Jacques Villeneuve hopes to finally claim his first NASCAR victory this weekend, when he competes for the third time in Montreal in the Nationwide Series.
The Quebec native has led laps in all his previous outings at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, where he claimed a fourth-place finish last year, his best result to date in NASCAR. Having competed in two Nationwide Series races this season already at Elkhart Lake and Watkins Glen, Villeneuve arrives better prepared than ever and expects that to place him closer to his aim of winning for the first time in NASCAR.
"We are coming in aggressively," said Villeneuve. "It's the third year I raced with the Braun team, and with the [sponsor] Dollar [General] car, it's been five races. So we are starting to work well together and we have really worked hard on the road course program car-wise, and we also are bringing different brakes for Montreal.
"It's a very demanding track, and I'm a late braker. I'm a heavy braker, which is where I make most of my time at Elkhart Lake, and even at the Glen, actually. We are pulling out all the stops for Montreal so we can compete. The first year, when it was the heavy rain, we led the lap and then I crashed under a caution. That was a little bit annoying. And we were quite competitive last year. So I think we are coming this year to try and win it."
At Indianapolis last month, where he competed in the Sprint Cup Series' Brickyard 400, Villeneuve said that he still sees a future for himself in NASCAR. Although a number of drivers have struggled in making the transition from open-wheel to stock cars in the last few years, he reckons Juan Pablo Montoya has proven that the switch can be successfully achieved. The Colombian, who left Formula 1 to race full-time in NASCAR since 2007, was part of the championship Chase last year, and this season has been a regular frontrunner on all kinds of tracks.
"There's always been this perception that oval racers can't drive a road course and a road course driver can't race on ovals," said Villeneuve. "Now if you look at Montoya, he's doing amazingly well on ovals, and he has won the Indy 500, as well, and typical NASCAR drivers who don't come from a road racing background learn very quickly what they need to do on a road course and actually do them very well.
"If you're talented and if you've got the brains to go with it to actually learn your craft, then you'll be good at any form of driving."
To date, only Mario Andretti has been able to win the F1 World Championship, the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR's premier event, the Daytona 500. Although Villeneuve is not aiming as high in NASCAR yet, he hopes to join Andretti in winning a race in one of NASCAR's national series. He also came close to adding a 24 Hours of Le Mans victory to his tally of major wins, finishing second with Peugeot in 2008.
"I've won at two of the three major events I've been in, which was the Indy 500 and the F1 championship," said Villeneuve. "Sadly, at the Le Mans 24 Hours, we finished second, when we led most of the race and that was a little bit frustrating. So the other thing that would be amazing is to win NASCAR, that would be incredible."
Following Sunday's race, Villeneuve plans to compete in the Australian Supercar V8 event in Surfers Paradise in October, although an additional oval race in NASCAR could be in the cards before that if he is able to win next weekend in Montreal.