As we reported on Feb. 25, IndyCar Series team Schmidt Peterson Motorsports on Wednesday confirmed that Jacques Villeneuve, 42, will race for it in this May's Indianapolis 500. The French-Canadian racing veteran won the race in 1995 en route to claiming the CART championship.
The 1997 Formula One world champion's return to Indy will mark the 19th anniversary of his win at the Brickyard, and the 20th anniversary of his debut there, when he finished second in the 1994 race and claimed Rookie of the Year honors.
“To have the opportunity to return to Indy-car racing and the Indianapolis 500 is something I never thought possible,” Villeneuve said. “The memories I have there will stay with me for the rest of my life, and I'm excited to create new memories in 2014.”
Following his CART championship, Villeneuve jumped to F1 in 1996, winning 11 of his first 34 Grands Prix and the championship for Williams in 1997. He remained a Formula One regular with BAR, Renault and Sauber before switching to NASCAR in 2007.
Villeneuve has competed in selected NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series events as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans for Peugeot. He is one of two drivers to compete in IndyCar, Sprint Cup and F1 cars at Indianapolis. The other is 2000 Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya, who returns to the IndyCar Series in 2014 as a full-time driver with Team Penske.
“I've been fortunate enough to compete in several of the world's top racing series, and nothing excites me more than entering the IndyCar Series at its current level of competitiveness,” Villeneuve said. “Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has proven itself able to compete with the largest of teams, and I am excited to get to work with [team owner] Sam [Schmidt] and the team, and start preparing for May.”
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, led by team principal Sam Schmidt and businessman Ric Peterson, is entering its third year of competition in the IndyCar Series. In its first season as a one-car operation with Simon Pagenaud in 2012, Pagenaud claimed the Rookie of the Year title and placed fifth in the championship.
Following Peterson's addition to the ownership group in 2013, the team expanded to two cars, again capturing Rookie of the Year honors with 2012 Firestone Indy Lights champion Tristan Vautier, and scoring two wins and third place in the series championship with Pagenaud.
“We're very pleased to have a driver of the caliber of Jacques in our lineup in May,” Schmidt said. “He's a former winner in the event and brings tremendous experience from his success in the world's top racing series. The trust Jacques is putting in Schmidt Peterson Motorsports also validates the progress all of our team members have made in creating an organization capable of competing with anyone.”
Peterson added, “Having grown up in Canada, the name Villeneuve is synonymous with winning. I was even there in person when he won the Indy 500 in 1995, and Jacques being the only Canadian to win that huge event, it gave me a huge sense of national pride. It is an honor to have the opportunity to be involved in bringing Jacques back to the 500, and we look forward to a fantastic result.”
“This May is shaping up to be unbelievably exciting, so the return of Jacques Villeneuve to the Indy 500 couldn't be better timed,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., IndyCar's parent company. “Race fans from around the world will be dialed in to see a champion return to the track. We can't wait to welcome him back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”
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