Nelson Piquet Jr. sidesteps Crafton for Vegas trucks win

Nelson Piquet Jr., driver of the #30 Qualcomm Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Smith’s 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on September 29, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Getty Images for NASCAR)

LAS VEGAS — Nelson Piquet Jr. converted a last-ditch, last-lap pass for the lead Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, prevailing in the Smith’s 350 to seal his second NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory of the season.

Piquet dove low to the inside of Matt Crafton in the first turn and made the winning move stick on the backstretch of the 1.5-mile track. Crafton, whose winless streak stretched to 30 races, finished .223 seconds behind the Brazilian at the checkered flag.

Pole-starter Joey Coulter, who made a bold, three-wide move to briefly lead after the final restart, settled for third after leading a race-high 40 of the 146 laps. Las Vegas native Brendan Gaughan took fourth and Todd Bodine rallied from a first-lap spin to finish fifth.

It was the third national series victory in what has been a breakthrough NASCAR season so far for Piquet, who also won in the Nationwide Series’ event at Road America in June and the truck series’ race at Michigan last month. Piquet twice tried to pull in front of Crafton over the final green-flag run, but made the third time the charm.

“I have no idea what happened,” Piquet said. “I had to give it a last try, I sticked it in there and God gave me a little bit more grip on the inside and we made it. It feels great. We really needed this win — probably the best win of my career. For sure, top five moments of my career.”

For Crafton, who led 13 of the last 14 laps except for the final one, the third runner-up finish in the last four races at Las Vegas had an unmistakable sting.

“That sucks, it plain and simple sucks,” Crafton said. “. . . We had a great truck and were really good there at the end. He had a real good run there at the end and I can’t thank these guys enough, but my God, that’s a tough one to lose on the last lap.”

Ty Dillon finished 10th to keep his lead in the standings by one point over James Buescher, who wound up sixth. Timothy Peters finished eighth and ranks third, 24 points off the top.

Parker Kligerman led 36 laps but was sidelined with 20 laps remaining after his third scrape with the outside retaining wall. The 19th-place result dropped Kligerman one spot to fifth in the series points, 39 points behind Dillon.

Action sports star Travis Pastrana recovered from a sixth-lap spin to finish 15th in his truck series debut.

RACE RESULTS

1. (13) Nelson Piquet Jr., Chevrolet, 146.
2.  (4) Matt Crafton, Toyota, 146.
3.  (1) Joey Coulter, Chevrolet, 146.
4.  (6) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 146.
5. (10) Todd Bodine, Toyota, 146.
6. (15) James Buescher, Chevrolet, 146.
7. (12) Cale Gale, Chevrolet, 146.
8.  (2) Timothy Peters, Toyota, 146.
9.  (3) David Mayhew, Toyota, 146.
10.  (5) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 146.
11.  (7) Miguel Paludo, Chevrolet, 146.
12.  (9) Grant Enfinger, RAM, 146.
13. (16) Jason White, Ford, 146.
14. (19) John Wes Townley, Toyota, 146.
15. (17) Travis Pastrana, Toyota, 146.
16. (21) Bryan Silas, Ford, 146.
17. (18) Ryan Reed, Ford, 145.
18. (33) Norm Benning, Chevrolet, 135.
19. (14) Parker Kligerman, Toyota, Accident, 126.
20.  (8) Justin Lofton, Chevrolet, Accident, 114.
21. (11) Johnny Sauter, Toyota, Accident, 114.
22. (24) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, Alternator, 111.
23. (22) Brennan Newberry, Chevrolet, Accident, 102.
24. (32) Chris Lafferty, Chevrolet, Accident, 27.
25. (23) Ross Chastain, Toyota, Suspension, 26.
26. (28) Travis Miller, Chevrolet, Overheating, 23.
27. (20) Ron Hornaday Jr., Chevrolet, Engine, 20.
28. (30) Jennifer Jo Cobb, RAM, Clutch, 19.
29. (34) Chris Fontaine, Chevrolet, Transmission, 13.
30. (25) Johnny Chapman, Toyota, Rear Gear, 11.
31. (27) Dennis Setzer, Chevrolet, Vibration, 7.
32. (26) B.J McLeod, Chevrolet, Overheating, 5.
33. (29) Chris Jones, Chevrolet, Vibration, 4.
34. (31) Clay Greenfield, Ford, Overheating, 3.

RACE STATISTICS

Average Speed of Race Winner: 112.068 mph.
Time of Race: 1 Hrs, 57 Mins, 15 Secs.
Margin of Victory:  0.223 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 8 for 33 laps.
Lead Changes: 17 among 8 drivers.
Lap Leaders: J. Coulter 0; T. Peters 1-18; J. Coulter 19-33; P. Kligerman 34-35; G. Enfinger 36; P. Kligerman 37-70; N. Piquet Jr. 71-76; J. Coulter 77; T. Dillon 78-80; J. Coulter 81-103; T. Dillon 104-105; D. Mayhew 106; N. Piquet Jr. 107-124; M. Crafton 125; N. Piquet Jr. 126-130; J. Coulter 131; M. Crafton 132-145; N. Piquet Jr. 146.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): J. Coulter 4 times for 40 laps; P. Kligerman 2 times for 36 laps; N. Piquet Jr. 4 times for 30 laps; T. Peters 1 time for 18 laps; M. Crafton 2 times for 15 laps; T. Dillon 2 times for 5 laps; D. Mayhew 1 time for 1 lap; G. Enfinger 1 time for 1 lap.
Top 10 in Points: T. Dillon – 637; J. Buescher – 636; T. Peters – 613; J. Coulter – 599; P. Kligerman – 598; M. Crafton – 596; J. Lofton – 572; N. Piquet Jr. – 571; M. Paludo – 514; J. White – 503.

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