The VFW 200 features high speed and high drama
Piquet, Jr. wins his first race in the truck series
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series put on a show for the fans Saturday as the teams used different pit strategies throughout the course of the race. But the theme of the day continued to be the speeds on the newly repaved track surface as records continued to fall.
Nelson Piquet Jr. listened to his crew chief and used a mid-race spin to his advantage to win the VFW 200. The driver started the race second, next to pole sitter Joey Coulter, but quickly took the lead. Piquet Jr. moved ahead of Coulter on the first turn and lead the first lap of the race.
The Brazilian was shuffled to the back after a pit stop, but was undeterred in pursuit of victory. He battled back to the front of the pack, but was caught in an accident with Kurt Busch on lap 57. Busch was making his first start in the truck series since starting in the series at Michigan International Speedway in 2001.
Piquet Jr. managed to keep his truck off the wall on the back stretch as nearly 20 cars behind him spread across the track. He was the only car to spin and was forced to pit after flat spotting his tires.
For Piquet Jr. the race was only starting.
He picked off the grid one car at a time. He knew that the other cars each had to make another pit stop so he patiently bided his time as he moved back to the front.
For Piquet Jr., son of Nelson Piquet, a three-time World Formula One champion (1981, ’83, ’87) who was celebrating his 60th birthday in Las Vegas, it was almost like finishing the race going backwards. That was considering all of the things he had to do to save fuel when a final pit stop was dangerously ruled out.
And that’s what the Brazilian did, at a lingering pace, to win for the first time in 42 Camping World Truck Series races. He became the first Brazilian driver to triumph in the Truck series and only the second driver born outside the United States to win a NASCAR truck series race. The first was Canadian Ron Fellows, who has two Camping World Truck Series victories.
“If we would have been second or third in the championship I think we would have been more concerned, but because we had dropped back in the points (9th), I said go for it. I was all aboard with it and we went for the win,” Piquet Jr., said. “It came in a dramatic way, but it came. It doesn’t matter how but we did it.
Carrier said felt they could get 40 laps between fuel stops so he felt comfortable with his decision to let Piquet Jr. race for the victory.
“The strategy changed a lot pretty rapidly, pretty dramatically over the whole course of the race,” Carrier added. “There was a lot of unknowns and guesswork because of the newly repaved track and all the variables. At the end we were kind of tossing a coin and one time it was like we’re going to pit on this lap and then it was like, stay out. I think Nelson was in the third turn and it was pretty chaotic.”
Piquet’s margin of victory over Jason White was just over eight seconds as White cut seven second off the lead the last two laps. Dakota Armstrong finished third, his highest finish in 11 Camping World Truck Series starts.
Joey Coulter captured the pole for the 13th annual VFW 200 with a track record qualifying speed of 183.101 MPH Saturday morning. It was his first pole in 37 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races.
A total of nine drivers broke the Camping World Truck Series Michigan qualifying record of 181.612 MPH established by Kyle Busch in June of 2005. The series made its first appearance at MIS since the track was repaved at the end of last season.
Coulter captured the pole for the ARCA Series race at MIS in June, finishing ninth in the race.
The final two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice sessions Saturday morning produced some very interesting results.
Greg Biffle became the first driver to eclipse the 200 MPH barrier when posted a speed of 200.362 MPH in the first practice session of the day. Mark Martin captured the pole position on Friday with a speed of 199.706 MPH for Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400. The second session of the day ended with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., backing into the wall and Kurt Busch spinning out. Jimmie Johnson changed engines before the first practice session.
Johnson, who qualified third fastest, and Earnhardt who qualified a disappointing 22nd, will both start at the rear of the 43-car field Sunday. Earnhardt, who won the Sprint Cup race at MIS last June, will be in his backup car while Johnson needed an engine change on Saturday morning.
Click here for the full results for the VFW 200.