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Jacques Villeneuve aims for Daytona 500 bid

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Jacques Villeneuve said Wednesday he plans a Daytona 500 effort with Team Hezeberg, a first for the start-up organization and an attempt for his first start in the NASCAR Cup Series since 2013.

The 50-year-old Canadian veteran participated in preseason testing Tuesday and Wednesday with the No. 27 Ford, which is slated for a part-time schedule this season. Villeneuve won the 1995 Indianapolis 500 and was Formula One world champ two years later.

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“It would be amazing,” Villeneuve said. “The last time I was in NASCAR in North America was quite a few years, I think it was Sonoma (Raceway) the last time so it was a lot of years ago. It will be extremely special because it is also a standout race. It is a very special race to participate in, and it’s hard to get into show when you have to qualify on time or in the duels. So it makes it a bit more stressful, and making the show would already be something special.”

Villeneuve has been competing the last two seasons in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, alongside former series champ Loris Hezemans — who was announced as Team Hezeberg’s primary driver at its launch last October. The organization is new for 2022, a collaborative effort among former sports-car driver Toine Hezemans, Dutch businessman Ernst Berg and Reaume Brothers Racing.

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Team Hezeberg plans to focus on road course events as it enters a partial schedule this year. Villeneuve said the 24-year-old Hezemans has not yet been approved for Cup Series competition, which NASCAR officials confirmed Wednesday. That status cleared the waters for Villeneuve to test at Daytona, and may lead to more as the schedule unfolds.

“That’s how we ended up getting together and bringing experience to the team, but right now it’s a new team,” Villeneuve said. “It’s a small team and there’s there’s still a long way to go. Right now we’re focusing on Daytona and hopefully we’ll do more races.”