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Jacques Villeneuve officially confirmed by SPM for Indy 500

Feb 26, 2014, 2:05 PM EDT

Jacques Villeneuve AP

Although it was initially reported Monday, on Wednesday, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports officially confirmed Jacques Villeneuve, 42, as its third driver for this year’s Indianapolis 500.

Villeneuve is the 1995 Indianapolis 500 and CART series champion, and was rookie-of-the-year at Indy in 1994 with a second-place finish.

The Canadian, who won the 1997 Formula One World Championship driving for Williams, has not raced an open-wheel car in anger since his last season in F1 in 2006. That year, he raced for BMW Sauber, and his career lasted only a few races longer than Juan Pablo Montoya, who is also making his return to the ‘500 for the first time in more than a dozen years.

For Villeneuve, who assuming he’ll start will set a new record for longest gap in-between starts, it’s a chance to drive a modern IndyCar even though the one he raced in 1995 had more power and will have qualified at a faster average speed.

“To have the opportunity to return to Indy car racing and the Indianapolis 500 is something I never thought possible,” Villeneuve said in a team release. “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.”

Team co-owner Ric Peterson now says adding Villeneuve to a lineup that includes Simon Pagenaud and rookie Mikhail Aleshin brings a marquee name into the fold, and strikes a personal cord.

“Having grown up in Canada, the name Villeneuve is synonymous with winning,” Peterson said. “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.”

It would be 19 years in-between starts for Villeneuve, bettering the mark set by Roland Free and Cy Marshall set in 1947. Both drivers had a 17-year gap, in-between starting the 1930 and 1947 Indianapolis 500s.

Michel Jourdain Jr. came up a year shy of that mark in 2012, when he started the race 16 years after his rookie run in 1996.

  1. f1fan1 - Feb 26, 2014 at 2:12 PM

    I’m lol’ing hard on this one. Who’s the next over the hill retread they’re going to pull out to try to save the leeegue? TFF

    • crunge4461 - Feb 26, 2014 at 5:13 PM

      I don’t really understand your comment. You make it sound like the leadership in IndyCar was out searching for a big name to give a ride to, but this is not how this works. Drivers, sponsors and teams put together rides, and I assure you that no one went to get Jacques with the idea that it would be some great thing for the sport. The IndyCar series leadership has nothing to do with who gets a seat, that is up to teams and sponsors etc. Jacques still wants to race and he put together and deal to run the biggest race in the world, it is certainly good for the 500, but the idea that there was some concerted idea from series leadership that this could be done to “save the league” is complete fantasy.

      • indycarseries500 - Feb 27, 2014 at 9:14 AM

        Don’t feed the troll

    • midtec2005 - Feb 26, 2014 at 8:58 PM

      It’s not like he’s running every race…

  2. biggdaddy007 - Feb 26, 2014 at 3:37 PM

    the month of may might be worth watchin now

  3. Jeff - Feb 26, 2014 at 5:06 PM

    IndyCar needs more drivers like Dan Wheldon and fewer like Jacques Villeneuve.
    I’m disappointed with SPM’s choice.
    Wheldon was an ambassador for IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Villeneuve was and is not.

  4. crunge4461 - Feb 26, 2014 at 5:23 PM

    Anytime that a former IndyCar champ, 500 champ, and world drivers champ comes to run the 500 it is good. We are talking about a guy that is coming to do a one off race, no driver that does that is the next ambassador for the series. He is a well known world champion, it is good to have ex-world drivers champs coming to do Indy. It will be another story around the 500, and that is good.

    Dan Wheldon is gone, he was a favorite of mine too, but he is gone and there is no ambassador out there that could do a one-off like this. You say that you are disappointed with SPM’s choice, who is the great ambassador you are thinking of? I cannot think of a single IndyCar driver that is without a ride for the 500 that even come close to bringing the clout and buzz that Villeneuve brings. This is not 2011 and there is no Dan Wheldon out there looking for a ride. This is great, I think SPM made a great choice…two more ex-500 and F1 stars in the 500 this year, how that is bad I do not know.

  5. manik56 - Feb 26, 2014 at 6:33 PM

    …or we could have another Indy Lights retread!

  6. f1fan1 - Feb 26, 2014 at 7:14 PM

    The leeague should try and bring back Sam the sham. He was a true gomerati fave.

    • midtec2005 - Feb 26, 2014 at 9:00 PM

      Nothing wrong with a little wooly bully… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uE_MpQhgtQ8

  7. worknman24hours - Feb 26, 2014 at 10:34 PM

    I might bust on Jacque when he speaks out on things I don’t agree with him on but I welcome possibly seeing Jacque back on the track.

    He better get out there and knock the rust off because I’d bet he sees time in the actual race.

    Great Luck Jacques,I hope you’re in the actual race and do really well.

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