Long road back for Villeneuve

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:46 PM ET

WATKINS GLEN, NY — Former world champion Formula One driver Jacques Villeneuve would have preferred to race on the old course at Watkins Glen on Saturday.

That would be the 5.43-kilometre Grand Prix course where his father Gilles Villeneuve won his only U.S. Grand Prix back in 1979, and not the shortened 4.06-km course that NASCAR will race on Saturday for the Nationwide Zippo 200.

“The lap is very short here,” he said. “But there’s still lots of places to pass.”

As it is, the younger Villeneuve will try to qualify his No. 32 Braun Racing Toyota up front on Saturday morning in order to get top track position for the race later that day.

In the one and only practice for the Nationwide race Friday Villeneuve lapped the 10-turn permanent road course with a speed of 119.571 m.p.h. — good enough for ninth fastest on the day.

NASCAR Sprint Cup regular Carl Edwards was fastest at 121.739 m.p.h. in the No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, with Brad Keselowski second at 121.442 m.p.h. in he No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge.

Toronto’s Ron Fellows was third fastest at 120.556 m.p.h. in the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet.

He said that unlike what happened last month at Elkhart Lake, the Braun Team’s Toyota needs some work.

“We’re not as happy as we were at Elkhart Lake,” he said. “At Elkhart Lake the car was great right off of the truck. The car was amazing there”

Villeneuve said part of the problem was that the car was having some carbuerator issues earlier in practice and that put the team behind.

“We lost a lot of lap time because we were having some problems with the carbeurator,” he said. “But over all I don’t think we are too badly off.

No time to tinker

“We still need to find a few things to have the car work exactly the way we want.”

But there is no time to tinker. Nationwide teams are allowed only one practice before Saturday’s qualifying.

That leaves Villeneuve with few options to make the car better.

“Unfortunately were done with practice. We only have qualifying (Saturday) before the race,” he said. “We might just have to guess, to try to gamble on the right set up. Or we can go with what we had (on Friday) when we were ninth best.”

The third Canadian in Saturday’s Nationwide race is J.R. Fitzpatrick, of Cambridge, Ont., who was 20th fastest Friday with a lap of 118.045 in the No. 7 JRM Chevrolet.

dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca


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