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Nationwide: Piquet Jr. seals first NASCAR win

Former F1 driver Nelson Piquet Jr. charged to his first national-level NASCAR Series win at Road America with victory in the Sargento 200 Nationwide Series road race.
Nelson Piquet Jr. is finally a full NASCAR national level race winner in the US, after claiming victory in only his third appearance in the Nationwide Series in the Sargento 200 road course race at Elkhart Lake's 4.048-mile, 14-turn Road America track.

Piquet Jr. becomes the first Brazilian and only the fifth driver born outside the US to win a major NASCAR event, after having previously won a race in the regional K&N Pro Series East series in March at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“The car was great," he said after claiming the chequered flag at the end of two and a half hours of tough and physical road course racing. "I just had to make sure I didn't make any mistakes."

Having earlier won pole position for the Sargento 200 - itself a first for him at this level - Piquet Jr. got a good start to take the lead in a largely incident-green beginning to the 50-lap race, but it was clear that the more experienced Michael McDowell in second place had the faster car and sure enough the #18 soon passed for the lead going up the hill toward turn 6 on lap 3.

With the four-mile length of this road course, pit stop strategy here is totally different from anywhere else on the NASCAR calendar since it is possible to come in for a stop and not lose a lap. That opened up an unusual strategy for Michael Annett and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who both came in at the end of the first lap to top up on fuel, in order that they could get back out on track in clear air away from any incidents that might break out in the main pack.

Sam Hornish Jr. was in next time around, although that didn't work so well as he ended up dragging his refuelling can out of the pit stall as he pulled away and had to serve a drive-thru; a couple of laps later it was Jacques Villeneuve and Kurt Busch on pit road, and then next time by it was the two leaders McDowell and Piquet Jr. in for their first stops.

That left Canadian road ace Ron Fellows in charge of the race, but he suffered a left front puncture and ended up losing a huge amount of time limping around the track back to pit lane; Brian Scott inherited the lead ahead of Justin Allgaier, Danica Patrick and Cole Whitt who had all yet to stop; Patrick was putting her road racing experience to good use by pressuring Allgaier into a small mistake, locking up his brakes and giving the #7 an open invitation to go past.

But this set of leaders were somewhat undone when a caution came out on lap 13 for a spin by TJ Bell at turn 14: they would now have to come in for their stop after the field had closed up again, costing them a number of positions in the process.

At the restart, McDowell was back in front but sharing the front row with 'Mad' Max Papis, who was always going to do his level best to snatch the lead at the first opportunity - and he duly pulled it off going into turn 3, soon pulling out a couple of car lengths over McDowell but not allowed to escape any further than that before a new caution came out on lap 17 for debris on the main straight.



Related Pictures

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Nelson Piquet Jr. celebrates in Victory Lane at Bristol. (Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR)
Nelson Piquet Jr. claims pole position in the Inaugural Good Sam Roadside Assistance 200 at Rockingham Speedway. April 2012. [Photo credit: Rainer Ehrhardt/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Nelson Piquet Jr., driver of the #30 Qualcomm / Autotrac Chevrolet, celebrates with the Coors Light Pole Award after posting the fastest speed (109.516 mph, 133.066 secs.) during qualifying for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Sargento 200 at Road America on June 23, 2012 in Elkhart Lake, Wisc. (Photo Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Nelson Piquet Jr. ahead of qualifying for the Inaugural Good Sam Roadside Assistance 200 at Rockingham Speedway. April 2012. [Photo credit: Rainer Ehrhardt/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Nelson Piquet Jr. celebrates with his team in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Sargento 200 at Road America on June 23 in Elkhart Lake, Wisc. (Photo Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to a second place finish, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS finishes in sixth place, and Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision finishes in twelfth place Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. This Chevrolet drivers finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th (respectively) in the Chase of the Cup Championship. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Series championship contenders Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, take part in pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race with a burnout after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race with his team after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the series championship and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, and Daniel Suarez, driver of the #18 ARRIS Toyota, lead the field on the first lap of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 21, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #33 Rheem Chevrolet, leads Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Crest Chevrolet, during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 21, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)
Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, qualifies for thirteenth position Friday, November 20, 2015 for Sunday`s Championship 4, the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Harvick will be joined by Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS and Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS to compete for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, qualifies for eleventh position Friday, November 20, 2015 for Sunday`s Championship 4, the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Truex, Jr. will be joined by Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS to compete for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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