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Piquet ponders what might have been at Rockingham

April 15, 2012, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com

Nelson Piquet Jr. scored a race-high 132.7 Driver Rating and received two bonus points for his efforts at Rockingham. (Getty Images)

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. -- Nelson Piquet Jr. was so close to his first Camping World Truck Series victory, he felt like he could almost reach out and touch the old-school trophy that Rockingham Speedway planned to hand out following Sunday's Good Sam Roadside Assistance 200.

Then it all went away.

"It's the first time I've had something like that happen, but it's learning."

--NELSON PIQUET JR.

Fighting to get off pit road quickly behind race leader Kasey Kahne after the final pit stop of the afternoon, Piquet was penalized for being too fast exiting. Piquet went from running second and having a shot to chase down Kahne to having to run like a madman just to get back inside the top 10 before the checkered flag flew.

* Video: Speeding penalty costs Piquet | Reaction

He at least did that, driving all the way up to seventh after banging doors with Ty Dillon and making his final pass as the two came off the final turn to the start/finish line. Asked if he at least gained a small measure of satisfaction from rallying for the seventh-place finish that lifted him one spot to sixth in the series point standings, Piquet grimaced and said: "Well, I mean, satisfying would be winning the race. We're drivers. We like winning. Apart from that, it's tough."

Piquet was the dominant truck early in Sunday's event, leading 85 of the first 100 laps and a race-high total of 107 in all. Prior to Sunday, he had led a total of just 67 laps in the first 32 races of his Truck Series career.

But even after winning the pole for the race by turning a lap at 144.387 mph in qualifying on Saturday, Piquet admitted he was surprised about how good his No. 30 Chevrolet was in Sunday's race.

"Actually the truck was much better than I expected. We were much quicker than I thought we'd be. I mean, it was perfect," Piquet said.

Piquet last led the race on Lap 123, relinquishing it to Timothy Peters' No. 17 Toyota following a round of pit stops. He said the determination to not let that happen again was what led to his costly mistake following the final stop.

"I didn't think that I was going to get penalized, just because the exit was so short [from the first pit stall he earned by winning the pole] and my wheels were spinning so much. I had no idea," Piquet said. "I didn't feel like I pushed it too hard, I guess I just went a fraction too fast and pushed it just over the limit.

"I was trying to recover the position on a pit stop after I lost the lead, and I pushed it too much and went over the limit. It happened. It's the first time I've had something like that happen, but it's learning. Next time I'll try to recover the position on the track and not in the pits."

Piquet, the son of three-time Formula One world champion driver Nelson Piquet, is in only his second season of driving full time in the NASCAR series. He has admitted that he wants to prove he can win races in the Trucks before contemplating a move to the Nationwide Series and eventually, if all continues to go well, to the Sprint Cup Series.

So he knew that Sunday was a lost chance to gain ground on that projected career thread. He credited his crew chief, Chris Carrier, and his Turner Motorsports team with keeping him focused so that winning races hopefully will begin happening in the near future.

"For sure we're close," Piquet said. "The team worked really hard in the preseason. Chris, the whole group, they've been working so hard to try to get me there [to Victory Lane]. I want to get there for them as much as I do for myself.

"I tried to do too much. It was a good learning experience, I guess. I had to work my way back up there and at least I showed I could do that without putting the truck in danger."

Piquet said he enjoyed racing at Rockingham Speedway for the first time.

"I think the good thing about Rockingham is that the tires fall off so fast and you have to really race these trucks a lot," Piquet said. "The whole race, you're on the edge -- and I think that's what makes a great race. I was really happy with that part of it. I wish we had more races like these."