It was touch and go whether Piquet could make it to the end of the race without another pit stop, but it was worth a shot. And so he dug in, slowed up to conserve enough fuel to allow him to have a chance of making it to the end, and watched the race unfold ahead of him.
"I knew that Nelson is very good at saving fuel," said Carrier of his belief that they could make the strategy work. "It comes very natural to him ... He's got very good throttle control, very good car control. He knows how to draft."
Busch was still in control of the race and leading the restart but he stil had to make a final pit stop of his own, which he did on lap 79 as the rest of the field cycled through pit lane. On lap 89, that shuffle left Piquet out on front again on his own, but the team were still anxious about the fuel situation and getting their driver to slow down and do whatever he had to to lean out the fuel use.
Carrier admitted that the fuel situation was so near the knuckle that he even considered a late splash-and-dash eight laps from the end: "We changed our minds three times in one lap," said Carrier about the deliberations. In the end, "We kind of just rolled the dice."
Piquet's speed on lap 90 was 184.952 mph; on the final lap it was down to 158.580 mph. "I was getting a bit scared of putting down second gear and just coasting," admitted Piquet. "I was going half-throttle already. They told me to back off more, that's why I was worried - I didn't know who the second place was."
But his margin over the field was such that when he did finally cross the line and claim the chequered flag, he was still eight seconds ahead of Jason White who was on a similar fuel-stretching strategy. Rookie Dakoda Armstrong held on to third place ahead of Parker Kligerman making his début as driver of the #7 Toyota for Red Horse Racing after being dropped by Brad Keseelowski's squad. Polesitter Joey Coulter ended up coming home in seventh place ahead of Keselowski in eighth and Kurt Busch in ninth.
"It was fun to get back in the trucks," said Busch, who despite the disappointment of missing out on the win that had seemed rightfully his for much of the afternoon was in pretty upbeat spirits nonetheless. "I really enjoyed myself out there and wanted to do a good job for Kyle and I think we got that done as far as evaluating our program. His program. I say 'Ours' because we're brothers and it's fun to do this together."
But all eyes were on the man celebrating his first series victory: "It came in a dramatic way, but it came. It doesn't matter how, but we did it!" he said. "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."
It's the breakthrough win that he really wanted, after earlier this winning a regional race in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East at Bristol Motor Speedway in March, and then following that up with victory in just his third NASCAR Nationwide Series start at Road America, putting his F1 experience to good use on the road course.
"I want to prove to fans that I can win in any car that they put me into," added Piquet, delighted with his win on the two-mile Michigan oval to show that he's not just another road course ringer from overseas motor racing championships. "Now we have a K&N, Truck and a Nationwide win. Hopefully, we'll get a Cup win soon!"
In the championship standings, Piquet's win raises him to eighth place, 57pts off co-leaders Timothy Peters and Ty Dillon.