NASCAR & Auto Racing

Jacques Villeneuve, a former Indy winner and F1 champ, fired up about Truck series start

Jacques Villeneuve could hardly wait to officially get his NASCAR career under way Saturday night at Las Vegas.

The former open-wheel star is hopping onto the fast track in an effort to be ready for the Daytona 500 in February.

Bill Davis Racing announced Aug. 24 that Villeneuve would compete in the final seven races of the 2007 Craftsman Truck Series in preparation for a shot at the top-tier NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2008. Villeneuve also has participated in several NASCAR test sessions in an attempt to gain as much track time in the stock cars as possible.

“I love racing and I’m just happy about getting into something that’s exciting and at a high level,” the 36-year-old French Canadian said earlier this week in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

“Right now, there are only two series in the world, as far as I’m concerned – Formula One and NASCAR.

“Over the last 10 years, I’ve given a lot to (open-wheel) racing and I’m just happy to be out of it now.”

The 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner and 1997 F1 champion recently tested NASCAR’s car of tomorrow, along with 50 other drivers, at Talladega – his first taste of driving a stock car.

“It was amazing,” Villeneuve said.

“I’m not so crazy about testing, but I love driving with all the other guys out there. That’s what I look forward to in NASCAR. That’s the fun of racing.

“I think they should ban testing in F1 and just have more races. If they did, maybe I’d still be there.”

What impressed him most during the Talladega test was the close racing in the pack.

“Those guys have a lot of experience and they’re talented, and to be running in the middle of the pack with them, that was great,” he said.

“The best thing was nobody was pulling out on me. That means they trust me, which is good.”

After that test, Villeneuve talked about his impressions.

“I’ve driven on ovals before, and in F1 we had some high speeds as well,” he said. “So that aspect is not too bad. But driving on an oval in these cars, they’re quite heavy and they move around a lot. They don’t react as quick, so you can’t drive them too aggressive.

“I’m just trying to learn everything. Sometimes we’ll make a bunch of changes just to see what happens to the car. Not necessarily good changes. It’s just so I can figure out what happened to the car and understand it better.”