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Jacques Villeneuve finally getting a taste of Watkins Glen

Jacques Villeneuve is looking forward to his first race at Watkins Glen International. He will drive the No. 32 for Braun Racing in Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race. (Photo: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Lee Montgomery

Special to the Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service

Jacques Villeneuve has raced all over the world and all over the United States in Formula One, IndyCars, sports cars and NASCAR stock cars. Yet, somehow the former F1 champion and Indy 500 winner never raced at one of America’s top road courses.

That changes this weekend at famed Watkins Glen International in the Zippo 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

Villeneuve’s father, Gilles, raced at The Glen years ago when Formula One used the long course. But that series last raced there in 1980, long before Jacques competed in F1. And though IndyCars race there now, The Glen wasn’t added to that schedule until 2005.

"Whatever I was racing, that race wasn’t happening," said Villeneuve, who will be in the No. 32 Braun Racing Toyota. "In my dad’s time, F1 was racing there. When I was in IndyCar, they weren’t racing there, either. It’s one of the great tracks."

And though Villeneuve is one of the top racers in the world, he might be at a slight disadvantage this weekend.

"It’s always good knowing a track, even if it’s in a different car," Villeneuve said. "That saves you a lot of time. Now, we only have one practice session to get going, so I really don’t know.

"It’s not a typical road course, with a lot of braking. But the good thing is there’s not many corners, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find the way around. It’s a short track. If you take Elkhart Lake, it’s an extremely long track, so that makes it a little bit more difficult with a lot of braking and overtaking and blind corners. Montreal is very special because it’s very tight, very slow.

"The Glen, apart from the Bus Stop—it’s called the Bus Stop?—seems to be fast enough, with a little bit of banking as well, if I remember watching the TV last year. It’s a different kind of road course, so it requires a different kind of setup."

Villeneuve said he would rely on crew chief Trent Owens for the setup, and he is comfortable with the team, having driven the No. 32 Toyota at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., in June. He also drove for Braun in last month’s Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis.

Villeneuve’s career has been disjointed in recent years, though he said he’d prefer to stay in one series. If that’s NASCAR, great.

"I love driving those cars," Villeneuve said. "I love the series. It’s fun, it’s difficult. The cars are fast, and most of the ovals, it’s quite a handful and very exciting. Both races I did this year, Elkhart Lake and the Brickyard, were a huge enjoyment, so I would really like to carry on.

"But unless you have a full-time deal on the table, you can’t give up on all the other options that are available."

Fast facts

What: Zippo 200 at The Glen

Where: Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International

When: Saturday, 2 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN, 1:30 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 128

Track layout: 2.45-mile road course

Race distance: 82 laps/200.9 miles

Qualifying: Saturday, 9:10 a.m. ET

2009 winner: Marcos Ambrose

2009 polesitter: Kevin Harvick

Points leaders: 1. Brad Keselowski, 3,349; 2. Carl Edwards, 3,118; 3. Kyle Busch, 2,876; 4. Justin Allgaier, 2,833; 5. Paul Menard, 2,620; 6. Kevin Harvick, 2,609; 7. Steve Wallace, 2,488; 8. Trevor Bayne, 2,365; 9. Brendan Gaughan, 2,347; 10. Jason Leffler, 2,326.

Villeneuve finally getting a taste of Watkins Glen By Lee MontgomerySpecial to the Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service (August 5, 2010) Jacques Villeneuve has raced all over the world and all over the United States in Formula One, IndyCars, sports cars and NASCAR stock cars. Yet, somehow the former F1 champion and Indy 500 winner never raced at one of America’s top road courses. That changes this weekend at famed Watkins Glen International in the Zippo 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race. Villeneuve’s father, Gilles, raced at The Glen years ago when Formula One used the long course. But that series last raced there in 1980, long before Jacques competed in F1. And though IndyCars race there now, The Glen wasn’t added to that schedule until 2005. "Whatever I was racing, that race wasn’t happening," said Villeneuve, who will be in the No. 32 Braun Racing Toyota. "In my dad’s time, F1 was racing there. When I was in IndyCar, they weren’t racing there, either. It’s one of the great tracks." And though Villeneuve is one of the top racers in the world, he might be at a slight disadvantage this weekend. "It’s always good knowing a track, even if it’s in a different car," Villeneuve said. "That saves you a lot of time. Now, we only have one practice session to get going, so I really don’t know. "It’s not a typical road course, with a lot of braking. But the good thing is there’s not many corners, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find the way around. It’s a short track. If you take Elkhart Lake, it’s an extremely long track, so that makes it a little bit more difficult with a lot of braking and overtaking and blind corners. Montreal is very special because it’s very tight, very slow. "The Glen, apart from the Bus Stop—it’s called the Bus Stop?—seems to be fast enough, with a little bit of banking as well, if I remember watching the TV last year. It’s a different kind of road course, so it requires a different kind of setup." Villeneuve said he would rely on crew chief Trent Owens for the setup, and he is comfortable with the team, having driven the No. 32 Toyota at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., in June. He also drove for Braun in last month’s Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis. Villeneuve’s career has been disjointed in recent years, though he said he’d prefer to stay in one series. If that’s NASCAR, great. "I love driving those cars," Villeneuve said. "I love the series. It’s fun, it’s difficult. The cars are fast, and most of the ovals, it’s quite a handful and very exciting. Both races I did this year, Elkhart Lake and the Brickyard, were a huge enjoyment, so I would really like to carry on. "But unless you have a full-time deal on the table, you can’t give up on all the other options that are available." Fast facts What: Zippo 200 at The GlenWhere: Watkins Glen (N.Y.) InternationalWhen: Saturday, 2 p.m. ETTV: ESPN, 1:30 p.m. ETRadio: MRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 128Track layout: 2.45-mile road courseRace distance: 82 laps/200.9 milesQualifying: Saturday, 9:10 a.m. ET2009 winner: Marcos Ambrose2009 polesitter: Kevin HarvickPoints leaders: 1. Brad Keselowski, 3,349; 2. Carl Edwards, 3,118; 3. Kyle Busch, 2,876; 4. Justin Allgaier, 2,833; 5. Paul Menard, 2,620; 6. Kevin Harvick, 2,609; 7. Steve Wallace, 2,488; 8. Trevor Bayne, 2,365; 9. Brendan Gaughan, 2,347; 10. Jason Leffler, 2,326.