Jacques' NASCAR bid in jeopardy

DEAN MCNULTY

, Last Updated: 12:34 PM ET

DAYTONA, FLA. -- Jacques Villeneuve's days in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series appear to be numbered after Bill Davis Racing yesterday announced that the 1997 Formula One world champion would be replaced at next week's race in California by Mike Skinner.

There had been speculation all week that Villeneuve needed to qualify the No. 27 Toyota for today's Daytona 500 in order to secure further sponsorship for his racing program.

When he failed to make the grid in Thursday's Gatorade Duel 150s, Villeneuve immediately left the track and flew to Paris to meet up with his wife and to fill out the forms to enter the June running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Villeneuve qualified for both Cup races he attempted last year at Talladega and Phoenix.

"We know that Jacques has the talent and the desire to be in NASCAR, and are diligently working on a long-term relationship with him," Davis said in a statement. "Bill Davis Racing will continue to support Jacques in his pursuit of a successful career in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series."

Villeneuve recently fired his longtime business manager, Craig Pollock, and it's thought that move came too late, as Davis complained publicly that Pollock was a roadblock to getting financial support and sponsors for the No. 27 effort.

Villeneuve has hired Barry Green, who guided his CART career to an Indianapolis 500 win, to seek out a sponsorship deal, but it may be too little, too late on that front as well.

Davis said earlier this week that the team had about 75% of the money it needed to go ahead, but without the remaining 25%, it needed to look at other options.

D.J. HANGS IN

Canada's D.J. Kennington said after qualifying for yesterday's NASCAR Nationwide Series Camper's World 300 that it was a dream come true.

But when it came time to race with 43 other hopefuls, including Sprint Cup stars the likes of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch, the 30-year-old Kennington was overmatched.

He did manage to finish the race, albeit three laps down in 33rd place, with the doors on, an accomplishment many more experienced NASCAR drivers could not boast.

With teams on either side of him in pit lane yesterday -- the No. 9 Dodge of Kasey Kahne and the No. 17 Ford of Matt Kenseth -- boasting budgets easily 10 times that of MacDonald Motorsports, it was inevitable the likable Kennington would face long odds playing with the big kids.

He pledged yesterday, however, that he would soldier on with the support of Leduc, Alta.'s Northern Provincial Pipelines, which has promised to back him for at least the next five NNS events in 2008.

"I feel really lucky to have that kind of support," Kennington said.

He also will try to make the NNS race in August at Michigan International Speedway, the closest NASCAR track to his St. Thomas, Ont., home.


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