Jacques Villeneuve will get a second chance at driving a NASCAR Sprint Cup car after all, and at a place he knows very well.
The former Formula One and CART champion, who briefly flirted with the Sprint Cup Series before, will attempt to qualify for next week’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway driving the No. 32 Braun Racing Toyota with sponsorship from Dollar General, the team announced on Friday.
If Villeneuve makes the field for the race, he will join Juan Pablo Montoya as the only two drivers in history to compete in all three of the track’s premier motorsports events: the Indianapolis 500, the U.S. Grand Prix and the Brickyard 400.
The Canadian-born Villeneuve, who won the Indianapolis 500 in 1995, ran two NASCAR Sprint Cup races in 2007 for the now-defunct Bill Davis Racing squad, qualifying sixth and finishing 21st at Talladega and qualifying 27th and finishing 41st at Phoenix. He attempted to make the field for the 2008 Daytona 500, but after missing the race, he was replaced by Mike Skinner the following race at California and never returned to a Cup ride.
Earlier this season, he qualified second on the road course at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., in a Braun Racing NASCAR Nationwide Series car and was running second when an electrical issue on the final lap dropped him to 25th place in the final results. He has two other NNS starts with Braun to his credit.
“I am very excited to join with Braun Racing and Dollar General at Indianapolis,” said Villeneuve in a release issued Friday by the team. “We had a very exciting and solid race last month at Elkhart Lake. I had hoped it would result in additional opportunities to drive for the organization. I have a lot of good memories at the Brickyard. Winning the Indy 500 was a very big highlight in my career. This will be my first venture in a stock car there, but I am confident that we will do well.”
“Entering the Brickyard 400 as an owner at this historical track means a lot to me,” said Braun Racing owner Todd Braun. “It is extra special because I grew up here in Indiana. It’s also exciting to take a former Indy 500 winner to the Brickyard. He and Trent (Owens, crew chief) work very well together and I know that Trent is looking forward to the feedback that Jacques can provide him. He is an extremely talented driver. Jacques is a great asset to our team and its road course program.”
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100 and e-mail him at Jensen is the author of “Cheating: The Bad Things Good NASCAR Nextel Cup Racers Do In Pursuit of Speed,” and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. Jensen is the past President of the National Motorsports Press Association and an NMPA Writer of the Year.