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Jacques Villeneuve, at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve: His NASCAR future is on the line Sunday | NASCAR Racing Breaking News: Trackside Live, Every Week, Every Sprint Cup Race - MikeMulhern.net


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Jacques Villeneuve, at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve: His NASCAR future is on the line Sunday

  Jacques Villeneuve: his last NASCAR roundup? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   This may be the end of the line for Jacques Villeneuve, his last best chance to show that he can make a go of it in NASCAR -- in Sunday's Montreal Nationwide race.
    Villeneuve won the 1997 Formula One championship, but his bid over the last two years to make a career change to NASCAR hasn't gone that well.
   In fact, no one really seems interested in giving Villeneuve another chance.
   Too many crashes?
   Hard to say, since he hasn't had that many NASCAR races.
   If there is any track where the 38-year-old racer might shine, it should be Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, named for his late father, and a place where Jacques has won before, in open-wheel. He has raced F1 10 times at the road course, with a best finish of second.
   Last summer's Nationwide event at the city-center track was marred by rain, and rain tires were no match for sloppy-wet track conditions, which finally forced NASCAR officials to call the race short. Villeneuve qualified fifth, led briefly, then got caught up in crash on the last lap of rain-shortened race. He finished 16th.
   The NASCAR game plan for the Canadian began in late summer 2007, when he was signed to run eight Truck races for Toyota team owner Bill Davis, with the goal of getting in enough laps to kick off a Sprint Cup career in 2008.
   Villeneuve finished 21st in his first Truck race that fall, at Las Vegas. And he qualified sixth for the Cup 500 at Talladega two weeks later; but he elected to start at the rear of the field, because of his lack of NASCAR experience, and he wound up 21st.
   His 2008 Cup venture ended almost before it even started. He crashed during his qualifying heat at Daytona and failed to make the field. When sponsorship for the venture didn't materialize, Villeneuve was on the sidelines.
   Considering what Juan Pablo Montoya has been able to do in NASCAR, Villeneuve ought to be able to do even more, if given opportunity. Villeneuve is one of only three drivers (Mario Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi the others) to win the Indy-car championship (1995), the Formula One championship  (1997), and the Indianapolis 500 (1995).
   But unless Villeneuve makes a good impression in Montreal this weekend, to dispel the doubts, and unless he can help lure a sponsor to sign on somewhere, his future in NASCAR may be dim.


    Is NASCAR's Montreal venture really paying off? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Jacques & Roll

He stands a better chance on the road course of having a decent race than he does on any oval track. I'll still be surprised if he gets the heavier stock car to drive like he wants it to.

Jacques needs to be talking to IndyCar teams. Both he and the series can benefit from him being there. They need more "names". Villanueve, Patrick, Castroneves, and Franchetti is a stellar group as far as name recognition goes. Half the people in the NASCAR stands don't know who Jacques is.

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