Nelson Piquet Jr. is the first driver from Brazil to win a NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race. He won Saturday's Widow Wax 125 at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee, leading a race-high 62 laps and holding off Ryan Blaney on a green-white-checkered flag finish.
Brazil's Nelson Piquet Jr. wins Widow Wax 125 at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee
Piquet won the pole and led the first 35 laps of the race. Chase Elliott took the lead from Piquet on lap 36, but Elliott and Blaney collided on lap 76. The damage to Elliott's car forced him to pit. Blaney stayed on the track and raced with the leaders the rest of the way.
Nelson Piquet Jr. winning the first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race of the season
Blaney and Corey LaJoie battle for the lead until lap 101. LaJoie cut a tire and had to pit. Piquet moved back into the lead and held it for the final 27 laps.
"Stayed in control most of the race," said Piquet, a driver for X Team Racing. "In the middle we had a little issue, started getting a little loose. I was also probably not at my best on restarts and on giving space. It's still something that I'm learning, how much space I should give to the guy on the inside, on the outside. That's something that's going to come with time."
Piquet is a regular in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and is planning on racing in two Nationwide Series races this year. He has confirmed rides for the races at Road America and Watkins Glen. He said he has plans to race more in the Nationwide Series.
As for the K&N Pro Series East, Piquet said he is looking to return, perhaps for the race at Richmond International Raceway in April, but has no definite plans yet.
In the race at Bristol, Piquet said he needed to correct some early mistakes to win it in the closing laps. "I managed to get my act together at the end of the race, get my positions back, hold it and bring it in to victory lane," Piquet said.
Piquet is the son of Nelson Piquet, a three-time Formula One champion from Brazil. Piquet Jr. said he talked to his dad after the race at Bristol. "My dad called me, spoke to him a little bit," Piquet Jr. said. "He didn't see the race because it wasn't live in Brazil. I think he was pretty happy."
Blaney led one lap in the race, after knocking Elliott out of the race on lap 76. Blaney, the son of former NASCAR Nextel Cup Series driver Dave Blaney, apologized to Elliott after the race and said his team made key adjustments to his car midway through the race.
"First half of the race we were a little bit too loose for my liking and we couldn't really make up any ground on the leaders," Blaney said.
After the first round of pit stops, Blaney said his crew gave him a near-perfect car. "We were the best car on the track after six, seven laps," Blaney said. "It just took a little bit to get going. That's where Nelson beat us. He could get going really, really quick."
Ryan Gifford finished third. "It was fun today," Gifford said after the race on Saturday. "We had a real good car. I don't know if we had one to get up there and race with those guys. We were a little too free the whole time. That's good. That's an improvement from last year. I think we can come together and win a race here before the year is over. I'm really excited, realty pumped up and ready for Greenville."
Travis Pastrana, an X Games and rally car champion, made his first NASCAR start of 2012. He finished 12th. Elliott recovered from his mid-race collision and finished 10th. LaJoie dropped back in the field and finished a lap down in 22nd.
The next NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race is Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150 at Greenville Pickens Speedway in South Carolina on March 31.
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