Villeneuve struggles on Cup return

Jacques Villeneuve had a tough return to the Sprint Cup series at Indianapolis, finishing three laps down after struggling for most of the race

Villeneuve struggles on Cup return

The Canadian, who had not driven a Cup car in more than two years ahead of his return to the series, managed to make the field on speed during Saturday's qualifying, getting the final spot on the grid for what was only his third points' race ever at NASCAR's top level.

Villeneuve suffered with an overheating car, handling issues and contact with the wall, besides massive heat inside the #32 Braun Racing Toyota Camry due to faulty cooling. Besides being his maiden Brickyard 400, his team also had little experience to rely on, Sunday's being their first outing in the race.

The former Indianapolis 500 winner lamented all the issues that hampered him during the race, but said he enjoyed driving his car hard in the end, once some of the problems he had were sorted.

"It was tough," said Villeneuve. "The first time out with the car, we didn't have the cooling working, the helmet or back cooling. That didn't work in the car. And, my drink bottle wasn't working until the caution around lap 100 when we could replace it. That was rough. Then the engine overheated and that killed me.

"Then it was a question of staying out there. Halfway through the race, the car was really difficult to drive with a broken splitter. I hit the wall a couple of times, so I backed it down because there was no point in trashing it.

"Then we came in the pit and fixed it and the car was very strong. I could run two-wide even against the quick guys and hold my own. Too bad we lost too much time when the splitter came up. The car was loose after that, but it was fun. I could drive it hard."

The 1997 Formula 1 world champion admitted he was worried by his lack of pace ahead of the race but seemed relieved he was able to find more speed once the racing unfolded.

"It was very stressful because we came here without any practice and the team not knowing the car or the track, and me not being in the Cup car for over two years," he said. "It was a big question mark. But, that's how I like it, when it's tough.

"We managed to get going. After practice yesterday, I was worried for the race because we were very slow. But, we fixed it overnight and we kept fixing it during the race and by the end, the car was running really strong."

It is uncertain yet when Villeneuve will be back behind the wheel of a Sprint Cup series car, his next NASCAR outing set already for next month in the Nationwide Series.

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