Nelson Piquet Jr. will race full time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for former champion team Kevin Harvick Inc. in 2011, the Brazilian announced Monday. The former Renault F1 driver will enter his first full season of racing next year since leaving Formula 1, pushing ahead with his stock car career after competing in three different series last year and achieving positive results.
Piquet announced that he will drive a Chevrolet Silverado for two-time series champion KHI, a team owned by Sprint Cup Series star Kevin Harvick. He is set to enter the 25 points events of 2011, starting the season as a rookie of the year candidate on February 18 at Daytona International Speedway.
KHI won the 2007 and 2009 Truck Series titles with veteran Ron Hornaday at the wheel. Last season the squad, which fielded two full-time entries, claimed seven victories with four different drivers including three wins from team owner Harvick. The team also fields a car in the Nationwide Series, where Harvick drove to three victories in 2010.
"It's a great opportunity to be able to race for Kevin Harvick," Piquet said during a press conference on Monday afternoon in Sao Paulo. "I want to become the first Brazilian to do a competitive season in NASCAR. I think it's important to open that door for Brazilians in the United States... It's going to be an interesting season next year.
"I'm looking forward to the first race already. In 2010 I had the opportunity to do some Truck races and I became really passionate for the series. I'm glad to be able to do a full season again in this new chapter of my career in the United States."
Piquet competed in five truck series races in 2010, scoring a sixth-place finish on his debut at Daytona. He also scored top-10 finishes in the ARCA RE/MAX and Nationwide Series, where he drove a few races while finding his feet in stock car racing. The 25-year-old hopes to take his time to go through the NASCAR rankings in the next few years and eventually reach the Sprint Cup series with the aim of being competitive at the top level.
"I don't know how it will unfold," said Piquet about the NASCAR career that lies ahead of him. "This is a long-term plan. Our idea is to remain in Trucks for two years and after than, depending on my performance, we would move up to Nationwide and then to Cup. But my goal is to get there very well prepared, with a good team that gives me the chance to fight for victories."
Miguel Paludo, who ran four truck races in 2010, will make it two Brazilians competing full-time in the Truck Series in 2011.