Jacques Villeneuve, driver of the Penske Racing No. 22 Dodge Challenger in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS), finished third in Saturday afternoon’s NAPA Auto Parts 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. The event marked Villeneuve’s second appearance with Penske Racing during the 2012 NNS season as he recorded a sixth-place finish at Road America in June.
A native of Montreal, Villeneuve qualified in the third position for the event after turning a lap of 100.922 seconds, or 96.633 miles per hour, around the 2.71 mile road course during Friday evening’s qualifying session. With the effort, the seasoned road course racer has now recorded a total of five top-five starting positions over his last six NNS qualifying attempts.
As the green flag flew to start the race, Villeneuve set a comfortable pace and settled in among the race leaders. As he continued to run strong on the course named after his father, Villeneuve took control of the race lead by lap eight and quickly began to pull away from the rest of the field. When the first caution flag of the afternoon flew on lap 18, crew chief Jeremy Bullins called the No. 22 Dodge Challenger down pit road for four tires and fuel. As he restarted in the 13th position, Villeneuve was reminded to constantly save fuel in order to take advantage of the team’s race strategy.
Working his way back up front, Villeneuve raced his way into the fifth position by lap 26. As the third caution flag of the day flew, many of the top-10 cars made their way down pit road which enabled Villeneuve to restart the NAPA Auto Parts 200 in the second position behind race leader Danica Patrick. After a solid race restart, Villeneuve was able to maneuver his Dodge Challenger back into the lead on lap 41.
As the hometown hero made his last pit stop during a caution period on lap 46, Bullins continued to remind his driver on the radio to save fuel to ensure he would make it until the end of the race. As he quickly found his way back to the front of the field, Villeneuve regained the lead on lap 52 and he built a two-second lead on the second-place car of Kyle Busch. As the laps continued to wind down, Villeneuve was able to maintain his lead and pace himself during his green-flag runs.
As three late-race caution flags were displayed in the closing laps, Bullins and team engineer Andrea Muller were constantly calculating the remaining fuel mileage on the No. 22 Dodge. Figuring that they would have enough fuel to make one last attempt at a green/white/checkered flag finish, Villeneuve was encouraged to give it all he had on the final restart. After he took the white flag as the leader on the final lap, Villeneuve wound end up finishing in the third position after a bump and pass by race winner Justin Allgaier and a late move by Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish Jr., for the second spot. .
“Dodge and Penske Racing gave me an amazing car today,” said Villeneuve. “We had the car of the field today. We were untouchable. It makes the end result a little frustrating. We were a little bit low on fuel so I was being careful and as (so) often happens here it goes a little bit crazy on the last lap.”
With Saturday’s result, the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger currently sits sixth in the NNS owner point standings.
Hornish Jr., was able to hold on to secure a runner-up finish in the No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts Dodge Challenger.
Penske Racing PR