INDIANAPOLIS (Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014) – INDYCAR photo – Former Indy car and Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve will compete in the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500 in a No. 5 car prepared by Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, his first participation in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” since winning the event in 1995.
Villeneuve’s entry in the 2014 Indianapolis 500 marks the 20th anniversary of his first start in 1994, in which the French-Canadian driver finished second and claimed Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year honors. Villeneuve, 42, won the race and the CART season championship the following year.
“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 Formula One in 1996, winning 11 of his first 34 grand prix and the Drivers’ World 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 Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series events as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He is one of two drivers to compete in IndyCar, NASCAR Sprint Cup and Formula One cars at Indianapolis. The other is 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya, who is returning 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 Sam 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, the team quickly made its mark as Pagenaud claimed the Rookie of the Year title and placed fifth in the series championship.
Following Peterson’s addition to ownership in 2013, the team expanded to two cars, again capturing Rookie of the Year honors with 2012 Firestone Indy Lights champion Tristan Vautier and gathering 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.”
Villeneuve’s victory in 1995 at Indianapolis came after a stirring drive. He was two laps down midway through the 500-Mile Race, but rallied to win by 2.481 seconds in a Team Green entry.
The 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500 begins with opening practice on Sunday, May 11th and runs through the running of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on Sunday, May 25th.