UNICEF backs Villeneuve on Cup debut
Villeneuve partners with UNICEF for NASCAR Nextel Cup debut Jacques Villeneuve’s NASCAR career moves to a new high this weekend, as he makes his Nextel Cup debut at the famous Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. His Toyota Camry, car number 27, will carry the iconic blue branding of UNICEF, the globally-active, United Nations-founded children’s charity.
One of the fastest circuits on the NASCAR calendar, Villeneuve has tested several times at Talladega in recent weeks, including a highly-successful ‘bump draft’ session. Alongside his ‘Cup’ debut, the 36-year-old Canadian, the first F1 World Champion to move to NASCAR, will contest Saturday’s Craftsman Truck race in his Bill Davis Racing Toyota Tundra. As with his ‘Cup’ car, UNICEF will be the strongest brand message on his race truck.
On a flying visit to his team’s workshops in High Point, North Carolina, en-route to Talladega, Villeneuve was clearly upbeat, relishing the various challenges that the weekend presents him with.
In addition to managing the different characteristics of the truck and the car, as a series rookie, Villeneuve will again be required to qualify both vehicles, and assuming that everything goes to plan, this will be his first time to race two different classes at a single event.
The media attention surrounding Villeneuve’s arrival in NASCAR has been intense, and the demand for interviews and photographs will again add to his demanding schedule in Talladega. Perhaps the greatest challenge of all however will be the need to maximize his own opportunity, to lap as fast as he can, and race as close to the front of the field as possible – he is a proven Champion after all - at the same time remaining mindful that he has no desire to negatively impact upon those twelve drivers fighting out the Chase for the Cup.
Speaking as he boarded a Bill Davis Racing plane with his race crew, Villeneuve commented, “The decision to race Cup at Talladega was made in the middle of last week, as soon as we knew that NASCAR had approved me to do so. It’s earlier than originally scheduled, but I like the track, and we’ve proven that we know how to lap quickly there, so now, is the right time for me to focus on developing my experience ahead of 2008. It’s a long time since I’ve had such a big weekend.” Almost exactly ten years ago, Jacques Villeneuve created ‘Formula Charity’, based in Switzerland, to aid a number of children’s charities across Europe. Whilst that program will continue, as an athlete with a real desire to help children wherever, and however possible, the chance to promote UNICEF is a dream opportunity.
When asked about his partnership with UNICEF, the NASCAR debutant explained, “This Cup race is an addition to the test and race schedule that we’d committed to, so we had the chance to do something different with the car. I have a desire to see children all over the world safe, healthy and happy and that is UNICEF’s sole focus. UNICEF has developed a clever initiative in support of this NASCAR program, something that they’ve decided to call ‘Going the extra mile’ which I hope will offer the children that they offer assistance to, some real benefit.” Speaking on behalf of UNICEF, Nigel Fisher, President and CEO of UNICEF Canada stated, “This is very exciting for UNICEF Canada. We are extremely grateful to have a Canadian icon like Jacques Villeneuve demonstrate such phenomenal support for UNICEF in this way. Millions of eyes will be on his car this weekend, and that means millions of eyes will be on UNICEF and our work for children.”