It has been 14 years since Jacques Villeneuve last attempted to qualify in the Daytona 500. Back in 2008, driving for Bill Davis Racing, he failed in his bid for a place on the line.
However, at the 2022 Daytona 500 duel, 50-year-old Villeneuve made his ticket by posting the fastest times of the cars vying for a place in the time test.
“To be able to make a big race at such a high level is incredible and when I was in a race car I didn’t realize I was 50 years old, which is great,” said Villeneuve. according to ESPN. “As long as it continues like this, I can’t imagine myself stopping racing.”
Not many Canadians have started the NASCAR Cup Series, and only one Canadian has ever achieved victory on NASCAR’s biggest stage.
Sporting News breaks down Villeneuve’s driving career, and the history he could make at the 2022 Daytona 500 on Sunday.
Jacques Villeneuve . racing career
NASCAR is about the only side of racing where Villeneuve has no major experience.
Villeneuve, son of former Ferrari driver Gilles Villeneuve, started his career with international racing mainly while attending school in Switzerland, taking racing experience with Italian Formula Three racing, Toyota Atlantic Championship and Championship Auto Racing Team. In 1994, when he finished sixth in the Drivers’ Championship, he was named Rookie of the Year in the sport.
The following year, he became the youngest Indy 500 winner in history at the age of 24 and the youngest ever to win the IndyCar Championship. The following year, Williams transferred him to Formula One, and he returned to his previous position, winning four races and finishing second overall after Damon Hill. In 1997, Villeneuve was crowned Formula One World Champion as he claimed seven individual race victories.
Villeneuve finished fifth in 1998, and continued to struggle to return to the top of the Formula One world, eventually leaving the racing class in the middle of the 2006 campaign.
It wasn’t until 2008 that Villeneuve achieved another race victory, when, as a Team Peugeot driver, he took victory at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps alongside teammates Nicolas Minassian and Marc Gené.
Villeneuve has only won one race since then, winning in Vallelunga at the 2021 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, but he has raced everywhere. He has raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans (2008), Speedcar Series (2008-09), FIA GT Championship, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (2010, 2013), NASCAR Nationwide Series (2008-13), World Rallycross Championship (2014) . ) and others.
Villeneuve had raced in the Cup Series before, but it had been a long time. He first raced with Bill Davis Racing in the 2007 UAW-Ford 500 (21) and 2007 Checker Auto Parts 500 (41). He next appeared in 2010 in the 2010 Brickyard 400 (29) before last driving for Phoenix Racing in 2013 at the Toyota/Save Mart 350 (41).
Canadian NASCAR Racers
Not many Canadians race in the NASCAR Cup Series. To date, only three drivers have raced more than 30 times in the Cup Series.
Trevor Boys have the most Cup Series starting at 102, with Don Biederman and Patrick Carpentier behind him with 42 each.
Earl Ross, who started 26 races, was the only Canadian to win a Cup Series race, when he won the 1974 Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. That year, he was named Rookie of the Year.
Ron Fellows holds the Canadian record for most wins in a NASCAR series as he claims four race wins in the Xfinity Series between 1995 and 2013 and two Camping World Truck Series wins. Stewart Friesen draws with the Fellows with two Camping World Truck Series wins and, as the current driver in the series, has the most active starts among Canadians with 116.
Oldest NASCAR driver to win a Cup Series race
Villeneuve had a long shot to win at Daytona, but he was on track.
However, if he does the unbelievable, he will make history as the oldest driver to win his first Cup Series win, surpassing Harry Gant, who was 42 years old when he won his first Cup Series race. Gant went on to become the oldest driver to win a Cup Series race overall, when he won the 1992 Spark Plug 400 at the age of 52.
Even so, Gant is still far from being the oldest racer to ever race in the Cup Series. The title belongs to Morgan Shepherd, who at the age of 72, took part in the 2014 Camping World RV 701 Sale.
Open-wheel vehicles to race in NASCAR
Villeneuve has primarily been an open-wheel racer throughout his racing career and is now ready to race in one of NASCAR’s biggest stock car events at the Daytona 500.
There have been several successful open-wheel drivers in NASCAR. Dan Gurney is the first driver to win races in Formula One, IndyCar and NASCAR, respectively. Mario Andretti and Juan Pablo Montoya are the only two riders to have achieved the feat since then. Each of the three racers starts the race with the wheels open. Mario’s brother, John Andretti, also successfully made the transition from CART to NASCAR.
AJ Foyt found much success with open-wheel racing, winning in the Indy 500 and in Formula One before finally racing in NASCAR.
Tony Stewart won both IndyCar and NASCAR championships, and he also started open-wheel racing. Eight years after Stewart’s move to NASCAR in 1999, Montoya made the move, which sparked a wave of open-wheel drivers to move to NASCAR.
However, not all drivers who have made the transition have been successful. Dario Franchitti is a four-time IndyCar Series champion, but in 10 races in the Cup Series, he has never finished in the top 10. In 18 Xfinity Series races, only twice has he finished in the top 10.
Sam Hornish Jr., a three-time IndyCar Series champion, raced 167 times in nine years in the Cup Series, and has only 12 top 10 finishes and no wins.
Canadian-American Paul Tracy dominated in CART racing and was the World Series champion in 2003, but in six races in the NASCAR Busch Series in 2006, his highest finish was 24th.
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