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Today’s Racin’ News: Villeneuve To Drive Indy

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, July 16 2010

Former world driving champion Jacques Villeneuve takes a corner at Road America earlier this summer. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

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In racin’ news today, Friday, July 16:

Braun Racing announced that former Formula One World Champion and Indy 500 winner, Jacques Villeneuve, will attempt to qualify the No. 32 Dollar General Toyota for the upcoming Brickyard 400 (NSCS) at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The Canadian driver has captured world championships in both the Indy Car World Series and Formula One and was the winner of the 1995 Indianapolis 500, a feat accomplished only by two other drivers. Qualifying for the Brickyard 400, he will join Juan Pablo Montoya as the only two drivers in history to compete in all three of the historic speedway’s premier motorsports events: the Indianapolis 500, the U.S. Grand Prix and the Brickyard 400.

“I am very excited to join with Braun Racing and Dollar General at Indianapolis,” said Villeneuve. “We had a very exciting and solid race last month at Elkhart Lake. I had hoped it would result in additional opportunities to drive for the organization. I have a lot of good memories at the Brickyard. Winning the Indy 500 was a very big highlight in my career. This will be my first venture in a stock car there, but I am confident that we will do well.”

Villeneuve has made two starts in the Indy 500. After a runner-up finish in 1994, he returned the following season to win the world-famous Memorial Day weekend race. Qualifying for this year’s Brickyard 400 will mark his third career NSCS start and his first in the series with Braun Racing. Villeneuve has made three previous starts with the Mooresville-based team, most recently behind the wheel of the No. 32 Dollar General Toyota at the NASCAR Nationwide Series’ inaugural event at Elkhart Lake’s Road America. Narrowly missing the pole, he started from the second position and was a contender for the win until an electrical issue ended his race on the final lap.

“Entering the Brickyard 400 as an owner at this historical track means a lot to me,” said Braun Racing owner Todd Braun. “It is extra special because I grew up here in Indiana. It’s also exciting to take a former Indy 500 winner to the Brickyard. He and Trent [Owens, crew chief] work very well together and I know that Trent is looking forward to the feedback that Jacques can provide him. He is an extremely talented driver. Jacques is a great asset to our team and its road course program.”

Legends Million: The inaugural Legends Million Weekend got under way Thursday with more than 350 cars taking to the frontstretch quarter-mile oval at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Doug Stevens was the night’s fastest overall qualifier during time trials, which set Friday’s heat race lineups.

The special three-day event is bringing Legend Car and Bandolero drivers from more than 36 sates and two foreign countries to the Mecca of Motorsports for the largest grassroots race in history.

The Legend Cars, who will compete for an unprecedented $1 million purse in Saturday night’s A-Feature, took to the track for practice and Friday’s heat race qualifying. The Bandolero Cars participated in the first round of the Bandolero Triple Crown, a three night event with feature races in each of the three divisions: Bandolero Outlaws, Bandits and Beginner Bandits.

Stevens, of Griffin, Ga., topped the 144-car Legends Million division field during time trial sessions, with a posted lap of 17.246 seconds.

David Ragan was second fastest followed by Austin Hill, Dennis Lambert and Stephen Cantrell.

Rahal, Newman/Haas reunited: Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) announced that Graham Rahal, 21, will return to the team beginning with the Honda Indy Toronto IZOD IndyCar Series event this weekend and will pilot the No. 02 Dallara/Honda/Firestone entry for six of the remaining series races.

Five of those races will see Rahal sponsored by Quick Trim®, which joined him at this year’s Indianapolis 500 when he ran with his father’s Rahal Letterman Racing team.

Rahal became the youngest race winner and pole sitter in series history while with NHR.  He will team with Hideki Mutoh, who drives the No. 06 Formula Dream/Panasonic entry.

“It’s nice to be back with Newman/Haas Racing, a group that I have been with for so long and have a lot of fond memories with, and it’s also great to be reunited with Quick Trim who made this possible,” said Rahal, who resides in New Albany, Ohio.  “Quick Trim really enjoyed their experience in May and we had a great run.  We have been talking about this for a long time and I’m happy we were able to extend the deal.  I’m looking forward to getting back in the car and back in the series.  To know what I am going to be doing for the rest of the season feels so good.  The plan is to go out there and pick up where we left off.”

Second Ferrari: Mika Salo and Pierre Kaffer will drive a second Risi Competizione Ferrari F430 GT in next week’s American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park. Salo – a Finn – and Kaffer – from Germany – will join regular pilots Jaime Melo and Gimmi Bruni who share the GT championship lead in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón.

(This story will be updated as news develops today)

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, July 16 2010
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