Villeneuve, who received the F1 title in 1997 two years after his 1995 Indy 500 victory, ensured himself of a starting spot in NASCAR’s biggest race of the season on Sunday in qualifying on Wednesday night.
Driving the #27 Hezeberg Ford Mustang, the Canadian takes one of many 4 non-charter spots on the grid, with Beard Motorsports’ Noah Gragson additionally locking himself in by way of time trials.
Greg Biffle, Kaz Grala, Timmy Hill and J.J. Yeley will battle for the 2 remaining spots within the discipline for non-charter groups in Thursday evening’s Duel races.
It will likely be Villeneuve’s first NASCAR Cup begin since 2013 and his debut within the Daytona 500, having didn’t qualify at his final try in 2008 in a Invoice Davis Racing Toyota.
When requested how his achievement ranked in his profession, Villeneuve replied: “Tremendous excessive. Clearly, it’s not a win.
“It’s not like profitable the Indy 500 or the F1 championship, however at this level in my profession the final time I attempted to qualify right here was 14 years in the past, simply to make the present is unbelievable as a result of it’s a small workforce.
“We didn’t hyperlink up with an enormous workforce to get the automobile prepared and it’s extremely surprising to have the ability to make it on time, so it ranks proper after these massive wins.
“To have the ability to make such an enormous race at such a excessive stage is superb and once I’m within the race automobile I don’t realise that I’m 50, which is nice.
“So long as it carries on like this, I can’t think about myself stopping racing.”
Jacques Villeneuve, Workforce Hezeberg, Ford Mustang Hezeberg Engineering Programs
Picture by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images
Villeneuve stated that some individuals had written him off as knowledgeable driver, however a brace of wins in the European NASCAR series at Vallelunga last year had proved he nonetheless had what it takes.
“It’s satisfying and superb as a result of there’s fairly a number of instances the place I’ve been listening to, ‘OK, come on, you’re previous it, simply give it up,’” he stated.
“The starvation has by no means stopped and expertise is just an enormous assist till the day the place I suppose you begin getting your foot off the throttle since you get a little bit bit scared otherwise you don’t get that adrenaline rush anymore.
“Till that second expertise is just a profit.”
Villeneuve, who’s driving the automobile part-time till Workforce Hezeberg’s main driver Loris Hezemans good points sufficient expertise to race on the greater NASCAR tracks, didn’t anticipate to qualify on velocity and was involved that he won’t be capable of race his manner in by way of at this time’s Duel race.
His final try to qualify by way of the Duels in 2008 resulted in a multi-car crash involving four-time IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti, 2010 Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray and Hollywood stuntman Stanton Barrett.
“I used to be satisfied we didn’t have the velocity to get in on time, and I assumed we’d then should combat it by way of the Duels,” he admitted.
“By some means the automobile was quite a bit simpler to drive. It was straightforward to be clean as a result of we bought in by not quite a bit.
“It was very, very shut. It was all a matter of getting proper on top of things popping out of Flip 2, going by way of the gears, getting away from the wall to not block the air, simply getting these additional few revs and that made the distinction.”
The workforce is run by Toine Hezemans and businessman Ernst Berg, with technical assist from Reaume Bros Racing. If the workforce will get a powerful end result on Sunday, it might imply an elevated programme within the Cup Sequence, as it isn’t anticipated to seem at each spherical.