Why Has Phoenix Racing Hired Jacques Villeneuve to Drive the No. 51 Car at Infineon Raceway?

By Joseph Wolkin
Photo by Freewheeling Daredevil (Wikimedia Commons)

Most NASCAR fans can agree that Jacques Villeneuve never got a full-time ride for a reason: he’s a mad man behind the wheel. Villeneuve isn’t like Patrick Carpentier, a fellow Canadian that has a personality perfect for NASCAR racing.

Villeneuve has been given the opportunity to prove himself on one of NASCAR’s largest stages once again. This time, if he does what he’s done in the past, he probably won’t be given a ride ever again in NASCAR. Phoenix Racing has signed Villeneuve to pilot the No. 51 car at the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma next weekend.

Phoenix Racing has had a plethora of drivers throughout the 2013 season and adding Villeneuve will probably attract even more attention to them. Villeneuve is known for his aggressive driving style along with a very, very short temper. Being the 1997 Formula One champion, he clearly has the capability to run well on road courses. However, for some reason, he’s been too aggressive in NASCAR.

For the past two years, Villeneuve has driven the road courses for Penske Racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in the No. 22 car. In four races with them, Villeneuve has led 87 laps, which just shows that he’s capable of winning. However, late in the races, his anger gets to him and he has been known for wrecking cars in contention for the win and more importantly, the championship. Many believe that adding Villeneuve to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series entry list at Sonoma with Phoenix Racing is a giant mistake.

Most fans, crews and drivers recognize that Phoenix Racing needs to attract sponsors if they are going to keep their operation open. Yet, putting Villeneuve in the Chevrolet SS has angered fans. They feel as if another driver, one that has run in the Sprint Cup Series in the past, should be in the car. There’s plenty of options in the garage area other than Villeneuve, but his record is rather impressive and the team could use a solid run.

Villeneuve won’t be the only road course expert at the Infineon Raceway. Ron Fellows will be driving the No. 33 car for Circle Sport Racing, Boris Said will be in the No. 32 for FAS Lane Racing (most likely), Victor Gonzalez Jr. and Justin Marks will be driving for Tommy Baldwin Racing and possibly a few others. However, many expect Villeneuve to be running up front after how well Kurt Busch ran for Phoenix Racing last year during this race. Though Villeneuve has never been successful in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, he can attract a few extra sponsors for the team which can mean plenty for them in the long run.

Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.

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