Jacques Villeneuve’s post-race comments after knocking Danica Patrick off the track on the final lap of last weekend’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Road America in Wisconsin have resulted in his car’s sponsor formally distancing itself from the driver.
Villeneuve, a great 1997 Formula One World Driving Champion who has had battering-ram problems in NASCAR races he’s driven recently, reacted negatively when confronted by Patrick’s crew chief and television reporters following the race on Saturday afternoon.
After first blaming the whole thing on another driver, Max Papis, Villeneuve dismissively waved Tony Eury Jr. and reporters away and made the following statement:
“It (Patrick’s trip into the gravel trap) had nothing to do with me. I don’t care.”
Television replays clearly show Villeneuve past Papis and on Patrick's tail going into a sharp left-hand corner when he appeared to miss his braking point and slammed into her car, sending her spinning off the circuit. Video here
Patrick didn’t blame Villeneuve afterward, despite being egged on by TV reporter Jamie Little, preferring to talk positively about how well she’d driven. She was heading for a top five finish at the time.
Late today (Wednesday), the sponsor of Villeneuve’s No. 22 car, entered in the contest by Penske Racing, issued the following statement:
“This past weekend during the Sargento 200 at Road America, No. 22 driver Jacques Villeneuve, while battling for position on the last lap of the race, ended up knocking Danica Patrick’s car off track. Villeneuve’s comments regarding the incident during post-race interviews were not reflective of Discount Tire’s sense of true sportsmanship.”
Discount Tire continued:
“Together, Penske and Discount Tire have achieved great success in the Nationwide Series, including a championship, and have maintained the highest levels of integrity and sportsmanship throughout that relationship.
"Although we believe the contact between Villeneuve and Patrick to be unfortunate, it is a part of professional racing. However, Villeneuve’s post-race comments did not reflect our ideals regarding sportsmanship. Having said that, we continue to be very proud of our relationship with the Penske organization.”
Penske Racing has not commented on the incident but I suggest Villeneuve’s days of driving for that organization are numbered.
HAPPIER TIMES: World Champions Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve at the Canadian GP