Villeneuve doesn't take any shit from NASCAR drivers
Sprint Cup drivers are a bit leery about having Jacques Villeneuve in the field for Sunday’s race at Sonoma Raceway.
But none more than Danica Patrick. Villeneuve, the former Formula One champion, wrecked Patrick while she was running fourth on the final lap of the road course race at Road America last year. Villeneuve also caused a big wreck in the Nationwide race at Road American in 2011 and has built a reputation for being over aggressive and running over other drivers on road courses.
Villeneuve is driving the No. 51 car for Phoenix Racing this weekend. Patrick was not happy to see him at the track Friday.
“I saw him in the rookie meeting and I was like, ‘Oh, hey,’ and that was about it,” Patrick said.
What did he say to her?
“After the things that have happened, it’s hard to have a lot of respect for somebody like that,” Patrick said. “I respect what he has done in his career, but the way he treats other drivers on the track, I can’t. That’s all there is to say.”
Patrick is not the only driver who is concerned about Villeneuve on a road course where NASCAR drivers have been known to push and shove in recent years.
Asked to describe Villeneuve Friday, Clint Bowyer said, "Train wreck, extremely fast train, but usually ends up derailed somehow.”
“There has to be a level of respect and it doesn't matter if you're racing for points throughout the season, or just show up and race against the peers of one of the premier levels of all of motorsports, if that respect is not there, you're not going to come in and beat and bang on this bunch for long and you're probably going to be frustrated by the end of the day.
“That's not a threat or anything else.
We've all seen what will happen in those Nationwide races and it was too bad because there seemed to be one common denominator in a lot of the cautions that came out."
Villeneuve, 42, is trying to resurrect his career by running NASCAR races and dabbling in other series. He knows the reputation he has developed in NASCAR and hopes to correct it.
"What you have to try to avoid is the stupid moves like the one I did (at Road America) two years ago," Villeneuve told The Associated Press on 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."
Marcos Ambrose, who has raced against Villeneuve in both Sprint Cup and Nationwide, says he has few problems with the former open-wheel star, but he knows that plenty of drivers have.
“I’ve got no issues. I think there are plenty of other drivers that have more issues than me,” he said. “I really like Jacques. I watched him win all of those Formula One races and the world championship and I’m really excited that I get to race against a guy of that caliber and reputation, so there are no problems with me. It’s good to have him here.”
Villeneuve says his reputation is overblown, but he hopes to stay clean on the track this weekend.
"I've been pushed off the track a lot more than the other way around," he told the AP. "But the perception is that I've been dirty and a dangerous driver. I know the reputation that I have and I think it's been blown out of proportion. That's life. You have to live with it.
"I'm not here to take people out. I'm not here to get anybody angry, either. So hopefully race hard but clean. I'm not here to be a hero." Sporting News