Nelson Piquet Jr. had a strong NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut in the season-opening event at Daytona, finishing sixth in an incident-packed event.
Piquet, who drove the No. 1 Toyota Tundra for Red Horse Racing, survived a number of incidents during the race, ran as high as second at one point and got a strong run on the last lap to gain a number of spots on his way to checkered flag.
"It was an amazing feeling," said an excited Piquet following the race. "I'm just so happy to be able to finish the race and stay out of trouble, sort of – I had my touches and bumps here and there, but I managed to keep the truck in my hands. It was really tough.
"Just unexplainable – so much pressure and fun all at the same time with the guys all around pushing and bumping. There on the last lap, hitting side by side and then trusting the last corner and just doing it flat and knowing that it needed to go and then gaining like three or four positions in the last lap of the last corner. It's amazing. It's much better than last week [in the ARCA event]. I learned so much last week that it helped me a lot for this race. I'm really happy, the team did an excellent job. I need to thank Toyota and Red Horse for helping me so much."
The Brazilian had qualified 22nd, focusing more on his race setup, and quickly started to make progress once the green flag waved, doing a good job at avoiding the race's first incident which happened as soon as the first lap and right ahead of him. By lap 25, he was already up to 12th place and drafting well in the middle of the pack and when another incident unfolded past the halfway point, he was once again able to avoid getting involved, moving up to seventh place.
Piquet would actually jump up to second following a round of stops under the third caution of the race, when different strategies shuffled the order. He lost the draft on the restart though and dropped back, but remained in the top 10.
By the time a fifth caution of the race came out, he was already back up to third place but later he had another close moment, when Mario Gosselin spun while trying to get in his draft.
On lap 83, Piquet misjudged a bump-drafting move with Max Papis, who ended up turned sideways and against the outside wall, an incident that the Brazilian apologized for over his radio.
Following the seventh and final caution, Piquet tried to go on his own on the outside line while running in the top five, but he would eventually be forced to get back on the inside line. On the last lap, he tried to make the outside work again and would finally crossed the finish line sixth.
"I think it was a bit of my inexperience over here," admitted Piquet. "Everybody was pushing and I had pushed one or two trucks before. He came out, he was by himself, I went to push him and I don't know if I pushed him on the wrong side or if our bumpers didn't line up or what happened.
"The moment that I touched him, he just went off. I really felt bad. I didn't know if it was the right time to apologize on the radio, but I have to give him an apology."
Piquet's Red Horse Racing teammate Timothy Peters was the winner of the event.
The former Renault Formula 1 driver expects to be on the grid for the second race of the season at Atlanta on March 6, but he has yet to secure a deal to complete the whole season in the No. 1 truck.