Nelson Piquet Jr. was impressed by his first NASCAR run after testing a Toyota Tundra truck for Red Horse Racing this week.
The former Renault F1 racer got his first taste of NASCAR machinery at Motor Mile Speedway on Tuesday, after initial plans to run at Little Rock in Rockingham had to be called off due to rain on Monday. Piquet said he was surprised by the speeds ran at the 0.416-mile short track, where he also sampled an oval for the first time.
"I was actually surprised at how fast it is on the oval," said Piquet. "It's a lot of fun, and not as easy as people might think it is. It takes a little different driving technique to be fast, but I was lucky to have a good team helping me adjust to some of the differences about driving an oval."
The 24-year-old said driving the 700-horsepower, 1.5-ton Toyota Tundra was not as physically demanding as a Formula 1 car, but admitted it required a different mental approach.
"[Physically] It's a lot easier in the truck," said Piquet. "Since the straights are so short, you're almost always turning and it's only to the left. And the lap times are so short. The biggest difference is mentally getting used to driving in circles.
"If you mess up in one corner, that's half the track and your time will reflect that. You really need to stay focused and get into a rhythm because you're trying to hit the same two marks over and over again."
Red Horse Racing team owner Tom Deloach was impressed by both Piquet and Vitor Meira, who joined his countryman for their maiden NASCAR run. He said both drivers adapted quicker than they anticipated to the handling characteristics of a heavier car.
"I think the biggest thing for drivers coming from different disciplines of racing is car control," Deloach said. "These trucks are so heavy compared to cars that they are used to that it would be pretty easy to go too hard in the corner, have a hard time slowing it down enough to get a good corner exit.
"Both Vitor (Meira) and Nelson (Piquet, Jr.) were turning impressive lap times, without really wearing out the brakes. That tells me that they understood early the importance of getting the truck slowed down, hitting their marks and accelerating early off the corner. That really impressed me."
Despite enjoying his first NASCAR outing, Piquet said the experience was just part of exploring a possible future in stock car racing, something he is not ready to commit to just yet.
"I'm just exploring at the moment," said Piquet. "I just want to meet a lot of people, visit with teams and ask a lot of questions. I want to see if I could be happy here in NASCAR. This could change my whole life, so I want to be 100 percent sure that this is what I want to do."