelings going into Daytona?
"Daytona is always a big gamble. You can run very well, but it's more of a survival race. You have to be very calm, because anybody can touch you and put you in the wall and end your race on the first lap. Or you can have beginner's luck like I did last year. My best finish was in my Truck Series debut at Daytona, which I think was one of the toughest races I competed in. When you look at the finish I had last year, it makes me feel like I can come back this year and win it, but I'll have to be careful, keep my head down, and keep calm, because it's a long race."
What do you think is going to be your biggest challenge in 2011?
"There are actually a lot of things that are going to be challenging for me this year, but as I learn, they're all things that will make me a better driver. It's very important that I stay out of trouble and remain consistent with strong finishes. I'll need to learn the nuances of the truck's handling, and know exactly how the setup changes affect the truck, because it's not something I'm used to yet. I'll also have to get used to the characteristics of each track and how different variables, such as weather and daylight, affect the track."
What do you need to accomplish this year in order to feel like this season was a success?
"Knowing the kind of equipment that KHI has and how successful this team has been in the past, I feel that it's reasonable to think that I could win a race this season. This is going to be a competitive year in the Truck Series, but if I can win a race or two and perform consistently enough to win Rookie of the Year honors, this season will be a success."
THOUGHTS FROM THE PIT BOX: Chris Carrier
How do you feel about working with Nelson Piquet Jr. this year?
"I could not be more excited going into this season. We have had two tests with Nelson during the off season and he has shown all of us at KHI just how talented, driven and passionate a driver he is. I really enjoy working with rookies and watching young talent develop, and Nelson is a perfect example. He has made it very clear to me that he's not here to run 10th, he's here to win."