Villeneuve plays second fiddle to Danica Patrick
In the world of professional sports fame can be a cruel and all too fleeting mistress.
Take Jacques Villeneuve, this country’s only Formula One world champion and Indianapolis 500 winner.
There he stood on Thursday in the lobby of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in his home town, playing second fiddle to Danica Patrick, owner of one career win in the IZOD IndyCar Series and none in NASCAR.
The 29-year-old Patrick was clearly the star of the afternoon dog and pony show put on to promote Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series NAPA 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
In that race, Patrick will be driving the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet — owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr. — and Villeneuve will be driving Roger Penske’s No. 22 Dodge.
Villeneuve is very much among the favorites — if not a clear No. 1 choice — to win on Saturday at the track named for his late father.
The No. 22 Dodge team won last season’s Nationwide championship — with Brad Keselowski behind the wheel — and Villeneuve came close to winning at Road America eight weeks ago in the same car.
Kurt Busch drove that race car to Victory Lane last week in the ZIPPO 200 at Watkins Glen International.
For Patrick, on the other hand, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve will be her first experience driving a Nationwide car on a road course.
Her only previous bout of turning left and right in a stock car was when she spent a day of testing a week ago with Toronto’s Ron Fellows as a tutor at Road Atlanta. Fellows, by the way, will be her JRM teammate in Montreal.
The experience and expectations that Patrick and Villeneuve bring to the track on Saturday, however, didn’t mean a tinker’s damn to the media gathered Thursday.
It was all about whether Patrick will finally abandon the IndyCar series and make the switch, full-time, to NASCAR next season.
It is a story that has played out — over and over and over again — since her initial foray into NASCAR in 2010.
And from that first ARCA race at Daytona International Speedway it was clear where Patrick was headed.
Now 18 months later, it will be made official next week in Phoenix, home of her primary sponsor GoDaddy.com, that Patrick will race a full NASCAR Nationwide schedule in 2012 for JRM, with a few selected Sprint Cup races with Stewart Haas Racing. Canoe.ca