Villeneuve up front all day with a chance to win.
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (June 23, 2012) – Jacques Villeneuve, driver of the Penske Racing No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger, finished sixth in Saturday afternoon’s Sargento 200 at Road America. This event marks the first of two scheduled races during the 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) that Villeneuve will participate in with the Penske Racing organization.
Villeneuve started the 50 lap race from the fourth position after he turned a lap of 133.671 seconds and a speed of 109.020 miles per hour around the 4.04 mile road course during qualifying on Saturday morning. As the green flag flew, Villeneuve was able to keep the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge in the fourth position and run lap times consistent with the leaders.
Keeping a close eye on fuel mileage, crew chief, Jeremy Bullins called Villeneuve down pit road on lap four for a fuel-only stop, hoping that the early pit stop will keep them ahead on the game of fuel mileage. As the rest of the field continued to cycle through green flag stops, the Discount Tire Dodge Challenger remained a consistent force as Villeneuve worked his way through the field. When the first caution flag flew on lap 11 for a spin by the No. 50 car of T.J. Bell, Villeneuve piloted the No. 22 Dodge down pit road for a four tire and fuel stop, restarting the race in the 14th position.
As the laps continued to wind down, Villeneuve found himself in a battle with the Danica Patrick and Nelson Piquet Jr. for the lead. Being the experienced road course racer, Villeneuve was able to quickly take over the top position on lap 21 where he remained for the next ten laps, the second highest lap count behind race winner Piquet Jr. As the caution flag flew for the third time of the afternoon, the Discount Tire crew was ready to make another four tire stop and pack the Dodge Challenger with enough fuel to get them through until the end of the race. Villeneuve restarted in the sixth positions behind race leader and Penske Racing teammate, Sam Hornish Jr.
With less than 20 laps remaining in the Sargento 200, Villeneuve was hit from behind by the No. 18 of Michael McDowell and sent spinning into the grass. Able to turn himself around and forge on, Bullins called Villeneuve down pit road to top of the Dodge Challenger with fuel and also check for any possible damage. Restarting in the 23rd position, Villeneuve had a lot of ground to make up in order to put himself back into contention for the race win.
After a few lucky caution laps, Villeneuve was able to race his way back into the top ten with just 11 laps to go. Keeping lap times consistent with the race leaders, Villeneuve remained a constant force within the top 10, battling for positions nine through six during the last seven laps of the race. Last lap contact with the No. 7 of Danica Patrick, cost Villeneuve a top- five finish, leaving him in the sixth position as the checkered flag flew on lap 50.
Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish Jr. finished fifth in the Alliance Truck Parts Dodge.
“It had nothing to do with me and the No. 7 car (Danica Patrick),” said Villeneuve of the last lap contact. “It was just (Max) Papis down the straight and I guess he wanted to get behind Danica and hit me, put me in the grass just when we hit the brakes. Nothing to do: I was in my place so then I couldn’t slow down because of that. The car was strong, I got pushed around halfway through the race and then the steering was bent. I was trying to stay clean and not hit anyone. I was really good until we got it bent. After that it was just lacking a little bit to race the other guys in front.”
Source: Penske Racing