NASCAR Cup Series

Jacques Villeneuve plans 2022 Daytona 500 entry with Team Hezeberg

2 Mins read
Credit: Chris Hacker

The NASCAR Cup Series and Formula One are the two highest levels in their respective disciplines but crossover is quite rare, especially among the most successful names. In fact, of the thirty-four who have won an F1 World Drivers Championship, only Mario Andretti has also raced in the Cup Series’ prestigious Daytona 500. Jacques Villeneuve is hoping to be the second.

Villeneuve, the 1997 F1 World Champion, spent Tuesday and Wednesday testing the Next Gen car at Daytona International Speedway for Team Hezeberg, a Dutch operation that is new for the 2022 Cup season. The team intends to primarily run the road courses during its maiden season with Loris Hezemans, the reigning Whelen Euro Series champion, piloting the #27 Ford Mustang. Until then, Villeneuve has served as the team’s test driver at sessions in Charlotte and Daytona; the former, held on the Roval layout in October, saw Villeneuve nearly lose control of the car before saving it, and he finished with the twelfth best time of twenty-one cars. Camping World Truck Series part-timer Chris Hacker served as his spotter, prompting Hacker to quip that “it’s safe to say I might be the one and only person that will make their spotting debut in the Cup Series with a new generation car for a F1 World Champion…”

After his F1 career ended in 2006, he jumped to stock cars. Despite originally planning to run for Cup Series Rookie of the Year honours in 2008, Villeneuve triggered a massive wreck in his Daytona 500 qualifying race and consequently lost his seat at Bill Davis Racing. Over the next five years, he put his open-wheel circuit experience to use as a road course ringer in the Cup and now-Xfinity Series. While he antagonised his share of drivers in the latter with his aggressive driving style, he scored six top tens, four top fives, and a pole in nine Xfinity starts. His last Cup start came at Sonoma in 2013, though mechanical issues relegated him to a finish of forty-first.

Villeneuve also sporadically competed in his native Canada’s NASCAR Pinty’s Series, notching a pair of top fives in four attempts. In 2019, he debuted in another NASCAR international league with the Euro Series for Cup team Go FAS Racing, where he finished eighth in EuroNASCAR PRO points with three podiums. He signed with FEED Racing in 2020, during which he recorded a runner-up at Vallelunga in a four-race schedule, before joining Academy/Caffi Motorsport for 2021. Villeneuve won the final two races at Vallelunga for his first racing triumphs since the 2008 1000km of Spa.

“(The Daytona 500) will be extremely special because it is also a standout race,” said Villeneuve. “It is a very special race to participate in, and it’s hard to get into show when you have to qualify on time or in the duels. So it makes it a bit more stressful, and making the show would already be something special.”

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History major at San Jose State University and lifelong motorsports fan who covers NASCAR and the Stadium Super Trucks.
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