January 11, 2022:  at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. (HHP/Chris Owens)
Jacques Villeneuve (HHP/Chris Owens photo)

Villeneuve Eyes Daytona 500 Start

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Formula 1 world champion and 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve will be making a run at competing in the Daytona 500 next month at Daytona Int’l Speedway.

The 50-year-old Canadian drove the No. 27 Team Hezeberg Ford during Next Gen car testing this week at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.

He missed qualifying for the 2008 Daytona 500 after finishing 23rd in his Duel race. But the 11-time F1 race winner said his hope is very much to run in the Feb. 20 Daytona 500 and he was quite encouraged by the way these new Next Gen cars drove during this Daytona test.

He has four previous NASCAR Cup Series starts — the last in 2013 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.

Villeneuve raced full time in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series last year, contending for the championship and winning two races.

“I’ve never stopped racing, it’s just a question of opportunity and I’m living in Europe so it makes it a little more difficult to focus on racing here in North America,” Villeneuve said.

The small Hezeberg team he’s driving for, was originally going to put one of its family members in the car, but that driver is not approved yet for the series, according to Villeneuve.

“Right now, we’re focusing on Daytona and, hopefully, we’ll do more races,” Villeneuve said. “I felt great. I did a few laps on the ROVAL test, but to get back on the speedway, this is the race. There are a few races in the world that stand out, the Indy 500, the 24 Hours of LeMans and Daytona. So it’s part of that very small group of special races and tracks to drive at.

“It would be amazing,” Villeneuve added. “The last time I was in the NASCAR garage was a lot of years ago. It would be extremely special because it’s a very special race and hard to get in the show when you have to qualify on time or do good in the Duels, so it makes it a bit more stressful and making the show would be something special.”

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