NASCAR Media Conference
Nelson Piquet, Jr.
June 26, 2012
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to today's NASCAR CAM video teleconference, we are joined by Nelson Piquet, Jr., driver of the No. 30 Qualcomm Autotrac Chevrolet for Turner Motorsports. He made racing history on Saturday, becoming the first Brazilian to win after claiming the track record during the qualifying for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Road America. He went on to lead the most laps and claim the checkered flag in only his third NASCAR Nationwide Series start.
Up next for Piquet is the Camping World Truck Series race on June 28 at Kentucky Speedway. He currently sits sixth in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points standings with three Top‑5s and five Top‑10s.
Talk about your emotions that you felt last Saturday during those last few laps at Road America and realizing you were about to win your first nation car national series race and what did the win mean to you and your team.
NELSON PIQUET, JR.: For sure, it was a really amazing feeling. Since we got back the lead close to the end of the race, about 15, 20 laps to the end that was probably where I was most focused during the race and managed to do a lot of quick laps and open the gap to second place. Obviously as I was getting to the end, I started to think about all kinds different things.
Obviously I tried to keep concentrated but I know the race isn't over until you cross the checkered flag. Still, I think after I crossed the white flag, I started to feel a little bit of the feeling of victory then, you know, a few minutes later, we finally got the checkered flag.
So it was an amazing feeling. I mean, it's difficult even to describe how good it felt. I mean, for sure, it's a road course and it's what I've done my whole career, but still to come from open wheels and coming over to NASCAR and a track I've never been racing and a car I've never raced on a road course, it gave a lot of confidence for me and the team. It showed how strong and how capable we are, even against Cup teams.
So we are very happy and happy also to be part of the Turner Motorsports team. I think that they have been helping me a lot, and I hope we build a good relationship together and we stick around for a long time, because it has been quite a dream year for me. Obviously still looking for that Cup win as you said, but I'm sure it's going to come very soon.
Q. Did the win validate your whole decision to come to NASCAR?
NELSON PIQUET, JR.: I mean, the validation didn't come‑‑ I think the validation is more of what I felt about the country and what I felt about the country, the culture. If you're talking my personal feeling, I think that's what mattered for me at the time. I wanted to feel in good what I was doing, no matter how big the challenge was, but what I wanted to do.
If you're talking about perspective in general or fans, obviously we won at Bristol and a road course, but I still have a lot to accomplish to show that I'm part of the, let's say, part of the group or part of the drivers that are going to make it.
I've been here for just maybe about two years, and I still have a lot to prove. But my personal feeling, I think that since ‑‑ the whole atmosphere, the culture, the sport, I think that was enough for me; obviously won three races in different divisions this year already, I think that just shows that no matter where I go, if I have the right chance and the right opportunity and being surrounded by the right people, I can deliver the job.
Q. In the last two years, have you felt like, has it been more difficult than what you expected or easier than what you expected? Did you envision yourself in a victory lane before you got there in the Nationwide Series, or did you think it would come earlier kind of when you started in the Trucks?
NELSON PIQUET, JR.: Obviously, you know, you are always trying to win. Last year during the year, I knew it was going to be difficult for me to fight for the championship because it was my rookie year. But I thought, you know, we all wanted to win a race by the end of the year. It didn't happen. We got close a few times. So obviously we definitely were trying to do it this year but at the same time we are trying to win the championship because that's what we are fighting for.
Being difficult, a lot of things have been harder and a lot of things have been easier. I think being quick in the race, being quick in the qualifying, obviously speed it's something that I think that the driver has it or doesn't have. I think got it pretty quickly.
We were quick all the time, and to just manage a good speed in a race or in a fight between two or three other cars or restart, I think that's something that's not how good you are; it's just time‑‑ it's more time that I need. It's just experience that a driver needs to build up to be able to feel comfortable.
Same thing you're going to see with Danica. She can be quick in qualifying sometimes, but running all together in an oval is different. I mean, she has a little bit of experience at IndyCar, which yeah, in a stock car, a lot of things change; you run much closer to each other, you can steal each other's air, and there's a lot of other things involved; which I'm coming from somewhere even more tough from where she came from. So it's a few other things that make a big difference at the end, and you know, that drivers are not as quick get better results because they are able to position themselves a little bit better during the race.
So that is what I'm having to work on very hard and try and prove myself and try to be more confident when I'm doing moves, difficult moves like that, lap moves or restarts, or things where if you do go an inch wrong, you can hit somebody and you can end up in the wall and end your race.
Q. You kind of touched on what I'm going to try to get an answer on, but other open‑wheel drivers have attempted to come to NASCAR for whatever reason and didn't adapt to the NASCAR world, and you have. What do you have that they don't have and what did you do that they didn't do for you to be able to adapt so well in the NASCAR racing?
NELSON PIQUET, JR.: I think quite simply it's just I'm a bit more realistic and a bit more patient. A lot of drivers think that just because they run in a top sport like indicate IndyCar they think they can just jump into NASCAR and run against Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch. These guys have been doing this for decades, not only in NASCAR Sprint Cup, but Nationwide, Trucks, Legends, or all of the other different races that there is under which these guys have started probably when they were four, five, six years old.
So wherever we came from, it's nearly coming from a different sport and having to learn again. I think there's no other way of doing it than how I've done it, coming into Truck and building myself up. Obviously we did a Nationwide race, but that was a road course, a little bit different.
But you need to put yourself‑‑ you need to realize that you can have either have won a championship for IndyCar, whatever it was, when you get to a different sport, you have to start from whatever your level is. And my level is at the moment kind of a Truck level, I would say, level of driver. It's difficult to compare because drivers have been there a long time or drivers have been doing Cup and are doing Truck at the moment, but still, I think that's the way it should be. I think that if I develop my skills or my knowledge about what I'm struggling with here, by the end of the year, I think by the time I get to Nationwide, I'll obviously work another one year or two to be able to be in Sprint Cup.
But a lot of drivers have a lot of ego, and I think they should go to Sprint Cup, or maybe think that the series is not tough enough and they can be up there. I think a lot of drivers realize that what I'm doing is the right way to do it, and hopefully we'll get more drivers doing the same thing.
Q. And also, I know this is a little bit off‑beat, but when you first came over, I was talking to one of the PR girls and she said working with Nelson is like working with a rock star. Do you feel like you're a rock star at all? Obviously your features are somewhat better than some of the others that are racing that put a helmet on, and that has an important role in racing, because the other part of it is selling yourself and selling your sponsors.
NELSON PIQUET, JR.: I don't consider it. Every time I'm together or the crowd, if‑‑ this year at Road America, I spent some time with the GRAND‑AM team‑‑ obviously that's a much lower level of racing, but as part of the team I worked with them and looked at data, talked with the drivers and had an engineer helping me understand a few little thing on the car that I didn't really get at first because it was such a different car from what I had driven.
You need to wherever you go, no matter what driver you are or what results or championships you've won, you have to be a bit‑‑ take your ego part away and be a bit realistic and know that everywhere you go is going to be a bit different and there's always something to learn.
Q. What's been the response from folks in Brazil, and do you think fans there have an appreciation for what you've accomplished, considering the F1 background and all that's so prominent there?
NELSON PIQUET, JR.: For sure, they are loving it, even before the victory, seeing me learning and doing better and better every week. I thinkeven because there are some drivers that are Brazilian drivers doing well this year, that's even helping me even a bit more to make all of the fans following NASCAR in Brazil. I think they are all pretty happy and obviously this victory made them all go crazy. So I think it's perfect timing. F1 drivers are not doing well there and we are doing well in America, so I think that's great for all of them.
Q. Does winning now put you on people's radar for competition in the Truck Series and will it make it tougher for to you win in Trucks?
NELSON PIQUET, JR.: Difficult to say. If it was me in their place, I wouldn't think so because it's two different kind of worlds. One thing is racing a road course and the other thing is racing an oval.
I'm not going to say that it didn't help me at all, but I didn't learn anything last weekend that would have helped me at Kentucky for example. I think going back to my Truck, going back to the program I was following before last week, just keep doing the job I was doing, learning and try to develop the Truck. This year has gone better in the Truck Series, so I wouldn't think so.
Q. What might be some of the things you do differently going into a road course race than maybe to an oval race?
NELSON PIQUET, JR.: The only thing I can think of in my mind right now is qualifying, something I used to do different, which was thinking about the whole lap, the gear changes, the brake points, the curves and the gaps, which laps and how much I should push, whether the tires are going to gain in qualifying.
I think those are the kind of things that the kind of decision helps on a road course because there's a lot of things happening during the lap. It's not just running four corners in a lap. There's a lot of things going on that you can make a mistake. Obviously qualifying is one or two laps and a big lap‑‑ you need to be very, very focused.
Sometimes I can remember one of the only things I did and I haven't been doing since a while, because just it makes much more sense doing it on a road course than an oval before qualifying, for example.
Q. Many drivers give themselves challenges to reach for. What is the next thing you might challenge yourself to reach?
NELSON PIQUET, JR.: Can you repeat the question, please?
Q. Many drivers give themselves challenges. What is the next thing you might reach for?
NELSON PIQUET, JR.: Like I said, our first big oval race on one of the three main national series didn't happen yet. We won the EKL race, but I'm still looking for that win in the Truck Series. And obviously this year, fighting for the championship, I think winning a race is going to make a big difference already. But the goal this year will be fighting for the championship. I think if we win this championship, that obviously is going to mean a lot to me and to a lot of people.
Q. Did coming to NASCAR and it being so different to anything you had ever raced before help you put kind of your Formula1 stuff in the past? You could have gone to several different forms of racing, but I guess my question is‑‑ does it present such a challenge‑‑
NELSON PIQUET, JR.: I think the biggest reason is it's just a challenge, not just how different it was. Obviously the challenge, it was very different, but I think it was challenging because of it being such‑‑ more of an American sport and not a big success with international drivers. I thought that I was good enough to be able to come here and challenge them and be one of them and be able to carry the Brazilian flag up on the podium.
Q. Do you ever wonder what could have been in Formula1, and do you still follow that series at all?
NELSON PIQUET, JR.: I still follow it and watch it when I have time. I didn't watch the last race, which I would have wanted to watch because I heard it was very good.
And what could have happened? I don't know. Anything could have happened. It's just timing, being the right place at the right time. There is a lot of drivers that are here right now that have won races and championships that I have been racing with ‑‑ that I raced with before, but I've won championships on before. But, you know, it's just being the right place at the right time and it didn't happen for me, but maybe it's happening now. So, i mean, happy either way.
Q. We are seeing a lot more of the Formula1 drivers come over to the United States, not only in NASCAR but other series. Why is this happening? What is your opinion on that?
NELSON PIQUET, JR.: Sorry, can you repeat? F1 drivers coming to America?
Q. We are seeing more and more Formula1 drivers coming to the United States.
NELSON PIQUET, JR.: Well, I have not seen that much. Apart from me, Juan Pablo, I can't remember really who else has been doing it. I think Scott Stevens who came back, an American, and obviously this is much closer to him than it was to anybody else.
And Juan Pablo, also he had done IndyCars before and he had a relationship with Ganassi, so it was like going back home but the racing is a different category. I don't really know apart from them who really you're talking about. I'm probably the only one that‑‑ I mean, we have Andretti. But from the past maybe ten, 15 years, maybe I've forgotten about somebody, but I don't remember really somebody that has done what I did right now.
THE MODERATOR: I wanted to end with a couple of questions that we had.
One notably you mentioned in the press conference after the race that your family was not there and I know they hated missing your win. I think you talked to your father from the media center. Can you tell us what his first words were to you and kind of the reaction back home on your win?
NELSON PIQUET, JR.: I mean, it's one of those things, there was not many words. He was just very happy and I don't think he watched the race live, he was somewhere where there was not satellite TV on.
But obviously he was very happy. I spoke to him for ten, 15 seconds. Honestly I didn't even speak after that to him, I didn't even speak to him anymore. That's the way kind of we are. We won a race; great. But, you know, the next day we wake up and everything is back to normal and you start thinking about the next race.
So yeah, I mean, it was just very moment tearily quick ten seconds that honestly I don't remember what he said. It was just laughing and just congratulations and we'll speak later.
THE MODERATOR: And obviously you're a big person on Twitter, have a ton of followers and you've been very supportive of the NASCAR Twitter partnership. What was the reaction on Twitter from your Brazilian fans? I know that it looked like it kind of blew up with support and a bunch of responses and do you think that the fan base in Brazil is growing?
NELSON PIQUET, JR.: For sure it's growing. Obviously from the 300,000‑plus followers we have, the big majority of them are Brazilians. Obviously because I started Twitter before becoming to America, but yeah, just looking at the languages in the response, most of them are Portuguese, and there's more and more English coming along. I see more and more American fans following at the moment.
But I mean, everybody in Brazil, they are getting more and more‑‑ not only Brazilians, but even Americans are getting more and more involved, asking more questions, giving opinions, which is also something interesting which Twitter is very good for, so you understand what the fans are looking for and what they want and what they are expecting.
I think the interest of those countries are very, very much very similar.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you and thank you for joining us today.
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