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Juan Pablo Montoya's NASCAR success may be whetting Jacques Villeneuve's desire to try this sport once again

  Montoya could be a threat to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship...but first he just wants to win at the Glen...and anywhere, really (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Maybe it's Juan Pablo Montoya's summer surge that has piqued his interest again.
   Maybe it's just boredom with hanging around the house.
   Or maybe it has something to do with the rejuvenated Canadian Grand Prix now back on the Formula One tour for 2010 (a five year deal for $20 million a year, to be paid by Canadian promoters to F1) at the Montreal track named in honor of his late father.
   But whatever the reason, it looks like Jacques Villeneuve wants back in the NASCAR hunt.
   The question now is what team might get him, and with what sponsor, and for how many races.
   Toyota, perhaps, has a good interest in Villeneuve, it would seem.
   "I think he just wants to go back Formula One racing," says Slugger Labbe, Villeneuve's crew chief for last year's brief attempt at NASCAR.
   Montoya, 33, won Formula One events from 2001 (Monza, Italy) through 2005 (including Monaco, Brazil and Germany), but never became a championship contender. And he jumped to NASCAR in the summer of 2006.
   Villeneuve, now 38, won the 1997 F1 championship, but his move into NASCAR in 2008 didn't go very far. He tried but failed to make the field for the Daytona 500 with Labbe in a Bill Davis Toyota.
   Now another NASCAR team owner, Richard Petty, has made a move for Villeneuve's services in Cup, though a package couldn't be put together in time for Villeneuve to make this weekend's stop at the Glen, though Villeneuve was enthusiastic about the opportunity.
   What Villeneuve might actually do, well, no one seems to know.

  Can Jacques Villeneuve make it in NASCAR? Does he have a game plan? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

But it's clear what Juan Pablo Montoya is aiming at – the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
   Montoya, whose driving reputation is as a hard-charger in the Dale Earnhardt/Jimmy Spencer vein, insists he's 'points racing' to make the playoffs, with five races till the cut.
   But he's not driving like that. He should have won Indianapolis two weeks ago. He had a great shot at winning Pocono Monday. And he should be darned good here too.
   "We had a great Monday," Montoya says. "We were really quick. I just made a mistake in the pits -- Went a little deep once, and the left-rear tire was loose, and we dropped.
    "What really helped was we had great fuel mileage…and everything just came into our hands.
    "We showed at the end that we had as good a car as any. We just never really had the track position."
    Montoya's patience with this whole NASCAR thing over the past two years has been impressive. He announced in late 2006 he was coming here, and he started testing. And now Jimmie Johnson says Montoya has become a "real" stock car racer.
    "I never really expected it take any shorter than it has," Montoya insists. "If somebody had come to me and said 'All right, you being a Formula One driver, you're going to come here and you're going to kick ass, I didn't think that was going to happen.
    "A couple of weeks when I felt comfortable and everything came out my way I could be fast. But it was more hit-and-miss than anything."
    Sunday here Montoya says good fuel mileage could be key: "At Sonoma and in this race there is always a bit of fuel mileage involved…and a lot of luck.
    "Especially the double-file restart here is going to be pretty interesting. I think it's going to be pretty wild.
    "It's all about surviving right now.
     "Last year we had our car quick enough to win, and we just ran out of brakes. I believe we fixed that. And we've got a new car here, and it should be pretty good."
    Those double-file restarts….wow! Carl Edwards says they're going to get rougher and rougher….till there's a massive 15-car pile-up.

    Carl Edwards: "We have yet to see the truly exciting side of the double-file re-starts...which I feel is going to be wadding up about 15 of the leaders at one of these tracks. I hope somehow we can get around that. But it's going to happen. It's going to be bad." (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Montoya says it's all because it's so hard to pass: "90 percent of overtaking is done within the first two or three laps, and after that wherever you end up in line that's where you ride," Montoya says. "If you're going to make any ground, you have to make it in those first two laps.
    "I think here, though, it might be a little different -- Here it is very easy to miss a corner (and go off the track).
    "If you get too aggressive here, you're going to DNF the race.
    "We got tangled with Kevin Harvick two years ago when Martin Truex pushed me; but it can happen to anybody, especially now with double-file restarts."
    So just how much does Montoya want to push things, in these last five races till the chase?
    "How far are you willing to push it?" Montoya says. "Like last week -- we finished second, and we probably could have won if Kasey Kahne would have pushed me.
   "But if's and but's don't count.
     "Is it (a win) going to happen? I believe it's going to happen pretty soon."



Juan Pablo Montoya's red contrasts sharply with the Glen's legendary Carolina Blue (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

I hope Villanueve will go to

I hope Villanueve will go to the IRL or stay at home. He was terrible in a stock car. I watched him in several of the nationwide and truck races he ran, in which Bill Davis had upper-echelon equipment for those series, and Villanueve drove as if he was intoxicated. I mean, bad. You know it's bad when you can see him struggling that great from a seat on the couch. I don't care what kind of sponsor he brings, it won't pay for all of the wrecked race cars that will follow. Find an up-and-coming stock car driver and leave Villanueve alone.

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yo, dude....we need some

yo, dude....we need some pzzazzz...give vil a chance....he cant do worse than half the guys in these fields. i mean, look at sunday's lineup......what up-and-coming driver would you recommend....give me names....

If pizazz means lots of

If pizazz means lots of crashes, then pizazz is what you'll get. Jacques had great equipment for the trucks and Busch series attempts he made, and the results were ugly. I know BDR was not a Cup powerhouse, so I don't hold those against him. The starts in the lower divisions did show his skills, or lack thereof. No offense to Jacques, as many open-wheel champs have driven stock cars and not done well. You want names, eh:

Parker Kligerman - ARCA
Clayton Rogers - USAR
Colin Braun - trucks
Justin Allgaier - Nationwide
Trevor Bayne - Nationwide
Brendan Gaughn - Nationwide
Jason Keller - long-time Nationwide vet that has never gotten a shot

Travis Kvapil - finished 23rd in Cup last year in level C ride. He showed he could get it done. Put him in a Rousch, Hendrick, or Gibbs car and I think he could contend.

There's 8 off the top of my head. With some research I'm sure I could find 10-12 more that I think could outdrive Villanueve.

yo, my man : i'm not saying

yo, my man : i'm not saying he's the second coming of A. J. Foyt or Mario Andretti (and, remember Mario's 1967 Daytona 500 win and how he couldn't even figure out pit road?) (and remember A. J. blowing the 1979 Daytona 500 because he was too busy watching Donnie and Cale and Bobby over in turn three?)
I'm just tired about writing about the same old guys week after week. We need something different; we need some new drivers, wouldn't you agree. The Cup tour is filled with overpaid prima donnas, IMHO. Pair the IRL-Nationwide-Cup on about 20 weekends a year, bring in new blood and make -- MAKE -- them run either IRL and Cup or Nationwide and Cup each weekend, and get something going. Tony Stewart's a good bud, and Jeff and Jimmie are great, but how many stories do you want to read about those three?
Of course, you -- or I -- could argue about whether this is a sport of racers or a cult of personality.....hey, maybe I will.
OBTW, what the hell we were doing here at the Glen Friday for two-plus hours watching these guys qualify a lap at a time? Can't NASCAR come up with anything more exciting on Fridays? What a waste. This is supposed to be entertainment. Entertain me, then.
I say put Jacques in a car; bring in Schumacher too, for that matter (maybe with a Harley sponsorship). We have 38 races with the same handful of guys doing the same old same old. I want to see something new and different. How about reviving the IROC and bring over Lewis Hamilton?

Schumacher? Okay. Give him

Schumacher? Okay. Give him a shot. Jacques has already had his. I agree about the prima donnas, but the Cup series owners just keep recycling people so long as they can bring in a big sponsor. I know it's a business, but the goal is to win, not to finish Top 25 and "have a good points day". NASCAR has ruined the notion that you can come up through the ranks, but I still want stock-car guys to get their shot when they deserve it. For 10 years after Jeff Gordon hit it big, every owner was plucking anyone and everyone from the open-wheel ranks because of his success. All of the up-and-coming stock car guys got no shot. Now the owners' interest have switched to young guys, and they are at the eight-year-old go-kart races shopping for talent. I grew up watching stock car racing, and stock car racers moving up when they had the talent and got the opportunity. Now those opportunities are almost non-existent. I watched David Reutimann run the All-Pro Series well for nearly 8 years before he finally got a Truck ride. Most guys don't get that shot at his age anymore, and it's a shame. Villenueve strikes a nerve with me because he's already proven that he can not handle a stock car, so why would somebody recycle him? I love Montoya being here because he has some personality and some fire. NASCAR does need more of that; but bringing in open-wheel guys in search of Jeff Gordon II or Tony Stewart II is getting old.

I agree there's disconnect

I agree there's disconnect here: maybe NASCAR needs to expand that 'diversity tryout' program to a wide-open tryout. I'll ask Jack 'Gong Show' Roush about that. Maybe if NASCAR had a Gong Show of its own, hey it could even sell some tickets. Imagine the pressure those dudes would be under. Let's do it at a race weekend track, and see which of these unknowns can really handle the pressure. Heck, it would be a lot more fun than this qualifying crap they keep throwing at us every Friday. Talk about wasting a day of your life.....Seriously, what do you think about that -- a Friday at-the-track session (Richmond, Phoenix, New Hampshire, fairly easy places) for half a dozen Gong Show candidates? And I do think NASCAR, if it approached it right, could get the Schu....damn, I miss the IROC, like when it was really 'International.' Maybe that's something we could talk GM's Chevy Camaro people into doing....And I really want DR to succeed. I am not happy at Denny for taking him out of the chase. The guy has worked his butt off to make it here, and in one bump-and-run, it's over. JV, well, you may be right, but heck, he's got something going for him, I think....If you can win an F1 championship, man, you've got your stuff together. I say give him another shot. But Toyota -- and I talked to them today about it -- seems very disinterested. Hey, how about a real developmental series; every Friday at every Cup track, in whatever cars you want to give them. Let 'em run a 50-mile race, and give us something to look at. Fridays are the most wasted days in this sport....

The Nationwide, er Cup Lite,

The Nationwide, er Cup Lite, Series is supposed to be the developmental series, and the truck series yet another one. Unless NASCAR overhauls those two series, the 50 mile race you speak of will just become yet another playground for the Cup boys.

Why doesn't the IRL sweet talk Villenueve? They are in need of more character and what better way to rev up the field strength than by putting Villenueve behind the wheel. Indy Racing is relevant again, but they need a spark too, and a former F1 Champ would give it to them.

Mike, you need to put in a call to Italy and get Ferrari to field 2 Cup cars: Schumacher in one and Eddie Irvine in the other. They spend 300 million plus in F1 each year, so two competitive Cup cars will be a drop in the bucket.

Hmmmm, the area code for

Hmmmm, the area code for Maranello is 0536....

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