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PIQUET WIN BOOSTS HIS NASCAR HOPES

Times wires

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. - Nelson Piquet Jr. has raced on some of the world's biggest stages.

Now he hopes Saturday's Nationwide series victory at Road America will help him catch the eye of a NASCAR team owner willing to give him 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.

Piquet, 26, whose Formula One career was much shorter than that of his three-time world champion father, is the first Brazilian to win in a NASCAR national touring series. It came in the third Nationwide race for the full-time truck series driver.

Michael McDowell was second in the Sargento 200, followed by Ron Fellows and Max Papis.

Danica Patrick ran in the top five almost all day but settled for 12th after contact with former F1 and Indianapolis 500 champion Jacques Villeneuve on the final lap. Villeneuve finished sixth.

"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 of her spin.

Villeneuve had words with a member of her crew afterward.

"We were racing hard, and I wasn't even fighting with Danica, I was fighting with Max Papis," Villeneuve said. "And ... he pushed me into the grass, and you don't slow down that much in the grass. So by the time I was on the racetrack again, I was going a little bit slower than Danica."

INDYCAR: Road America president George Bruggenthies said "it's a long shot" that the track will host a series race. He said the track made a proposal for Aug.19, replacing a canceled race in China. But Bruggenthies said the sides were six figures apart on the sanctioning fee. Also, the race at Iowa was not over at press time; see sports.tampabay.com for a result.

FORMULA ONE: Sebastian Vettel, the two-time defending world champion, earned the pole for today's European Grand Prix with a lap of 1 minute, 38.086 seconds on a 3.3-mile street circuit in Valencia, Spain.

GRAND AM: Scott Pruett and co-driver Memo Rojas won at Road America, taking advantage after Ricky Taylor had an apparent suspension failure as he led late in the two-hour race.

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