NASCAR & Auto Racing

Villenueve knows he's being watched, 'so we have to be even more careful'

Jacques Villeneuve crossed his first hurdle by qualifying for Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway. That done, his goal was simple for his Nextel Cup debut.

“Just to stay out of trouble, I guess,” said Villeneuve, who qualified sixth. “There have been a few fingers pointed, so we have to be even more careful.”

The former Formula One champion is moving to NASCAR full-time next season, and chose Talladega for his first Cup event. That drew the ire of the series regulars, who think Talladega isn’t the proper place for any driver to debut because of its dangerous racing conditions.

Villeneuve made his NASCAR debut two weeks ago in a Truck Series event in Las Vegas, and ran Saturday’s event at Talladega.

His entry into NASCAR – and the criticism he’s received – has created a ton of interest in the Canadian and he was swarmed by reporters on pit road following his qualifying lap on Saturday. As he conducted interviews in both English and French, Villeneuve acknowledged it was the most attention he’s received in some time.

“The last few years when there were a lot of people around was when there were controversies,” he said. “This is a nice change.”