F1 retirees head for NASCAR

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

NASCAR Home for Retired Formula One drivers logoThe NASCAR Home for Retired Formula One drivers is set to welcome two new residents.

Jacques Villeneuve has been hovering on the outskirts of the series since his dismissal from BMW last year. And Toro Rosso refugee Scott Speed is tipped to join Red Bull’s NASCAR

Juan Pablo Montoya left MclAren to join NASCAR in the middle of last year. So why are F1’s outcasts turning to stock car racing?

It’s pretty clear why Montoya and Villeneuve have picked NASCAR over the other American options.

They have already won America’s two biggest open wheel racing accolades before arriving in F1: the Indianapolis 500 winners (Villeneuve in ’95, Montoya in ’00) and the CART championship (Villeneive in ’95, Montoya in ’99).

Neither would have much to gain from racing in either of the offshoots of CART that remain: the Indy Racing League and the Champ Car World Series, where the composition is much weaker than it was in CART a decade ago.

Jacques Villeneuve, Indy Car, Long Beach, 1995 | FordBut it’s interesting that the younger Speed is aiming for a NASCAR seat – and it is seriously bad news for Champ Car and the IRL. Champ Car in particular is crying out for a competitive American driver since the defection of AJ Allmendinger to NASCAR last year.

Allmendinger, who is also backed by Red Bull, has gone from Champ Car World Series front runner to NASCAR non-qualifier – but the latter apparently pays much better.

Over a decade has past since the splitting of CART into the Indy Racing League and Champ Car. Today the series that was once a creditable rival to Formula 1 is an increasingly distant memory.

I’d like to think there were any hope of a merger between CCWS and the IRL but the two seem as implacably opposed as ever. CART in its heyday was a fine series and Villeneuve and Montoya’s talents belong in a top-level motor racing championship like that was.

Graphic: Dreamfly | Photo: Ford

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