NASCAR is certainly a superstar sport, but as the sport has grown into a sport of rivalries, polarizing figures have risen to become loathed for their personalities as well as their on track actions. While Kyle Busch is loathed for his temper and his on track actions, his fans respect him for his on-track ability.
Juan Pablo Montoya brought a legion of fans to NASCAR, but has undoubtedly drawn the scorn of a majority of the grandstand due to his aggressive driving.
Where entitlement and aggression meet, we can find Jacques Villeneuve. The 1997 Formula One Champion was met with more questionable looks than Montoya received when he announced he was attempting a NASCAR career.
After an unsuccessful foray into the oval world due to lack of sponsorship, Villeneuve has found himself on the list of viable road course ringers. His races with Penske Racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series have been fast and competitive, but disastrous from a PR perspective.
Villeneuve destroys equipment either mechanically or through his incredibly aggressive driving. After his performance at Road America last year, many thought he had no place in NASCAR and that no team should take him back due to his ‘checkers or wreckers’ mentality, wrecking points-earning drivers as a ringer attempting to get a win.
It is this attitude that makes him an absolutely perfect match for James Finch and Phoenix Racing. Finch has always been aggressive as a car owner, embracing the ‘checkers or wreckers’ mentality. Phoenix Racing also found success with Kurt Busch last year, including a third place finish at Sonoma.
There is also the speculation of Phoenix Racing’s possible demise. Due to sponsorship issues, the team may be selling its assets after the race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This certainly puts an extreme make-it-or-break-it aspect of Villeneuve’s performance this weekend.
Jacques Villeneuve has never shied away from big stages before. Whether you like it or not, expect him to shine this weekend at Sonoma.
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