Piquet trucks on

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

Two seasons after being drummed out of Formula One after admitting he was part of a race-fixing scandal engineered by the Renault team's then boss Flavio Briatore, Nelson Piquet Jr. has emerged as a survivor.

This past weekend Piquet won his first podium finish in NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series, finishing second in the Bully Hill Vineyards 200 at Nashville Superspeedway.

In the aftermath of the Renault ignominy back in 2008 Piquet was castigated by both the team -- led by Briatore-- and the F-1 community for his role in admitting he crashed his car deliberately so as to allow his teammate Fernando Alonso to win.

It was later revealed that he only did so under orders from Briatore, who was both his manager and Renault boss.

And now there he was in Nashville, on the comeback trail in NASCAR, in tears after bring his No. 8 Kevin Harvick Incorporated Chevrolet Silverado home in second place behind winner Kyle Busch.

"I honestly have no words. I feel like I won," Piquet said. "We have had such a long road to this point but we continue to get better each week and this race was a huge accomplishment. At the beginning of the year, we had a lot of adversity that we faced, but I think that this race is a boost in motivation for our team.

"Every week, even every lap on the track, I continue to learn. I couldn't be prouder of this race team. The learning curve in the transition from open wheel to stock cars is a lot bigger than most people think, but I'm getting there. I think this is just a glimpse into what we can do. I'm here to win, I'm here to fight, and I'm here to contend for the championship. I'm excited to see how we continue to improve in each race this season."

For all the vile things that Briatore and company piled on Piquet, the son of the former world champion never folded under the pressure.

No amount of payback -- the courts did award Piquet and his father a substantial settlement in a libel suit against Briatore -- would be better than a successful career in NASCAR for the young Brazilian.

GO CANADA

It wasn't the Top-15 finish that J.R. Fitzpatrick had hoped for in his debut behind the wheel of the No. 67 Go Canada Racing Ford Mustang in the NASCAR Nationwide Nashville 300.

But his 27th place finish was more about inexperience than lack of talent.

Fitzpatrick was making progress in the early stages of the race at Nashville Superspeedway -- moving up from his 21st spot on the grid -- until the first and subsequent pit stops.

While race leaders like Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch were ripping off pit stops in the 14 second range with their veteran crews from the Roush Fenway and Joe Gibbs garages, Fitzpatrick's makeshift crew were as much as three seconds slower per stop.

And for each three-seconds lost, Fitzpatrick would return to the race as many as five positions back from where he pitted.

On the bright side, both Fitzpatrick and the crew will get better as the season wears on.

ALONSO CHANGES TUNE

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who has been critical of Ferrari's performance this season, is now saying that the team is still capable of winning the F-1 crown.

Alonso goes into next week's Turkish Grand Prix 42 points behind leader Sebastian Vettel and the Red Bull Renault team and without even a single podium finish in the first three races.

Somebody at the Fe rrari world headquarters in Maranello, however, must have reminded Alonso of the truck load of cash -- rumoured to be in the $50 million range per season -- that the Italian outfit is paying him because on the weekend the Spanish driver was again singing the team's praises.

"We know our performance is not good enough at the moment, but we are aware that this can change very quickly," he said. "I trust in the team; I know what it's made of and I can feel the will to fight back from everyone at Maranello."

FINISH LINES

Is there anyone in racing who is better on re-starts that RonHornadayJr.? Hismove on Kyle Busch in the Camping World Truck Series with eight laps left was classic. ... For anyone out there who still wonders why NASCAR gets the lion share of media attention in North America, just look at last week's television ratings for the Aaron's 499 at Talladega and those of the IZOD IndyCar Series race at Long Beach. Talladega got a 5.2 share while Long Beach got a 0.23.


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