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Positive spin: Piquet stretches fuel for first Truck win

August 18, 2012, NASCAR Wire Service, NASCAR.com

Nelson Piquet Jr. celebrates his win at Michigan with his native Brazilian flag. (Getty Images)

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Spin to win.

What looked like a disaster early on for Nelson Piquet Jr. -- a spin on Lap 56 -- turned fortuitous as green flags clicked by to close the VFW 200 at Michigan International Speedway.

VFW 200

Results
Pos.DriverMake
2.Jason White Ford
3.Dakoda Armstrong Toyota
4.Parker Kligerman Toyota
5.James Buescher Chevrolet

Piquet and crew chief Chris Carrier employed a brilliant -- and race-winning -- strategy to capture the Brazilian's first victory in the Camping World Truck Series. The duo chose to stay out on the race track while the frontrunners pitted under green, and milked a huge lead that ballooned to more than 15 seconds with seven laps remaining.

"Me and Chris have been fighting for this win since the beginning of last year and we finally made it," Piquet said. "It came in a dramatic way, but it came. It doesn't matter how, but we did it and I'm really happy that the whole team stayed behind me this whole time. It is a little weight off my back and for the whole family. I am just living to do what our family always did, win races and win championships."

Piquet, whose father, Nelson, is a three-time Formula One champion, led the first 13 laps, stalked by Kurt Busch early. Busch, the 2000 Truck rookie of the year, had not started a series race since June 30, 2001. Busch eventually took the lead on Lap 17, and led a race-high 57 laps.

On Lap 56, Piquet was racing Busch hard coming out of Turn 2. The two trucks tapped, with Piquet the victim -- or so it seemed at the time. The spin forced Piquet to pit road, which put him on a different pit cycle than the rest of the field. That allowed the Brazilian to run the remainder of the race without a pit stop, a side effect that eventually led to Victory Lane.

* Final Laps | Victory Lane | Post-Race Reactions

Piquet is the first Brazilian to win a Truck Series race and only the second driver born outside the United States to do so (Canadian Ron Fellows is the other). Piquet joined the series in 2010 after a two-year stint in F1. This 2012 season has been by far his most successful, with victories coming in the K&N Pro Series East, the Nationwide Series and, now, the Trucks.

"I want to prove to fans that I can win in any car that they put me into," Piquet said.

Jason White (second) and Dakoda Armstrong (third) each posted career-best finishes. Parker Kligerman, who ran his first race with Red Horse Racing, and James Buescher rounded out the top five.

Piquet's truck, from the outset, looked like a winning one -- until the fateful spin.

"After they revived me," Carrier joked, "we just had to push reset and take the situation at that moment. [I said] we're going to regroup here. All the decisions at that point were no-brainers."

After the spin, Piquet entered the pits for new tires and a tankful of fuel. Carrier deciphered that if Piquet went full-throttle for the remainder of the race, he'd be a lap and a half short on gas.

In other words, Piquet was forced to practice something quite foreign to a race car driver: slow down. That's exactly what he did. On Lap 90, Piquet turned a lap of 184.952 mph. On Lap 100, the final lap, he was going 158.580 mph.

"I knew that Nelson is very good at saving fuel," Carrier said. "It comes very natural to him."

The difficult decision -- whether to pit or not to pit -- did not come easy. With eight laps remaining, Carrier waved off the call for Piquet to enter the pits.

"We kind of just rolled the dice," Carrier said. "We changed our minds three times in one lap."

Notes-n-Nuggets

Nelson Piquet Jr. got his first career win in his 42nd start.
• Nelson Piquet Jr. is second foreign-born driver to win in the Truck Series, joining Ron Fellows.
• Nelson Piquet Jr. is the fifth first-time winner of 2012 and the third first-time winner at Michigan
• Nelson Piquet Jr. is the 11th different winner at Michigan and 10th different winner of 2012.
• Nelson Piquet Jr. led three times for 26 laps, including the final 12.
• Nelson Piquet Jr.'s last pit stop was on Lap 57.
• Turner Motorsports earned his fifth career win, all in 2012, and first win at Michigan.
• Chevrolet got its eighth win of 2012 and third win at Michigan.
• Jason White (second) earned his best career finish in his 140th start.
• Dakoda Armstrong (third) got her best career finish.
• Parker Kligerman (fourth) earned his second-best finish of 2012 in his first race with Red Horse Racing.
• James Buescher (fifth) got his seventh top-five of 2012 and trails Timothy Peters by six points in the standings.
• Austin Dillon (sixth) earned his 13th career top-10 in his 15th start and is tied for the points lead.
• Brad Keselowski (eighth) still is winless in the series; he had finished in the top three in the past three starts.
• Kurt Busch (ninth) finished in the top 10 in his first series start since 2001.
• Timothy Peters (13th) is tied for the points lead. His two worst finishes of 2012 were in the past two races.

The win moved Piquet up to eighth in points. Timothy Peters, who finished 13th, remains the standings leader, but in a points tie with rookie Ty Dillon. Peters owns the tiebreaker thanks to his victory at Iowa in July.