Nelson Piquet claims he could have made a return to Formula 1 this year if he wanted, after revealing that he had a firm offer for a drive in 2010.
The Brazilian, who was at the center of the Renault race-fix controversy that marred the end of last season, is now chasing opportunities to race in NASCAR – having recently tested a Toyota Tundra truck. Piquet is adamant that his move to NASCAR is not because he had no chance of getting back into F1 but was because he did not want to get involved in the politics that surround grand prix racing.
"I could've been there (Formula 1) if I wanted to," Piquet said. "A team offered me to be there. I just thought I was sick and tired of all of the stuff over there. I just took a decision of starting a new step in my career and a new challenge in coming to NASCAR.
"For a lot of people who are outside of America, it's a downgrade. But for people who really understand, maybe it's a downgrade in technology of the car, but in terms of career, of how big the sport is in a lot of ways it's even a tougher step than F1.
"For me, I compare it side by side. It's just two different types of cars. The level of competition and the seriousness and the business of both series are very, very high. I was just sick and tired of things over there. I got a very, very good opportunity to start my career over here, and I'm here."
It is not clear which team made the offer to Piquet, but the Brazilian was strongly linked at one point with the new Campos Meta team – which has already signed his compatriot Bruno Senna for 2010.
Piquet said many things factored in his decision to switch to NASCAR besides the professional opportunities he had available. He says he feels supported by good people in his new venture in the U.S., which is set to start next month at Daytona.
"I had to balance a lot of things," Piquet said. "I had to balance my happiness. I had to balance my opportunities. I had to balance a lot of things and I think the best thing that I came up with – that I thought would be better for me – was the NASCAR route.
"I think the biggest factor point is that I'm having a lot of people behind me helping me, wanting me to be here. A lot of people who I trust and I'm liking. So, all of that has been very good for me. I think that's what has played a big factor into the decision."
This week, Piquet has had a seat fitting for his stock car debut and has spent time in the Red Horse Racing factory. He plans to make his NASCAR debut with the team in the Camping World Truck Series season opener on Feb. 12, but a deal has been in the works for him to enter the ARCA event at the same track a week earlier.
Piquet will be the first Brazilian to compete in NASCAR after Christian Fittipaldi drove for Petty Enterprises at Charlotte in the Sprint Cup series in 2003.