Nelson Piquet Jr reckons that motorsport is a ‘lifestyle’ in the United States. Speaking ahead of the first ever New York City ePrix, the NextEV star driver was reflecting on the time he spent racing in the US, especially NASCAR.
The inaugural Formula E champion started racing in the US when his Formula 1 career ended ahead of the 2010 season. He started off racing in the lower tier ARCA and NASCAR Truck Racing series, becoming a multiple race winner in the latter.
Being part of the NASCAR fraternity, the vast majority of whom live in Charlotte, North Carolina, and racing almost every weekend, gave Piquet a first-hand experience of the different culture that exists in American motorsport.
“It’s much more of a sport,” he says. “People need to have much more passion for the sport over there not because they work much harder but because they live it much more. The whole community is more united everybody lives in the same city. In general, it’s much more of a lifestyle than it is in Europe.
“That’s what I really liked and appreciated and really miss about it. Everybody knows each is other from, all the drivers hang out together. One of the first weeks I was there Kurt Busch took me out and we went on his boat, went barbequing at his mechanic’s house by the lake. He had a garage by the lake with a bar inside and it was really cool.
“Because there are more races everybody knows each other better. When you are in the NASCAR world there are so many races and everyone works so hard – the mechanic, engineers – it’s a life, you are living inside those race tracks.”
Piquet took his highest-level NASCAR win with victory in Nationwide Series race at Road America in 2012, and was also championship contender in the US-based Global Rallycross series.
This form carried over into his Season 1 Formula E exploits in the US. He was in contention for the podium in Miami when a slow pitstop dropped him back to fifth, but he made amends in Long Beach, where he claimed his first win in the all-electric racing series.
This season he’s taken his maiden Julius Baer Pole Position, but has struggled to repeat his strong qualifying form in the races.
“America has always been fun for me,” he says. “The cars were all the same in S1, so we had a better shot. Last year was very tough, this year is not so bad but still hard to be in the top three, so we are hoping that next year we have a car that’s good enough to get us back on the podium in America.”
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