KANSAS CITY, Kan. (June 5, 2011) - Nelson Piquet Jr. fought back from an early-race incident to finish eighth Saturday afternoon at Kansas Speedway in the Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) No. 8 Bozzano/Jontex Chevrolet Silverado.
After the team showed speed Friday afternoon during two practice sessions, Piquet Jr. went into qualifying Saturday morning with confidence in his truck and team. The rookie laid down a lap time of 31.818 seconds (169.715 mph), quick enough to land him in the fourth spot to start the race. The qualifying position ties him with his career-best qualifying effort that he earned at Nashville Superspeedway in April.
The green flag dropped on the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 on Saturday afternoon, and the Brazilian driver looked to secure a top finish in his first trip to the Kansas City track. Starting in the fourth position, Piquet Jr. relayed to the No. 8 team that the truck was a bit tight right from the start of the race.
Piquet Jr. was holding steady in the seventh position by lap 16 when the first caution of the race fell for Piquet’s KHI teammate in the No. 33 when the truck hit the wall after a flat tire. Piquet Jr. radioed to the crew that he was happy with the truck, but it lacked grip. Running consistently in the top 10, the No. 8 team made its first pit stop of the day on lap 51 under green-flag conditions. The No. 8 Bozzano/Jontex Chevrolet Silverado received four tires, an air-pressure adjustment and fuel.
In unfortunate timing, a yellow flag waved on lap 60, putting the No. 8 one lap down in the 24th position. With the current leaders pitting, Piquet Jr. was able to take the wave-around from NASCAR, starting at the back of the field in the 22nd position when the green flag waved on lap 62.
As Piquet Jr. battled to get back to the front of the pack running in the 19th position, he made contact with the No. 92, causing the Chevrolet Silverado to go spinning down the frontstretch across the infield grass. With limited damage, the No. 8 came down pit road for the KHI crew to assess the condition of the truck and make any necessary repairs. The team bolted on four fresh tires and added fuel to the No. 8, and used bare bond to repair the left rear of the truck. As the leaders were coming back around to the start-finish line under caution, Piquet Jr. went back out to the track to avoid going a lap down. Piquet Jr. brought the No. 8 down pit road for an additional stop before the field went back to green-flag racing on lap 76.
The young driver showed determination to gain back the positions he lost as he battled his way through traffic, going three-wide through the corners. A caution flag dropped on lap 97, providing an opportunity for the No. 8 to come down pit road to get four tires and fuel. After the green flag waved to restart the race, another quick caution slowed the field on lap 110.
Crew chief Chris Carrier used the opportunity to institute smart pit strategy, bringing in the No. 8 in for a fuel-only stop. “We should be good to the end of the race,” said Carrier. “Conserve the gas, and just be smart.”
Piquet Jr. took the green flag on lap 115 restarting in the eighth position and continued to battle three-wide around the track to maintain his position. A caution on lap 131 provided another opportunity for the No. 8 team to come down pit road to put on the last set of fresh tires, but as field came around turn four, the leaders diverted from pit road back to the track, and the No. 8 followed.
When the field resumed green-flag racing, Piquet Jr. fought hard to work his way up through the field. In the end, KHI teammate Clint Bowyer took the checkered flag for the first KHI Truck Series victory of the season with Piquet Jr. coming in with an eighth-place finish, his second top-10 result so far this season.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will head to Texas Motor Speedway next Friday night June 10th for the WinStar World Casino 400k. The green flag will wave at 8 p.m. CT with live coverage on SPEED.
Comments from driver, Nelson Piquet Jr.:
“Overall it was a good day, but we had a really tough time throughout much of the race. The truck wasn’t bad, but the conditions just were not ideal. We were not in sync with the strategy of other trucks, so we were in the middle of a lot of trucks and running three-wide a lot this race. I have to thank the team who worked really hard on the truck throughout the day, especially after we spun. We had a hard-fought day, and we are going to take what we learned and go to Texas Motor Speedway next week.”