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Keeping Pace

Villeneuve back at Indy with eye on future

Big picture aside, Jacques Villeneuve’s immediate concern is trying to put Braun Racing’s No. 32 Toyota in the field during today’s qualifying.

Chris Jenkins

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS – Jacques Villeneuve was supposed to be in Europe this week working on a potential deal to return to Formula One next season.

Then he suddenly got the chance to try to qualify for Sunday’s Sprint Cup series race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, so Villeneuve put those talks on hold to go racing.

The 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner and 1997 Formula One champion hasn’t had a steady ride in a top series since 2006. While the 39-year-old Canadian is working on an F1 deal, he remains interested in finding a full-time ride in NASCAR.

“There’s a lot going on, and until you have something finalized, you have to look at every opportunity that’s out there,” Villeneuve said. “I really, really enjoy driving the NASCARs. That’s why I moved back on this side of the ocean in 2006, was to concentrate on NASCAR. And it’s taken a while to get going.”

Big picture aside, Villeneuve’s immediate concern is trying to put Braun Racing’s No. 32 Toyota in the field during today’s qualifying.

It’s a newly built car for a team that only races part time in the Cup series. Villeneuve has raced road course races in the Nationwide series for Braun – most recently at Road America, where he ran strong all day and made a few breathtaking passes, only to have an electrical problem derail a potential top-five finish.

Villeneuve is seen mostly as a road-course specialist in NASCAR but wants to prove himself on ovals.

Despite his experience at the track – in addition to the Indy 500, he also has raced on the track’s road course configuration as an F1 driver – Indianapolis isn’t the easiest place for a part-time driver to try to get up to speed in a stock car.

“It’s tough for a guy that doesn’t do it every week, for sure,” said Tony Stewart, who successfully made the jump from open-wheel racing to stock cars. “There’s a lot of emphasis put on this race, obviously. He’s been a champion here, so he knows how to get around this place. It’s just, can he figure it out in a stock car?”

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Keeping Pace

Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.