Villeneuve's NASCAR program moves to Martinsville, another new experience Jacques Villeneuve will be aiming to build on the positives of his NASCAR test and race program, as he travels to the Martinsville Speedway track, a half-mile oval in...
Villeneuve's NASCAR program moves to Martinsville, another new experience
Jacques Villeneuve will be aiming to build on the positives of his NASCAR test and race program, as he travels to the Martinsville Speedway track, a half-mile oval in south Virginia, this weekend. Racing in Saturday afternoon's `Kroger 200' event, the 21st round of 25 in the 2007 NASCAR Craftsman Truck series, Villeneuve will again be out to learn as much as possible ahead of his 2008 Sprint (formerly Nextel) Cup season debut. Martinsville also plays host to the Cup series they will race on Sunday so the experience gained this weekend will stand Villeneuve in good stead next season.
Whilst Martinsville will be Villeneuve's third Craftsman Truck race in recent weeks, it will be the first time that he has driven on a half-mile oval. To acclimatise himself to the unique demands that a 15 second lap time creates, Villeneuve travelled to the Caraway Speedway, another half-mile oval, in North Carolina last week, where he completed a half day's testing, and was again quickly running competitive lap times.
Piloting his UNICEF-branded Toyota Tundra Truck, number 27, the 36-year-old former F1 World Champion and Indy 500 winner will be focussed on completing the race distance, in order that he can make maximum use of his track time, learning a host of important lessons. Having raced strongly in his truck debut at Las Vegas, at the end of September, Villeneuve's most recent truck race, two weeks ago at the Talladega Superspeedway was cut short as he was forced out of the race in the early stages, in a multi-car accident.
Speaking as he prepared to leave home in Montreal, bound for Martinsville, Villeneuve said, "It's another new NASCAR experience and another chance to learn a lot. Naturally, I want to run strongly again, but I'll be trying to avoid upsetting the Championship battle that looks set to run down to the wire; the last thing I want to do is disrupt my Bill Davis Racing Toyota team-mate, Mike Skinner in his charge to another Craftsman Truck title. I ran well at Caraway last week, but have little doubt that it will be very different with a full grid of cars lapping in 15 seconds. I now know how to drive a short track, but nothing can prepare me for the unique demands that the pack will create. Again, I'm looking forward to it."
Following Villeneuve's truck race which will see him line-up alongside series debutant, and fellow Indy Car series champion, Scotland's Dario Franchitti he will remain at the circuit specifically to watch Sunday's main event, the `Subway 500', from high above the circuit, in the spotter's area. Villeneuve's objective in doing so is to understand better how NASCAR races `run', as to date, he has relied on gut instinct to race for every position every lap, as is normal in open-wheel racing. Inside NASCAR, where the pack often appears to move as a single entity, it is occasionally better to relinquish a single place on one lap, to gain three more places a lap or two later. The highly- experienced Canadian, son of former Ferrari F1 hero, Gilles, is aware that this experience and his ability to accept the judgement of his crew-chief and spotter moving forward will play an important part in his future NASCAR successes.
Villeneuve's Cup car crew-chief, Richard `Slugger' Labbe explained, "Jacques is an out-and-out racer. He found it tough to hear us telling him to let drivers go at Talladega, and he fought his heart out every corner and straight-away, every lap. But these races have a pattern, and sometimes, to win the war you're best to let the battle go. The sooner he can learn that and the chance to view from the spotting area is a huge help the sooner he can expect to finish up-front every weekend. It's never too early to learn that lesson, and the great thing is that in spite of his talent and successes, he's always ready to listen and learn. I'm sure he'll pick it up pretty quickly."