Road America: Jacques Villeneuve race report

GREAT FINISH BY VILLENEUVE AND THE DOLLAR GENERAL TEAM AT ROAD AMERICA HALTED BY ELECTRICAL PROBLEM ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (June 21, 2010) -- Jacques Villeneuve and the Dollar General team were among the class of the field this weekend at Road ...


ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (June 21, 2010) -- Jacques Villeneuve and the Dollar General team were among the class of the field this weekend at Road America. The No. 32 Toyota was running near the front for almost the entire 50 laps of the Bucyrus 200. Narrowly missing the pole position, Villeneuve started from the second spot in the inaugural NASCAR Nationwide Series event at the Elkhart Lake-based road course. Demonstrating his road course expertise, Villeneuve drove hard and was poised to finish second when the car succumbed to an electrical issue on the final lap of the race. The Dollar General team was relegated to a 25th-place finish.

The Dollar General team headed to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin this weekend with confidence in both car and driver. With a world champion F1 and CART driver behind the wheel of the No. 32 Camry, the bar was set high for the first road course event of the season. Following a day of open testing at the 4.048-mile track, Villeneuve sat fifth on the speed charts for Friday's first practice and was fastest in the final practice session.

Road course qualifying differs from that at the oval tracks. Cars are grouped based off of their practice times, placing the fastest cars together in the final group. Each group is given seven minutes to log laps, with the fastest lap recorded as the driver's qualifying time. Because the No. 60 car was practiced by a driver other than the one who would be competing in Saturday's race, the practice time was disqualified and the car was placed in the first group to qualify. When the final group rolled onto the track to begin their qualifying laps, the No. 60 still held the pole position. Villeneuve drove hard and turned in a fast lap of 135.265 seconds, narrowly missing the pole position and securing the second spot for the start of the race.

When the green flag dropped to signal the start of the 50-lap event, Villeneuve pulled behind the No. 60 car. He forfeited the second position to the No. 18, but only briefly. He retook the position before the first lap was completed and remained there as the first full-course caution was brought on out lap two. Green-flag racing resumed on lap four. As the cars sailed around the track, the Dollar General Toyota was tight on the rear bumper of the leader. Unable to make the pass, Villeneuve wisely preserved his brakes and patiently cruised in the second position knowing that there were still a lot of laps ahead of him. On lap 12 the second full-course yellow flag was displayed for a spinning car and oil on the race track.

"The car feels good," Villeneuve reported to crew chief, Trent Owens.

Owens instructed him to come to pit road for service on lap 13. The crew quickly changed four tires, making no adjustments and packing the car with fuel. The Dollar General Toyota was the second car off of pit road behind the No. 60.

Because five cars had come to pit road prior to the caution flag, the No. 32 lined up behind the group, restarting from the seventh position on lap 15. As green-flag racing resumed, Villeneuve demonstrated his expert driving and maneuvered effortlessly into the fourth position by only the fifth turn. Before the lap was complete, he moved back into second. He maintained the position until the next full-course caution at lap 27 when the No. 16 car spun in turn one.

Owens called Villeneuve to pit road for fresh tires and fuel. The crew quickly put on four sticker tires, made an air pressure adjustment and filled the Camry with fuel. As the front tire changer came around the car, a stray tire from the pit in front of the Dollar General team's rolled onto the air hose. The brief time it took to free the hose was costly and the No. 32 was the third car off of pit road. Lining up behind cars that did not come down pit road, Villeneuve restarted from the sixth position.

Within the first six turns of the course, Villeneuve moved the No. 32 into third. Behind him, a multi-car pile-up between in turn six brought out another full-course caution, slowing the field once again. As the cars circled the track, the No. 90 came down pit road, moving the No. 32 back into the second position. With it apparent that the large amount of debris would require time for clean-up, NASCAR displayed the red flag and halted the cars on the track for nearly 30 minutes.

With the red flag lifted and the yellow displayed in its place, Owens called his driver to pit road on lap 31 for a fuel-only pit stop. The team quickly gassed the car and removed a tear-off windshield. When he returned to the track Villeneuve was placed in the 17th spot for the restart on lap 34.

As green-flag racing resumed, Villeneuve looked like a man on a mission. He dove to the inside in turn 14, taking it three wide and charging past the No. 60 car. He continued to move inside of the top-10 on the following lap. He was continuing his charge forward when he was hit hard from behind and sent careening off course. He quickly corrected the car and returned to the track in the 10th position. As Villeneuve went to work to chase down the cars ahead, the No. 33 and No. 21 collided right in his path. He quickly steered around the wrecking cars, making slight contact on the left side. As the field slowed on lap 36 for the full-course caution, one of the spotters, Chris Haymaker, reported on the damage.

"It looks like the fender is in, but I can't tell if it is going to rub," he said over the radio.

Owens told his driver to remain on the track, confident that if there was a slight rub, the tire would clearance itself within a few laps. The race returned to green-flag conditions on lap 39 with the Dollar General Toyota restarting in the sixth position.

Villeneuve again showed his driving skills, taking over the third spot in turn three and then charging into the lead with another expert pass in turn five! He led the field through each turn until an accident in turn 12 brought out another full-course caution on lap 39.

Owens reported to his driver, "It looks like there is only smoking from the tire when you brake hard."

Villeneuve confirmed, "Yes, I can see it in the left front when I brake in the turns."

With only 10 laps remaining in the race, Owens decided to not forfeit the lead spot and come to pit road. He remained confident while the team held their breath. The No. 32 restarted in the lead on lap 42. The No. 60 car soon made the pass and Villeneuve settled the No. 32 into the second position. He remained cautious with his braking as the left front continued to smoke; however, Villeneuve kept the leader within striking distance.

The final caution flag was displayed on lap 45 when a car spun off course and deep into the sand in turn six. Villeneuve remained in the second position and restarted from there when green-flag racing resumed on lap 48.

As he drove around the course, he reported to Owens that the engine was beginning to skip. Owens replied, "10-4. Just hold on as best you can."

Villeneuve continued in the second position until the final lap of the race when he reported that the car was losing power. The Dollar General Toyota began to slow and finally came to a stop on race track, only turns away from the checkered flag. Once the field was past, a tow truck was dispatched to push the wounded car back to the Nationwide Series garage. A disappointed Villeneuve climbed from his Camry and followed the team back to the hauler. As they lifted the hood, a severed alternator wire was revealed as the culprit of their woes. Villeneuve and the Dollar General team were credited with a 25th-place finish after having victory within their grasp.

"The crew worked hard and my Dollar General car was amazing all weekend," said Villeneuve. "The car drove really well around the course and it was a fun race. It was obviously a lot different than the last time I was here. The brakes were actually better at the end of the race. I don't know if the temperature cooled down a bit, but I could drive a lot harder at the end of the race. The car felt really good there. It's too bad and annoying to work so hard all weekend and not have the result. When you do two races a year, you have to make the most of them. The three-wide pass for the lead was fun. That's one place I knew I was braking later than the No. 60. I had seen it all race and I was close enough. It was three-wide and I knew it was going to be tight, but you have to take your chances when they're available. He was quicker than us all through the race so I had to take my chance when I could. I was battling the front brakes all race. Then at the end, after the last restart, the car was really, really quick. I am very much looking forward to Montreal!"

Jacques Villeneuve will resume driving duties of the Dollar General Toyota when the NASCAR Nationwide Series travels to Montreal, Canada in August. Reed Sorenson returns to competition in the No. 32 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

ext Stop: The NASCAR Nationwide Series teams will head to Loudon, New Hampshire next weekend for the New England 200.

-source: braun racing

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Trent Owens , Reed Sorenson
Teams HART