Toyota/Save Mart 350: Aggressive reputation precedes Jacques Villeneuve

Jason Smith

As he prepares to make his Sprint Cup road course debut, Jacques Villeneuve’s reputation for being overly aggressive precedes him.

Jacques Villeneuve has driven in only a handful of NASCAR races, and in limited starts the former Formula One World Champion has earned himself a notorious reputation among those in the garage.

"Train wreck," Bowyer said Friday at Sonoma Raceway describing Villeneuve's standing. "An extremely fast train, but usually ends up derailed somehow."

One of Villeneuve's more infamous encounters came in the Nationwide Series race last year at Road America. As he was battling Danica Patrick for the fourth position on the final lap he appeared to deliberately spin her out. He later had a heated exchange with Patrick's crew chief on pit road.

Over the last few years this was one of many incidents when Villeneuve's aggressiveness got the best of him.

Villeneuve is making his Sprint Cup debut on a road course this weekend driving the No. 51 car for Phoenix Racing. He and Patrick crossed paths and the dialogue between the two was brief.

"I saw him in the rookie meeting and I was like, ‘Oh, hey,' and that was about it," Patrick said. "You know, after the things that have happened, it's hard to have a lot of respect for somebody like that. I respect what he's done in his career; but the way that he treats other drivers on the track, I can't. So, that's all there is to say."

After not racing full time and dabbling in various forms of motorsports, Villeneuve is trying to resurrect a career that became stagnant for various reasons. He tried running NASCAR full time a few years ago but had difficulty finding the necessary sponsorship and made just three starts -- all on ovals.

"Last year, I ran into Danica and that was the worst thing you could ever do in racing," Villeneuve told the Motor Racing Network. "That's enough to create this image and now I'm stuck with it."

Despite his unfavorable image there are some who appreciate competing against the former IndyCar and F1 champion. One such driver is Marcos Ambrose, who spoke highly of Villeneuve Friday.

"I've got no issues," Ambrose said. "I think there are plenty of other drivers that have more issues than me. I really like Jacques. I watched him win all of those Formula One races and the World Championship and I'm really excited that I get to race against a guy of that caliber and reputation, so there are no problems with me.

"It's good to have him here."

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