“It’s finally an amazing moment that I made it in the Truck Series,” Brazillian driver Nelson Piquet Jr. said in victory lane after taking the checkered flag in the VFW 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Michigan International Speedway on Saturday.
Piquet was able to do so on fuel mileage, opting to stay out when most of the rest of the race field headed down pit road during the final 20 or so laps of the 100-lap race.
“He does it (conserves fuel) naturally,” crew chief Chris Carrier said. “I don’t know how.”
However he did it, Jason White and Dakoda Armstrong also did it to finish second and third.
Brad Keselowski and James Buescher did pit in the final laps, but a fuel only strategy got them out in front of previous race leader Kurt Busch to garner fourth and fifth-place finishes.
Piquet took the lead from pole sitter Joey Coulter on lap one and led the way until the first caution of the race caame out for debris on lap 12. During that caution, as others pitted, Brad Keselowski stayed out to gain the lead.
Kurt Busch, running his first Truck Series race in 11 years, got by Keselowski on the restart to take the top spot. Keselowski would eventually head down pit road under green on lap 28, and Piquet took his place in second position.
Busch and Piquet then pulled away from the rest of the field, building up a three-second cushion on everyone else. But they lost track position, courtesy of yellow-flag pit stops when the caution came out again for debris on lap 38.
Todd Bodine and John Wes Townley took only two tires on their stops to get off pit road first and second and claim the top-two spots for the restart. As Townley lost several positions, Bodine was able to remain up front for a few laps until losing the lead to Busch and then second to Piquet on lap 44.
Bodine then was involved in a couple of cautions — on the receiving end of contact from Townley on lap 46 and then backing his truck into the wall, ending his day for good, a few laps later on lap 51.
As Busch continued to lead, his second-place runner Piquet was replaced by Johnny Sauter after Busch and Piquet made contact with 45 laps remaining. Busch was able to remain up front, but Piquet lost several positions.
Busch and Sauter, then running first and second, gave up their top-two spots to make one final pit stop under green with 22 laps remaining. Most of the other drivers eventually made the trip down pit road, handing the top positions over to those opting to stay out and roll the dice on fuel.
“I’ve watched several races int his series and the other two series end like this,” Carrier said.
Common or not, Piquet was up with the idea to stay out.
“I said, ‘Let’s just go for it,’” Piquet said he told Carrier of the decision to save fuel and stay out.
Piquet, obviously, went for it and got it.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR
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