Notes: Villeneuve the next Montoya?

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Lee Spencer

Lee Spencer is the Senior NASCAR Writer for She has provided award-winning coverage of auto racing over the last 15 years. Spencer has lent her expertise to both television and radio and is a regular contributor to SiriusXM Radio and the Performance Racing Network. Follow her on Twitter.



Now that Juan Pablo Montoya has opened the door for former Formula One drivers to make the jump to NASCAR, it appears that Jacques Villeneuve will be the next to cross the pond.

Hammond on Villeneuve
When it comes to Jacques Villeneuve's exploits, I'm just like anybody else. I hear a lot, but the day that I see him sitting down in a stock car and really making an effort is the day I'll believe it. I've watched Juan Pablo Montoya go through the transition since he made a decision to step up. Villeneuve is going to have to prove to the rest of us that he's willing to make that step over here. It's kind of like Danica Patrick, who we heard so much about last year before she elected to stay in IndyCar racing. Until they come over, sign in and jump inside a stock car at an event, we'll just have to wait and see.

The Montreal Journal reported that Villeneuve, 35, could be in a stock car as early as Aug. 4 when the Busch Series debuts at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal. The next obvious question: what team? Last year, it appeared that Roush Racing was hot and heavy over the 1997 F1 champ, but the Ford camp currently has no room on its roster. At the Dodge Motorsports dinner Monday night, race director Mike Accavitti said that none of the owners in his camp had approached him about Villeneuve. And reps from Richard Childress Racing, Hendrick Motorsports and Ginn Racing all said there were no plans for Villeneuve to join future rosters although one engineer added "even with a $20 million budget it would be virtually impossible to compete at the Cup level as a start up team." That begs the question as to whether Villeneuve would buy his way into the Cup Series. Certainly, at the Craftsman Truck and Busch Series level, the practice is exercised rather frequently, but inside the top 35 in Cup points "buy rides" are not the norm. The teams at the top have their pick of what drivers fill the seats.

Rookie Lessons I

David Stremme was thrilled to see Ganassi Racing on the left side of the speed chart during Preseason Thunder testing at Daytona International Speedway. The computer screens at the racetrack are split with the fastest 26 cars in the left columns and the slowest 26 cars in the right columns. Stremme posted the fourth fastest time of the day with a lap of 48.720 seconds (184.729 mph). His teammate Montoya was sixth fastest with a lap of 48.762 seconds. Stremme seemed refreshed and relaxed at Daytona and was still reminiscing about spending last weekend in Nashville at the Sprint Sound and Speed fundraiser benefiting the Victory Junction Camp and the Country Music Hall of Fame. That's where Stremme met country singer Ashley Monroe. Stremme not only received the ingenue's phone number, he invited the songstress to the upcoming race at Bristol in March. Streme also spent the off-season being an ambassador for Coors Light during a week of Late Model Racing at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., where he "shared" his sponsors' product with friends and fans after Coors supplied him with 30 cases of beer. He still managed to finish fifth in the Snowflake 100 before finishing in fifth-place and returned to the Carolinas with eight leftover cases.

Rookie Lessons II

Denny Hamlin had a breakout season in the Nextel Cup Series after winning two races, finishing third in the point standings and blowing away the Rookie of the Year field. But until Monday, Hamlin had not set foot in a racecar since the season ended. He opted to make the most of his off-season redecorating his Lake Norman home. "Time is worth more than money ever will be," says Hamlin, who scaled back his off-track activities considerably.

Rookie Lessons III

Richard Childress aerodynamicist Nick Olilla says the organization tested the COT every week in the off-season except the week between Christmas and New Years in order to get a jump on the competition. RCR's Clint Bowyer believes the sport's youngsters have an advantage with the COT. Explains Bowyer, "We haven't had enough time to learn any bad habits in Cup yet." Lee Spencer is a senior NASCAR writer for
Tagged: Juan Pablo Montoya, Clint Bowyer

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