While the NASCAR
Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series teams and drivers were away competing in Texas for the weekend, the Camping World Truck Series enjoyed a rare Sunday of racing action in the spotlight back in NASCAR's North Carolina heartland, at the banked 1.017-mile oval Rockingham Speedway.
The race marked NASCAR's return to The Rock for the first time since the Sprint Cup Series decided that it had outgrown the 35,000-capacity facility eight years ago, but the overwhelming enthusiasm with which this weekend's race was greeted by fans, teams and drivers alike might prompt a rethink of the track's ongoing place on the calendar in the future.
The conflicting races over in Texas meant that no Cup or Nationwide series regulars were present for practice or qualifying sessions, leaving former F1 driver Nelson Piquet Jr. the opportunity to claim his first pole position in 33 starts in the NASCAR
Camping World Truck Series. His lap of 24.933s (144.387mph) was just one thousandth of a second faster than series rookie Paulie Harraka.
Despite the scheduling clash, two Cup drivers - Kasey Kahne and David Reutimann - did get on a plane and arrived back in North Carlina in time to compete in the Sunday afternoon Good Sam Roadside Assistance 200 race itself, albeit having to start from the back row because of their earlier in-attendance.
Piquet led from the start and for the first 67 laps of the 200-lap race, before a restart following a debris caution allowed Matt Craven to take over in front for nearly 20 laps. Piquet regained the lead again on lap 83 and lost it for only one lap during green flag pit stops, and looked more than capable of seeing off any threat to what could have proved to be his first win in a national NASCAR
Unfortunately for the Brazilian, his next stop under caution for an accident on lap 122 involving Reutimann and series rookie Bryan Silas was a slow one and dropped him down to fifth where he got caught up in traffic. During his final pit stop he was focused on trying to make up for the earlier delays and overcompensated on his exit, promptly getting handed a pit lane speeding penalty as a result. It was all he could do to battle his way back into the top ten by the end of the race.
"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," he confirmed. "It happened. It's the first time I've had something like that happen.
"I didn't think that I was going to get penalized, just because the exit was so short [from my pit box] and my wheels were spinning so much. I had no idea," continued Piquet. "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."
In total, Piquet had led for 107 laps, but after that pit stop fumble he had to watch from afar as first Timothy Peters and then Matt Craven took charge of the race. Craven was looking very strong for the win - until Kasey Kahne completed his surge from the back of the grid and took over the lead on lap 155.