SONOMA, Calif. — He’s a former Formula One world champion, an Indianapolis 500 winner. But those accomplishments mean very little when Jacques Villeneuve races in NASCAR.
His résumé has been shredded by nine eventful Nationwide races that have made Villeneuve the punch line of many jokes as he returned to competition this weekend at Sonoma Raceway.
“Train wreck,” defending race winner Clint Bowyer said Friday. “Extremely fast train, but usually ends up derailed, somehow. We’ve all seen what happened in those Nationwide races and it was too bad because it seemed to be one common denominator in a lot of the cautions.”
Villeneuve believes the reputation is unfair and inaccurate.
Yes, he made a mistake when he unsuccessfully tried to go three-wide at Road America in 2011 to trigger a crash that collected several cars. The notoriety then grew when he spun Danica Patrick on the final lap in last year’s return.
It’s created what Villeneuve called “a preconceived idea” of how he races.
“What you have to try to avoid is the stupid moves like the one I did in Elkhart Lake two years ago,” he said Friday. “That was stupid and I took a couple of guys out. That happens to everyone. That one cost a lot. And last year I ran into Danica and that was the worst thing you can do in racing. It doesn’t matter ultimately how or why it happened, that’s enough to create this image and now I am stuck with it.”
LEFFLER CRASH: New Jersey state police said Friday that a mechanical problem was to blame for the dirt-track racing crash that killed NASCAR driver Jason Leffler.
The state police released some findings from a not-yet-complete report on the June 12 crash at Bridgeport Speedway in Logan Township.
The report finds that a torsion stop came off, causing part of the sprint car’s suspension system to become lodged between a wheel and the steering system. As a result, the report found, Leffler was unable to control the car’s steering as he came out of the fourth turn and spun out, slamming into the concrete wall along the side of the track.
FORMULA ONE: Mercedes and drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were cleared Friday to keep chasing the title after the team was given a reprimand by FIA for violating rules on tire testing.
The International Automobile Federation tribunal reprimanded Mercedes and Pirelli – the lowest possible penalty – for breaching F1’s rules that bar the use of current cars for in-season track tests.