Villeneuve belongs

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:06 AM ET

INDIANAPOLIS — Fifteen years ago — the last time Jacques Villeneuve raced at Indianapolis Motor Speedway — he had his likeness carved onto the side of the Borg Warner trophy for winning the IZOD IndyCar Indianapolis 500.

On Sunday there was no such celebration at the end of 160 laps of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Brickyard 400 for the only Canadian ever to win both the Indy 500 and the Formula One world championship.

In fact expectations of that happening this time around were not even on Villeneuve’s radar when he started Sunday’s race from the 43rd and final position on the grid in the No. 32 Braun Racing Toyota.

In the end Villeneuve finished 29th, three laps down to race winner Jamie McMurray.

But that result — and bringing the yellow Dollar General back to the garage with all its fenders on — was applauded by team owner Todd Braun.

“He showed he belonged out there with those guys,” Braun said.

As for Villeneuve he said all he wanted to do on Sunday was to test the waters in the world’s top stock car racing circuit to see if he had what it took to race at that level.

After all it had been almost two years since he strapped himself into a Sprint Cup car on race day.

In the first 30 or so laps Villeneuve improved his position from 43rd to as high as 24th but the disadvantage of having a Nationwide Series pit crew in a Sprint Cup race showed on Lap 45 when it took 22 seconds to get the No. 32 Toyota serviced.

Even mid-pack Sprint Cup teams regularly do that in 14 seconds or less.

That stop was the major factor in Villeneuve going a lap down early and never recovering.

He also said that the car overheated and that he hit the wall a couple of times, damaging the front splitter.

But, Villeneuve said, it was still fun.

“It was so much fun,” he said. “It was a big question mark (because he hadn’t raced in Cup for two years). But that’s how I like it, when it’s tough.

“In the end the car was running really strong.”

Villeneuve may not think of his day as a big win but he did manage to walk away with a cheque in his pocket for $137,725 US for his troubles.

dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca


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