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Piquet Jr. takes maiden win in K&N East
20 March 2012
Nelson Piquet Jr. became the first Brazilian race car driver to win a race in NASCAR's K&N Pro Series East when he took victory in Saturday's "Widow Wax 125 presented by SealWrap Repair Tape" race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“It's an amazing victory. It's just good to accomplishing something you've been trying to do for a long time,” said the 26-year-old former F1 driver, after winning for Brazilian outfit X Team Racing from pole position despite dropping to fifth during the race and then having to withstand stiff opposition from Ryan Blaney under a green-white-chequered finish to seal the win.
"I was probably not at my best on restarts and giving space," said Piquet. "[But] I managed to get my act together at the end of the race, get my positions back and hold it, and bring it to victory lane."
It was Piquet's first race in the K&N Pro Series East regional championship. While not the first national-level victory that Piquet is striving for with his regular Camping World Truck Series ride or his limited Nationwide Series runs, it's still an impressive entry into the US stock car record books for Piquet.
Saturday's win makes him just one of eight non-US born drivers to have won at any level in NASCAR. That puts him into the same company as drivers including Mario Andretti (Italy), Juan Pablo Montoya (Columbia), Marcos Ambrose (Australia) and Ron Fellows (Canada).
"It was a great result and a very important day for me," he said. "We were fastest in free practice, I got my first NASCAR pole and then my first win. To achieve my first victory in the USA and my first victory in a stock car is a very special emotion for me.
"To carry the Brazilian flag to Victory Lane was part of the dream for me and now I've conquered that it is such a motivation for the rest of the year," he added. "It's good to be able to give a Brazilian team a first victory and being a Brazilian driver it's always going to be remembered by the team."
Piquet is hoping that the win in K&N is a positive sign for his forthcoming races in the national-level races as well.
"It's definitely good to have this right at the start of the year and it's good practice for me," he said. "Seat time, especially on short tracks where you are running close to the other cars, has been something I needed experience in so I'm focused on ironing out any place that I need more experience. I'll probably race the K&N series again at Richmond for that reason.
"Obviously my goal is to be in Cup one day, but we're going to have to take baby steps," he added. "That's how it's going to start - win here, win in Trucks, then in Nationwide and slowly we'll work up there ... I want to be the first Brazilian to win a Sprint championship, so my goals are definitely higher - but this is a good start!"
Piquet finished in 10th place in his début year as a rookie in the Camping World Truck Series in 2011. He suffered an accident late in the opening race of the 2012 season at Daytona in February and was classified in 22nd position, a disappointing end after qualifying strongly on the front row of the grid. The second Truck Series race of the season is at Martinsville on March 31.
In the meantime, Piquet can take a moment to savour the weekend's success.
"It's been really great, I've had a lot of congratulations," he revealed. "It's good for people to see that I'm learning and improving and dedicating myself to competing in NASCAR."
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