VILLENEUVE DRIVES THE DOLLAR GENERAL TOYOTA TO A THIRD-PLACE FINISH IN FRONT OF HOMETOWN CROWD MONTREAL, Quebec (August 31, 2010) -- The NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) made its annual visit north of the U.S. border this weekend, traveling to ...
VILLENEUVE DRIVES THE DOLLAR GENERAL TOYOTA TO A THIRD-PLACE FINISH IN FRONT OF HOMETOWN CROWD
MONTREAL, Quebec (August 31, 2010) -- The NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) made its annual visit north of the U.S. border this weekend, traveling to Montreal, Canada for the fourth running of the NAPA Auto Parts 200 presented by Dodge. Canadian Jacques Villeneuve returned to the wheel of the No. 32 Dollar General Toyota, determined to claim his first NASCAR win and end a 17-year winless streak at the track that bears his late father's name. No stranger to road course racing, the former Formula One and CART champion drove the No. 32 Camry to a third-place finish in a wild race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
The Montreal-native topped the speed charts in Saturday morning's first practice session and posted the second-fastest time in final practice. Following the practice sessions, the teams prepared for the afternoon time-trials. Villeneuve and the No. 32 Camry hit the track with the final qualifying group. With each lap, he traded the top spot with Marcos Ambrose, whose No. 47 entry was behind him in the qualifying group. On the final lap, he returned to the top with a 100.619-second lap; however, he was bumped to the outside pole as the No. 47 crossed the line for the final time with a lap of 100.458 s.
Under beautiful blue skies, the NNS teams returned to the 2.71-mile track for the Sunday afternoon race. Loud cheers spread throughout the crowds as the hometown favorite circled the course in the Dollar General Toyota, taking the green flag in the second position. The No. 32 and No. 47 cars quickly jumped out in front and began to pull away. A full-course yellow slowed the field on the second lap when the caution flag was displayed for debris in turn 14. When green-flag racing resumed, the No. 32 continued to occupy the second spot.
The second caution of the day quickly followed on lap seven. As the cars lined up behind the pace car, Villeneuve took the opportunity to discuss the car's handling with crew chief, Trent Owens.
"Were you able to see if I locked the front wheels going into the first turn?" he asked. "It felt like the axel vibrated."
"Yes, you did," replied Owens. "I think the brakes cooled down too much during the long caution. Try to keep some heat in them during the yellow flags."
When the race resumed on lap 10, the field charged into turns one and two. The No. 20 car slid through the grass, making hard contact into the side of the Dollar General Toyota. Villeneuve maintained control of the car and quickly returned to the second position. On lap 12, a multi-car pile-up occurred in turns six and seven, once again bringing out the yellow flag.
"Is there a lot of damage on my right side?" Villeneuve asked.
As he passed the spotter stand, Patrick McGarey reported that there was indeed a dent in the side of the car, but that nothing appeared to be rubbing the tire.
"How many laps have we done?" Villeneuve inquired.
"Thirteen," replied Owens. "We might get some racing in here today. When we do, we should be able to stay towards the front. We'll bring you down to pit road under the green flag on lap 21."
The race returned to green-flag conditions on lap 18. Villeneuve fought hard to take the lead on the restart, going fender to fender with Ambrose's No. 47 car. He slid back into the second spot, but remained within striking distance. As Owens watched the Dollar General Toyota soar down the front stretch on lap 20, he told the spotters to bring him to pit road on the next lap. Before the lap was complete, a full-course caution was called again, this time for oil on the race track.
On lap 21, Owens called Villeneuve to pit road as planned, ordering the Dollar General crew to change four tires with air pressure adjustments and to pack the car with fuel. As Villeneuve drove out of his pit stall, Owens continued to remind his driver to be mindful of pit road speed, as the mistake would cost them valuable positions. Because thirteen cars opted to remain on the race track, Villeneuve restarted the No. 32 Dollar General Toyota in the 15th spot. As he prepared to resume to green-flag racing on lap 24, Owens gave him a few reminders and called the green-flag.
"Remember, no passing until you cross the start-finish line," he told his driver. "Be ready now, be ready...green, green, green!"
During the long, green-flag run, Villeneuve picked off positions one at a time, moving the Dollar General Toyota forward. He advanced inside of the top-10 in only one lap and into the top-five by lap 30. Even on well-used tires, the No. 32 car continued to turn fast laps around the course. Heading into the 10th turn on lap 34, the No. 09 braked early and caught the Canadian off guard. The No. 32 made hard contact with the rear bumper of Boris Said. Owens instructed his driver to keep a close eye on the water temperatures.
As the leaders began to come to pit road for green-flag stops, Villeneuve briefly took over the top spot. On lap 47, Villeneuve brought the No. 32 to his pit stall for four tires and fuel. He returned to the course and was scored in the eighth position. By lap 48, he again broke into the to-five.
"How fast of a lap is the leader running?" was the only thing that Villeneuve said over the radio when Owens told him his lap time was one minute and 43.5 seconds.
"The leader is at a 43 flat," Owens replied.
Villeneuve silently responded by running his next lap in one minute and 42.9 seconds.
On lap 49, he overtook the third position as he aggressively drove around the course and worked hard to catch the leaders.
After examining the fuel mileage numbers, Owens came on the radio and asked his diver to be "smooth on the throttle for a bit. We're close on fuel right now."
Villeneuve's finesse was evident as he gracefully drove the Dollar General Toyota through the turns, never having to sacrifice his fast lap times. On lap 55, he turned a lap a full second faster than the leader.
The next caution of the day came on lap 66 for an accident in turn four. Crew chiefs were faced with the choice of bringing their driver to pit road or to remain on the track for, what could be, the remainder of the race. Owens weighed his options and chose to call Villeneuve to pit road on lap 66. He instructed the Dollar General crew to put on four new tires and five gallons of fuel. As the No. 32 lined up in the seventh spot for the restart, he was the first car in the field that had fresh tires.
With six laps remaining in the 74-lap event, the crowd was on its feet, anticipating a very exciting race to the checkered flag. As the field charged into turns one and two, cars were fender-to-fender and bumper-to-bumper, with each one trying desperately to occupy the same real estate. Unable to do so, cars went spinning in the rearview mirror of the No. 32 and the caution was displayed again.
"Do I have any damage?" asked Villeneuve. "Also, is anyone tight on fuel?"
"You have a little cave in on the left front, but it doesn't look like it's going to be a big deal at all," McGarey said.
"We're staying out," Owens replied as well. "We're the only one on new tires up here, so be careful. The No. 07 maybe, but you're ok, so don't hold anything back!"
The race resumed on lap 72 with Villeneuve restarting from the fourth spot. Once the cars made their way through turns one and two, the leaders were running in a single file line. Working to pass the No. 33, the No. 22 was able to nose his way past the yellow and black Dollar General car. Villeneuve quickly overtook the No. 22 again and drove tight through the turns to get back to the No. 33.
On lap 73, the caution flag was flown once again, this time for Braun Racing teammate, Jason Leffler, whose No. 38 came to rest in turn three. NASCAR officials traded the yellow flag for the red one, halting the field so that clean-up crews could work to clean up oil and fluids that had been laid on the track's surface. Thirteen minutes later, the red flag was lifted.
With fuel continuing to be of concern to the cars running in the first and second positions, the two lap shoot-out was going to prove very exciting for the Dollar General team as they prepared to restart from the fourth spot. Green-flag racing resumed on lap 78 with the No. 07 car running out of gas. The battle for the win would be between the No. 09, No. 33 and Braun Racing's No. 32. In the final lap, Max Papis worked to block Villeneuve's efforts to pass, rendering the Dollar General team to a third-place finish in the NAPA Auto Parts 200.
"We had a very strong Dollar General car all weekend," said Villeneuve after the race. "I had a lot of fun and I drove as hard as I could at the end trying to get past Max (Papis). I thought I had him with one lap to go but I just couldn't make it stick. I knew that if I could get past him (Papis), that I could likely overtake Boris (Said) because he was braking early throughout the race. We had such a great effort by the entire Dollar General team here. I wanted to get the win so badly, for them, for the fans and for our Dollar General guests that traveled all the way here to Montreal to be with us."
Next Stop: The NASCAR Nationwide Series teams heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway next weekend for the Great Clips 300.
-source: braun racing