Villeneuve Finishes Third At Road America In Penske Racing Debut
Jacques Villeneuve, driver of the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger, finished third in Saturday’s Bucyrus 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) race at Road America. The event marked the first of two NNS races in which Villeneuve will compete in a Penske Racing Dodge this season.
Villeneuve started from the third position, after posting a qualifying time of 134.34 seconds or 108.480 miles per hour during Saturday’s qualifying session. This marked the second time that Villeneuve started in the top-five in the Nationwide Series race at Road America - the first came last season while he was driving the No. 32 car for Braun Racing. On Saturday, the No. 22 Dodge started strong and quickly found its way into the second position by the end of the first lap. By just the fifth lap Villeneuve began to work his way past lapped traffic.
The first caution flag of the day was displayed on lap 6 when the No. 41 car of Doug Harrington spun in Turn 12. Discount Tire Dodge crew chief Todd Gordon called Villeneuve down pit road for four new Goodyear tires and fuel. No additional adjustments were made to the car and he restarted the race in the seventh position. Having passed through traffic quickly, Villeneuve began to battle the No. 66 machine of Steven Wallace for the race lead. On lap 10, the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge captured the top position, where Villeneuve remained until lap 14.
After discussions with Gordon concerning the need for more grip in the rear of the car, Villeneuve brought the No. 22 Dodge Challenger down pit road again on lap 20 for fuel, tires and an air pressure adjustment. After another caution flag flew on the next lap and cars began coming down pit road, Villeneuve found himself in the second position as he battled the No. 18 of Michael McDowell for the lead on lap 24. Unfortunately, Villeneuve had to serve a drive through penalty after he changed lanes before reaching the start/finish line on the lap 25 restart. With the penalty, Villeneuve had to go to the rear of the field.
The caution flag waved again on lap 27 and the Discount Tire Dodge stayed out in order to gain track position as Villeneuve restarted in 17th position. After he made his way up to 11th place, Villeneuve made contact with the car in front of him and was concerned about damage to the front of the car. After being reassured by Gordon that the car was okay, Villeneuve made a determined effort to make up the spots that he lost while serving his penalty from earlier in the race. The No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge found its way back into the lead on lap 37 when the No. 7 car of Ron Fellows came down pit road.
Villeneuve made his final stop of the afternoon on lap 38 for tires and fuel, as he restarted the race in 12th place and began to battle his way back to the front of the field once again. With 10 laps to go, Villeneuve was running in the eighth position, only 23 seconds behind the leader. As he battled with the No. 11 car of Brian Scott and the No. 33 driven by Max Papis, Villeneuve made contact with the No. 11. This sent the car into the No. 33, which brought out the fifth caution of the day on lap 50. This caution triggered the first of three attempts at a green-white-checkered flag finish.
The second attempt came on lap 52, after a multi-car accident. After he restarted the race in the seventh position, Villeneuve was able to battle his way back to fourth place when the final caution flag of the race flew on lap 56. Villeneuve brought the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger home in the third position at the checkered flag, after race leader Justin Allgaier ran out of fuel.
“My Discount Tire Dodge was really strong today,” said Villeneuve. “The whole Penske crew did an amazing job on pit stops. I got caught up on the restart by a rule I should have known. I moved before the start-finish (line). I won’t do that one again. Then I was a little bit aggressive on one of the restarts – the track narrows before turn one and I just ran out of road, put the wheels in the grass, played bowling there, took two cars out and made a few people unhappy. All in all, it was a very good result with all that went on. We came here to win, so at the end of the day, third is a bit disappointing.”