BRISTOL, Tenn. (August 25, 2011) – Nelson Piquet Jr. headed to Bristol, Tenn. with his No. 8 Qualcomm/Autotrac team for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ midweek showdown at Bristol Motor Speedway. Making his first start at the .533-mile concrete track, the rookie driver qualified the Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) Chevrolet Silverado on the outside pole and survived a caution-filled night to finish in the eighth position.
As the sun began to set, the trucks roared to full speed at Bristol. Piquet Jr. found himself shuffled out of his second starting spot to third in the opening laps of the race. As the young driver settled into the third position, the night’s first caution came on lap 10. Given it was early in the race, crew chief Chris Carrier made the call for the young driver to remain on the track during the caution and Piquet Jr. took the lap 18 restart from the third spot.
Back under green-flag conditions, Piquet Jr. radioed to his KHI crew that his Chevrolet was tight in the middle of the turns. By the 200-lap event’s second caution on lap 32 for an accident in turn two, the driver had fallen to sixth place. As the field slowed, Piquet Jr. relayed that his Chevrolet was not as tight as it had been at the beginningof the run. Carrier, watching what pit strategies the leaders chose, instructed his driver to remain on the track and to start conserving fuel. The green flag waved on lap 37 with the No. 8 Chevrolet holding the sixth position.
Not long into the green-flag run, the yellow flew for the third time on lap 53. Running in the seventh position at the time of caution, Carrier called Piquet Jr. to pit road where the KHI crew bolted on four tires, added fuel and made a quick chassis adjustment to the No. 8. Varying pit strategies unfolded during the stop and Piquet Jr. returned to the track in the 19th position for the lap 59 restart.
The fourth caution of the night quickly followed on lap 63. Piquet Jr. kept his Qualcomm/Autotrac machine on the track and took the lap 72 restart from the 18th position. The driver patiently made his way around competitors, reaching the 15th spot by the time the field slowed for a fifth caution on lap 90. Carrier again kept the No. 8 off of pit road and reminded Piquet Jr. to conserve fuel.
The race resumed green-flag conditions on lap 98 with Piquet Jr. in 15th. Just as the race advanced past the halfway point, the yellow caution lights flashed again as an accident unfolded in turn two. Piquet Jr. communicated to his crew that the balance of his Chevrolet was pretty good. With the positive feedback, the driver remained on track and took the restart on lap 109 from the 12th position.
Before the leaders could complete lap 114, a multi-truck accident brought out the night’s seventh caution. On the verge of the top 10 and in a good fuel-mileage position, the No. 8 remained on track in the 11th position.
When the field went back to green on lap 120, Piquet Jr. fought door-to-door to maintain his position as the truck battled around the Tennessee short track. The young driver briefly slipped back to the 13th spot but by the race’s eighth caution with 30 laps to go to the end, he was running 10th.
Piquet Jr. radioed to Carrier and his crew that the No. 8 Qualcomm/Autotrac Chevrolet was just a touch tight in the middle and exit of the turns but overall was happy with the handling. Carrier relayed that the team was in a good position on fuel and opted not to pit. Just as the field prepared to return to green-flag racing, trucks in front of the No. 8 ran out of fuel which moved Piquet Jr. to seventh when the race finally resumed with 16 laps remaining.
The ninth and final caution of the night slowed the field on lap 187. Even though the team was good on fuel, Carrier continued to encourage Piquet Jr. to save fuel. With the No. 8 in the seventh spot, the race returned to green-flag conditions with only 10 laps to the end. The rookie driver fought to hold on to seventh but sailed across the finish line in the eighth position.
The Truck Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway next week for the Atlanta 200. Tune in SPEED at 8:00 p.m. ET and listen to MRN at 7:45 p.m. ET.