IndyCar Q&A with Ric Peterson, Sam Schmidt and Jacques Villeneuve

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Q. Jacques, why come back now after so long being away?  I think it will be the longest period between starts for any driver? 

JACQUES VILLENEUVE: There’s a few reasons. The first one, it’s also a question of opportunity. The opportunity came about with Sam Schmidt. We started talking not long ago, actually a few weeks ago. It all went fast. The discussions happened at the right time because I’d been watching the IndyCars last year, and it looked extremely exciting with the new cars, to the point where I was angry and jealous that I wasn’t racing. So that got me going again.

I’ve been active ever since leaving IndyCar in ’95, anyway, with Formula One. I did some NASCAR racing, some other forms of racing, in Australia, different places. I just wasn’t considering going back to something I’d already done mostly because there’s been a few dark years for IndyCar.

But the whole group behind the series have been working really hard and done a tremendous job because it’s getting back to the glory days with the races exciting and also the field of drivers is becoming more and more impressive every year again.

Q. Jacques, over the years you weren’t a big fan of the old IndyCar. When was it that you decided this new model and the way the series was set up was going to be leading them out of their ‘dark days’, as you called it earlier? 

JACQUES VILLENEUVE: I guess it started when they started going back to road racing, going back to a mix of tracks, going back to the IndyCar that I knew basically. They saw it was time to react, and they did.

Then came this new car, which was quite a surprise with the spoilers and everything. I was dubious until the first time I saw it racing, then I realized how amazing it was, how close the racing was, open-wheel racing that was never heard of. It wasn’t accepted anymore in modern days. That’s how racing used to be.

When I started seeing that last year, I started getting excited again, just because the racing was amazing, the cars looked fast and aggressive, it looked hard on the drivers, and the battles were fierce, which is all what I love about racing.

Q. You mentioned earlier that things happened pretty fast. You’re not young by a racer’s standard. You have young kids now. You haven’t been in an IndyCar for 20 years. Talk a little bit about the things you considered when you were making this decision to go back to Indy.

JACQUES VILLENEUVE: Just that it is the biggest race in the world and that it was exciting. It was a great opportunity. It’s a great team, a great car that will be well-prepared. It was a chance to do something good.

You say I’m older in racing, got kids, and actually that’s another drive. I’m a racer at heart and I will always be. That’s what keeps me going. That’s what keeps me alive.

I don’t want to be for my kids just the guy that used to race that they can see in books. I want them to see and live what I’ve already lived, to see it through my doing it actively.

It’s actually a positive effect to have kids.

Q. Sam, bringing in another champion driver such as Jacques to your team has to make the 2014 season and anticipation of it even more exciting for you at this point.

SAM SCHMIDT: Yes, I mean, obviously we’ve got some pretty good stuff up here starting the IndyCar team full-time in 2011, having the pole at Indy, having success in 2012 with Simon, finishing fifth, winning two races last year, finishing third in the championship, and now this.

It’s really a representation of the guys and how hard they’ve been working, how the program has really come along quite nicely.

I think having somebody of Jacques’ caliber is an incredible statement and we’re really looking forward to it.

Q. Ric, I know in the race you mentioned the name in Villeneuve, in Canada, where you’re from, is synonymous with winning. What does it mean to you to have Jacques Villeneuve join the lineup this year? 

RIC PETERSON: Well, it’s very special. I watched Jacques’ career from Toyota Atlantics to Formula One, was always a fan myself. We actually have a few other Canadian employees on our team, and they’re also very excited about having Jacques, as is the whole team. But the Canadians have a little extra excitement about it.

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