ROCKINGHAM, N.C. — Nelson Piquet Jr. had plenty of positives to savor in his first visit to Rockingham Speedway, but the turn of events in the second half of NASCAR’s return to The Rock left a sour taste.
A pit-road penalty for speeding derailed Piquet’s bid for his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory Sunday, leaving him settling for seventh place in the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 200.
Piquet won the pole position in Saturday’s qualifying and appeared poised to make the race a runaway, leading 103 of the first 123 laps. But a longer pit stop during the race’s third caution period bumped him back to fifth place.
He worked his way back up to second place behind race winner Kasey Kahne, but was nabbed for speeding on the 176th lap, during the race’s final yellow flag. The penalty made him the last truck on the lead lap, leaving Piquet 12th for the final restart.
“We had lost position on one pit stop and I was trying to recover it back on another pit stop. So we speeded a little bit trying to find the limits, so unfortunately, it wasn’t a race which we could’ve won,” Piquet said. “Obviously, it wouldn’t have felt that bad if we weren’t in that position.”
Piquet’s penalty was for being too fast exiting the pits, which was no easy feat considering he owned the first pit stall as the pole winner. One stall in front of him was left vacant for TV’s use, which added some real estate for Piquet ahead of the final pit-road timing line.
Piquet gained two spots to take sixth place in the points standings after his second top-10 finish in three races this season.
PETERS MAKES HIS MOVE
Timothy Peters’ steady run to a fifth-place finish helped him leave Rockingham with the truck series’ points lead. That the move came at the expense of teammate John King made the one-position jump a little bittersweet.
King, the surprise Daytona winner, came into the race with a one-point edge over Peters. After a fourth-lap wreck hobbled King and relegated him to 33rd at the finish, the Red Horse Racing teammates were 28 points apart by day’s end.
“I hate that for him because he’s such a good guy and a great teammate,” Peters said. “If it wasn’t for this tire test a couple weeks ago, we might not have been as good when we unloaded. This place is tough to get around.”
King was able to return to the track with much of the sheet metal removed from the front of his No. 7 Toyota, but parked after 56 laps with no more positions to gain by staying out.
“I knew we were in trouble as soon as someone drove on the outside of us and the truck got really loose in (turns) one and two,” King said. “I think we came around the next lap, and when it went, it went.”
HILLENBURG HAPPY WITH TURNOUT
With grandstands filled to near-capacity, Rockingham Speedway president Andy Hillenburg took some friendly advice, taking a moment to savor the scene as a fan in the early laps of Sunday’s race.
After the track welcomed NASCAR competition back after an eight-year leave, Hillenburg — who purchased the facility at auction in 2007 — was beaming after a successful weekend.
“I’m very proud of our effort, the team effort,” Hillenburg said. “I feel like we did the best we could do based on the knowledge that we had, but now I also feel confident in saying that if I get a second chance from NASCAR, I can do even better.”