Villeneuve Hoping For Daytona 500 Ride

Jacques Villenueve - Fernanda Freixosa/Vicar

Perhaps one of the most unexpected drivers to test at Daytona was 1995 Indy 500 winner and 1997 Formula 1 champion, Jacques Villeneuve. The 50-year-old Canadian drove the No. 27 Team Hezeberg Ford – turning in lap times Tuesday that were consistently mid-pack despite the fact he has not been in a NASCAR Cup Series car in years outside of a test at the Charlotte ROVAL last Fall.

He missed qualifying for the 2008 Daytona 500 after finishing 23rd in his Duel race. But the 11-time F1 race winner said his hope is very much to run in the Feb. 20 Daytona 500 and he was quite encouraged by the way these new Next Gen cars drove during this Daytona test.

He has four previous NASCAR Cup Series starts – the last in 2013 on the Sonoma, Calif road course. He had four top-five finishes in nine NASCAR Xfinity Series road course starts with a best of third place three times – at Montreal in 2010 and 2012 and Road America in 2011.

Villeneuve raced fulltime in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series last year, contending for the championship and winning two races.

“I’ve never stopped racing, it’s just a question of opportunity and I’m living in Europe so it makes it a little more difficult to focus on racing here in North America,” Villeneuve said, noting that he also does Formula 1 television commentary and has been expanding his family.

The small Hezeberg team he’s driving for, was originally going to put one of its family members in the car, but that driver is not approved yet for the series, according to Villeneuve.

“Right now we’re focusing on Daytona and hopefully we’ll do more races,” Villeneuve said.

“I felt great. I did a few laps on the ROVAL test, but to get back on the speedway, this is THE race. There’s a few races in the world that stand out, the Indy 500, the 24 Hours of LeMans and Daytona. So it’s part of that very small group of special races and tracks to drive at.

“It would be amazing,” Villeneuve added. “The last time I was in the NASCAR garage was a lot of years ago. It would be extremely special because it’s a very special race and hard to get in the show when you have to qualify on time or do good in the Duels, so it makes it a bit more stressful and making the show would be something special.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

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