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Villeneuve looks to change reputation at Sonoma
The two first bumped into each other in the garage before Friday practice, where Montoya gave Villeneuve a turn by turn analysis of the 1.99-mile course. He told Villeneuve where to brake, where to slow, where to attempt a pass _ even where to avoid bumps.
“He’ll race fair. I don’t think he’s a guy who will wreck on purpose. Same way I am _ if you push my buttons, I push back. That’s the way we are,” Montoya said. “I think he can do a good job. He’s a racer and he wants to win. He’ll do whatever it takes to win.
“You learn when you come to NASCAR full-time there are times to go and times to mellow. In F1 if you mellow, you go home.”
At 42, Villeneuve has not fully given up on racing. He tried for several years to put together a NASCAR program but found the sponsorship climate too difficult because American companies weren’t interested in a French-Canadian driver and Canadian money never materialized.
Then came the decision to relocate full-time to Europe and take a stab at television, which Villeneuve has found he enjoys more than he expected.
“It’s not my childhood dream, but I am having fun. I am definitely having fun,” he said. “But I prefer driving. I am still a racer. Still a racer at heart.”
He was part of a group that unsuccessfully tried to purchase Red Bull Racing’s assets when the team pulled out of NASCAR, and if Finch is truly serious about pulling the plug, then Phoenix Racing could be an opportunity for Villeneuve to get back into a car on a regular basis.
Villeneuve said he’d “have to start looking at it again” when asked Friday if he was considering buying Phoenix Racing from Finch. But he insisted he’s interested in NASCAR and wants to race.
“Racing is my blood. It’s always tough to just jump in for a race or two because you cannot plan anything,” he said. “That makes it complicated. I’ve gone a few years of different races all around the planet, so it would be nice to focus on one (series) so you could work with the team properly. I was getting a bit of that in Nationwide because I worked with the same team for more than one year in a row, so you get used to the people and the car, it would be nice to build that again.”
He’d also like to run a clean and quiet race Sunday that cleans up his reputation.
“It’s kind of overblown. I’ve been pushed off the track a lot more than the other way around,” he said. “But the perception is that I’ve been dirty and a dangerous driver. I know the reputation that I have and I think it’s been blown out of proportion. That’s life. You have to live with it. I’ve been taken out a lot more often than when I took people out. I was taken out when I was on the lead lap, as well, and that seemed acceptable.
“I’m not here to take people out. I’m not here to get anybody angry, either. So hopefully race hard but clean. I’m not here to be a hero.”
By Emily Miller
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