Rockingham, N.C. (April 14, 2012) – Brazilian Nelson Piquet Jr. edged rookie Paulie Harraka by one one-thousandth of a second Saturday to earn his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series pole during qualifying for Sunday’s inaugural Good Sam Roadside Assistance 200 at Rockingham Speedway.
Piquet, driving a Chevrolet, posted a144.387-mph lap, while Harraka’s Ford clocked in at 144.381 mph — 24.933 to 24.934 seconds on the 1-mile track.
“Honestly, when I finished my lap I told the guys on the radio it wasn’t my best lap; we could have gone a little bit better,” said Piquet, whose Keystone Light Pole Award came in his 33rd race. “I was expecting maybe a top 5, but I wasn’t expecting a pole at all. I think the track probably got much warmer and got a bit slower for everybody else.”
Rounding out the top 10, respectively, were: Timothy Peters, Toyota, 143.937 mph; Jason Leffler, Toyota, 143.730; Brad Sweet, Chevrolet, 143.392; Parker Kligerman, Dodge, 143.147; Todd Bodine, Toyota, 143.033; Matt Crafton, Toyota, 142.976; Grant Enfinger, Chevrolet, 142.885; and Johnny Sauter, Toyota, 142.693.
Harraka, from Fair Lawn, N.J., missed recording his first career pole due to his Ford being a little too tight in turns one and two, an issue he faced in all of his mock qualifying runs.
“I was able to get back to the throttle pretty early and pretty hard (in turns one and two),” Harraka said after posting his first top-10 this season. “Rolled off there and knew I was going to get down into the (turns) three and four side and I’m probably going to be tight, so I rolled out of the throttle pretty early getting into (turn) three. As soon as I got down to the bottom I was back in it and back in it really hard coming off. I spent a lot of time in the throttle for sure.”
Piquet’s second top-10 starting position this season eclipsed his previous best of second in August 2011 at Bristol Motor Speedway and resulted in him predicting more poles for his team this year.
“I think I will be strong this year,” Piquet said. “It’s my second year in the truck series and I think I’m ready to fight for the championship.”
Entering Sunday’s race, Piquet is eighth in the standings, 21 points behind leader John King.
Piquet readily admits Rockingham is a “very difficult track, very driver demanding”, characteristics that Peters notes means Sunday’s race will be about discipline.
“I think tomorrow [Sunday with temperatures in the low 80s] you will see a lot of people race the race track,” Peters said after posting his second top-10 start in three races this year. “It’s going to be about discipline, trying to save your tires. The best part about our situation is that everybody at lap halfway will get an extra set of tires released to them. It’s just going to make a great race for the fans.”