Nelson Piquet Jr. is confident that his steady approach to his NASCAR transition will pay off better than if he had tried to move straight into Sprint Cup.
The Brazilian scored his first national touring series win at Road America last Saturday, in his first race of a limited Nationwide Series schedule alongside his second full-time Truck season, where he currently ranks sixth in the points.
Piquet has been rebuilding his career in NASCAR after leaving Formula 1 in 2009 amid the Singapore Grand Prix "crashgate" scandal. He said he had tried to be more "realistic" and "patient" in his approach to NASCCAR than other former open-wheel drivers have been, and wants to focus on winning in the Camping World Truck Series while taking another year or two before trying to to move up to Cup.
"A lot of drivers think that just because they run in a top sport like IndyCar, they can just jump into NASCAR and run against Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch," Piquet said. "These guys have been doing this for decades – not only in NASCAR Sprint Cup, but Nationwide, Trucks, Legends, or all of the other different [oval] races that there are, which these guys have started probably when they were four, five, six years old.
"So wherever we came from, it's nearly coming from a different sport and having to learn again. I think there's no other way of doing it than how I've done it, coming into Truck and building myself up. Obviously we did a Nationwide race, but that was a road course, a little bit different.
"You need to realize that even if you have won a championship for IndyCar, or whatever it was, when you get to a different sport, you have to start from whatever your level is. And my level is at the moment a kind of a Truck [Series] level. It's difficult to compare because drivers [in Trucks] have been there a long time or drivers have been doing Cup and are doing Trucks at the moment, but still, I think that's the way it should be."
The most successful open-wheel convert in Cup at present is ex-F1 winner and Champ Car champion Juan Pablo Montoya, who has yet to win in stock cars on an oval, but who is a three-time road course winner in NASCAR and was a Chase contender in 2009. Scott Speed and Sam Hornish Jr. won NASCAR races on ovals after moving from F1 and IndyCar respectively, but neither currently has a full-time Cup drive.
Ex-F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve and multiple IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti failed in their attempts at NASCAR careers, the latter returning to open-wheel to enjoy his most successful years in IndyCar, winning all three titles since rejoining the series.
Reigning Cup champion Tony Stewart is also an open-wheel convert, having been the star of the early years of what was then known as the Indy Racing League, but his formative career included plenty of oval racing in midgets and sprint cars.