ROCKINGHAM, N.C. — Nelson Piquet Jr. has driven a little bit of everything over the course of his racing career — go-carts, Formula One and the developmental rungs of stock-car racing.
Saturday afternoon, his transition to NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series reached a major milestone with his first pole position in his 33rd start. His fast lap of 144.387 mph at Rockingham Speedway was just one-thousandth of a second faster than rookie Paulie Harraka, who will share the front row for Sunday’s Good Sam Roadside Assistance 200 (SPEED, 1 p.m. ET).
Timothy Peters qualified third, Jason Leffler fourth and Brad Sweet fifth. Barring a postponement of Saturday night’s Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, Sweet will cede his seat in the No. 4 Chevrolet to Kasey Kahne, the only driver attempting to compete in all three national NASCAR series this weekend. The driver change will require Kahne to start at the rear of the 36-truck field.
Piquet has raised eyebrows with his performance so far this season. He qualified second for the truck series’ opener at Daytona before a late-race wreck left him 22nd. He followed that with an admirable sixth-place run at Martinsville, where he had only competed twice before. That effort came just two weeks after he won from the pole at Bristol in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series.
“Every day I sit in the car has been very important — a big, big learning curve for me,” Piquet said. “. . . Now we continue the momentum, bringing it over here. I think it’s just a result of all the hard work and everything I learned last year. It makes a difference.”
Harraka, making just his third start in the truck tour, posted his best qualifying effort to date despite battling a fierce amount of understeer during his lap.
“It was a good lap; it wasn’t a great lap,” Harraka said. “So if we’re able to be P2 with that, it makes me really excited for the race.”
Series points leader John King will start 25th. Clay Greenfield, Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chris Fontaine, Wes Burton and Brian Weber failed to qualify for the series’ first race at the one-mile track.