VILLENEUVE BRINGS HOME AN EIGHTH-PLACE FINISH IN DEBUT AT WATKINS GLEN WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (August 9, 2010) -- Following a strong qualifying session which put the Dollar General Toyota in the sixth position to start the Zippo 200 at the Glen, ...
VILLENEUVE BRINGS HOME AN EIGHTH-PLACE FINISH IN DEBUT AT WATKINS GLEN
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (August 9, 2010) -- Following a strong qualifying session which put the Dollar General Toyota in the sixth position to start the Zippo 200 at the Glen, Jacques Villeneuve knew he had a solid car for the Saturday afternoon race. In his debut at Watkins Glen International, the former Formula One Champion drove Braun Racing's No. 32 entry to an eighth-place finish.
NASCAR Nationwide Series teams were limited to a single two-hour practice session on Friday afternoon, with the Dollar General team dedicating a good portion of that time to overcoming an issue with their carburetor. Once it was corrected, the No. 32 soared to the ninth spot on the practice speed charts. Villeneuve reported a tight condition in the final runs so the team made additional adjustments to the car following practice.
With qualifying groups set by the practice session's times, Villeneuve and the No. 32 Toyota were placed in the seventh group. Wheeling the car around each corner, he logged a faster time with each qualifying lap. As the No. 32 slid sideways through the turns, it was evident that the adjustments had freed up the car's handling. With an impressive fast lap of 72.904-seconds, the No. 32 lined up in the sixth spot to start the afternoon's event.
When the 82-lap event began, the Dollar General team was confident they had a car that would run up front. Villeneuve took the green flag and charged into the fourth position on the first lap. As the leaders ran single-file around the Watkins Glen, NY road course, he knew that with patience and calculated passing he would be able to move the No. 32 towards the front. On lap six, he reported that the brakes were going down.
"Do what you need to do to save them," crew chief, Trent Owens told his driver.
The Dollar General Toyota slipped back to the sixth position by lap eight. As he maneuvered around the 2.45-mile course, Villeneuve updated Owens on the car's handling. "The car's balance is generally loose, but it is getting better."
As cars began to come to pit road for the first round of green-flag pit stops, the No. 32 moved up to the third position. On lap 19, Owens called his driver to pit road for service. Villeneuve drove the car to the pit stall and the Dollar General team quickly changed four tires and added fuel. As the field circled through the green-flag stops, the Dollar General Toyota had returned to the ninth position when the first yellow flag of the afternoon was displayed on lap 20 for debris on the race track.
As the remainder of the field came to pit road under the caution, Villeneuve moved to the sixth position for the restart on lap 24. As the field charged through turn one and into turn two, a multi-car accident occurred, resulting in the second caution of the day. NASCAR officials displayed the red flag, halting the field on the front straightaway as safety crews worked to remove the wrecked cars and debris from the track. Twenty-five minutes later, the yellow flag was displayed once again.
Owens called his driver to pit road on lap 25 for four tires and fuel. He instructed the Dollar General crew to remove tape from the brake ducts in an effort to assist with their continued overheating. "We're going to get ourselves on a different pit strategy here and see what we can pull off at the end of this race," Owens said, explaining his decision.
As cars lined up to resume green-flag racing on lap 26, Villeneuve prepared to restart deep within the field in the 13th spot. During the next run, he patiently overtook positions, one by one, while remaining conservative with his brakes. By lap 32, he had moved the Dollar General Toyota up to the ninth position.
On lap 47, cars began to return to pit road for the next round of pit stops under green-flag conditions. On a slightly different pit strategy, Owens instructed his team to be prepared to pit the car on lap 54. This would guarantee that the Dollar General Toyota would have enough fuel to make it to the end of the 82-lap race. Unfortunately, the strategy was foiled when oil on the race track caused NASCAR to display the yellow flag on lap 53.
As Villeneuve reported that the car's handling remained loose, Owens called him to pit road and instructed the crew on the next set of adjustments. "To two rounds down on the track bar," he told them. Villeneuve came down pit road on lap 54 and the team quickly put on four sticker tires, made the adjustment and topped the Toyota off with fuel before returning it to the track. He lined the No. 32 up in the 14th spot for the restart on lap 57.
Once again, Villeneuve set his sights on advancing the Dollar General Toyota through the field. On lap 61, he took over the 10th position. Two laps later, the final full-course caution of the afternoon was brought out for debris on the race track. As Villeneuve circled the course, he and Owens discussed the car's brakes.
"My foot goes all the way to the chassis as I brake," Villeneuve told him.
"We'll take care of this problem before Montreal," Owens said to reassure his driver.
With fewer than 20 laps remaining in the event, Villeneuve told Owens that he was going to go easy on his brakes for a while. Green-flag racing resumed on lap 67 with the No. 32 restarting in the ninth spot. In the final run, Villeneuve drove the Dollar General Toyota to an eighth-place finish in the Zippo 200.
"It was a lot of fun racing at Watkins Glen with the Dollar General team," Villeneuve said following his track debut at Watkins Glen International. "We tried a different pit strategy after the first caution, but it didn't quite work out as we had hoped. We started our morning with a loose-handling car during qualifying. We thought that it would tighten up during the race but unfortunately it did not. I feel that we had a car that was better than eighth; however, because of some braking issues I had to be conservative during the race. We lost a lot of time trying to overtake cars which cost us some positions in the end. I'd like to thank Braun Racing and Dollar General for giving me the opportunity to race at Watkins Glen. I'm looking forward to being back in the car at Montreal in just a few weeks."
Reed Sorenson will drive the No. 32 Dollar General Toyota next weekend at Michigan International Speedway.
Next Stop: The NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to Michigan International Speedway next weekend for the CARFAX 250.
-source: braun racing