Tuesday, May 21, 2013
The Associated Press
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. - Showing glimpses of the talent that made his father a three-time Formula One champion gave Nelson Piquet Jr. the chance to race all over the world on some of the biggest stages in the sport. Now he wants to make it in NASCAR.
TODAY'S NASCAR SPRINT CUP RACE
WHO: Toyota/Save Mart 350
WHEN: 3 p.m.
WHERE: Infineon Raceway (road course, 1.99 miles)
DISTANCE: 218.9 miles, 110 laps
TELEVISION: TNT, 2 p.m.
LAST YEAR: Kurt Busch raced to his first road-course victory, leading 76 laps. Jeff Gordon was second.
LAST WEEK: Dale Earnhardt Jr. won at Michigan to end a 143-race winless streak dating to his June 2008 victory at the track. The victory was Earnhardt's 19th overall and second in 159 starts for Hendrick Motorsports.
FAST FACTS: Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth leads the season standings, four points ahead of Earnhardt. ... Gordon has a Cup-record nine road-course wins, five at Sonoma and four at Watkins Glen. Tony Stewart has seven road-course victories, two at Infineon and five at Watkins Glen. ... Juan Pablo Montoya won the 2007 race for his first Cup victory. He also won in 2010 at Watkins Glen. Before joining NASCAR, the Colombian won seven Formula One races, the 1999 Champ Car title and 11 open-wheel races. ... Marcos Ambrose won last year at Watkins Glen. ... Robbie Gordon, a winner at both Sonoma and Watkins Glen, is making his first Cup start since March 4 at Phoenix.
NEXT RACE: Quaker State 400, June 30, Kentucky Speedway, Sparta, Ky.
1. Matt Kenseth 565
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 561
3. Greg Biffle 548
4. Jimmie Johnson 532
5. Denny Hamlin 514
6. Kevin Harvick 504
7. Martin Truex Jr. 497
8. Tony Stewart 491
9. Clint Bowyer 481
10. Brad Keselowski 458
11. Carl Edwards 456
12. Kyle Busch 432
13. Ryan Newman 427
14. Paul Menard 421
15. Joey Logano 407
16. Kasey Kahne 391
17. Marcos Ambrose 388
18. Jamie McMurray 377
19. Juan P. Montoya 377
20. Jeff Gordon 375
20. Jeff Burton 375
And he's hoping Saturday's Nationwide Series victory at Road America will help him catch the eye of a team owner willing to give his stock car racing career a boost.
"I think the best thing that could come out of this was to show team owners and bosses that I'm capable of doing it, if I just get the right car and the right team," Piquet said.
The win makes Piquet the first Brazilian to win a race in a NASCAR national series.
Michael McDowell was second, followed by Ron Fellows, Max Papis and Sam Hornish Jr.
Things didn't work out so well for Danica Patrick after she ran with the leaders almost all afternoon.
Jacques Villeneuve collided with Patrick on the last lap as the two drivers were battling for a top-five finish, causing Patrick's car to spin out. Villeneuve finished sixth, while Patrick recovered and finished 12th.
"Where Villeneuve goes, there tends to be cars that have problems, whether it's his fault or the other car's fault or (just) stock car racing at the end of the race," Patrick said. "You all can make a decision for yourself, what you think happened there."
Piquet's extensive road racing experience paid off at the four-mile, 14-turn road course that winds through the hills of central Wisconsin.
But as much as he enjoyed winning, he knows he still has to prove he can consistently run well on oval tracks -- something he's trying to do in the Trucks Series, where he is sixth in the points standings.
"I'm going to be here for a long time, hopefully," Piquet said.
And while NASCAR might not be a big deal back in Brazil, Piquet's success already was having a measurable effect. After he won the pole position during Saturday morning's qualifying, Piquet said fans in Brazil used social media to pressure a Brazilian television network to take a soccer game off the air and show the NASCAR race live.
"Hopefully, in a few years, I'll be opening a path for all those Brazilian fans who mostly go to Europe, they can come to America, too," Piquet said.
And Piquet got a phone call from his famous father right after the race.
"He was laughing," Piquet said. "I don't know if he had a beer or not. But he was very, very excited."
McDowell said he couldn't chase down Piquet at the end.
"His car was fast," McDowell said. "I don't know if we would have had anything for him if we could have just stayed with him on that restart."
SPRINT CUP: Robby Gordon believes today's race at Sonoma (Calif.) will be his last of the NASCAR season.
Gordon has no sponsorship lined up beyond this week. He's raced only twice this season -- the Daytona 500 and at Phoenix. After failing to qualify at Las Vegas and California, Gordon had not attempted to make a NASCAR race since March.
"For 2012, this is probably my last event," Gordon said. "Right now, today, we don't have anything planned."
Gordon will start 34th at Sonoma, where in 2003 he picked up one of his three career victories. He has no plans to race this summer at Watkins Glen, where he also won in 2003.
NO OBAMA: President Barack Obama has declined an offer from New Hampshire Motor Speedway to attend its July 15 race.
Obama plans to campaign in New Hampshire on Monday and Jerry Gappens, the track president, planned to leave him tickets in case Obama wanted to make a return trip to the state for the NASCAR race. The track announced Friday night that Obama declined.
Gappens said the track will raffle Obama's unused tickets, with the proceeds going to the Speedway Children's Charities.