Daytona 500: added value for NASCAR

DAYTONA BEACH | The scene was comical in the press room a few minutes after Jacques Villeneuve had ensured his qualification Wednesday evening in anticipation of the Daytona 500.

Many drivers came to congratulate the man who will become the first Quebecer in 62 years to participate in the most important race on the NASCAR Cup calendar on Sunday.

Among them, Alex Bowman, who will start from the front row when the start is given, was only two years old when Villeneuve won the Indianapolis 500 in 1995.

Others like Chase Elliott, Noah Gragson and Harrison Burton weren’t even born when the 50-year-old completed his feat on the most famous oval circuit on the planet. Sunday’s lead and defending NASCAR Cup champion Kyle Larson was only two years old.

The first F1 champion

Villeneuve also becomes the first driver in history to have won a Formula 1 World Championship before competing in the Daytona 500.

Mario Andretti also raced on the mythical oval of Florida, but he was not titled in F1 when he took part in the race on three occasions (1966 to 1968).

For the record, Andretti (F1 champion in 1978) is one of the rare drivers to have competed so much in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Daytona 500, the Indy 500 and the Monaco F1 Grand Prix, these car races considered as the four most prestigious in the world.

A select group to which the Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya belongs in particular and which Villeneuve will join on Sunday.

Some others have three appearances in either competition, including the still active Fernando Alonso, Dan Gurney, Jackie Stewart and Jack Brabham to name a few.

They are even rarer those who have won three of these four races. This is the case of Graham Hill (Monaco, Indianapolis and Le Mans), AJ Foyt and his compatriot Andretti, whose track records both show victories at Daytona, Indianapolis and Le Mans.

Visibility in Europe

Even if he hasn’t raced in F1 since 2006, Villeneuve is still a well-known figure in Europe. His role of analysis of the Grands Prix on French television allows him to still be present in the paddocks.

His participation in the Daytona 500 will undeniably increase NASCAR’s ratings and visibility on the Old Continent.

Viewers who are not used to watching the sport will no doubt watch the race because of its presence, regardless of whether its chances of winning are practically nil.

In short, NASCAR will be one of the main beneficiaries of Villeneuve’s surprise qualification just as much as the Canadian networks RDS and its English counterpart TSN, which will broadcast the race live on Sunday.

Baby Gilles

To follow up on the interview he gave us on Wednesday, Villeneuve gave us other interesting revelations.

Thus, it would have taken a fifth boy for him to decide to baptize him Gilles, the first name of his famous father.

« It’s not something light, » he says. And I was not comfortable with that. I had taken a step when my fourth [Henri] was born. He bears the middle name of Gilles. »

“But there, the moment was favorable. I really can’t say why I waited so long. Gilles was not a present father. Maybe I had things to understand or to digest. »

Laisser un commentaire