At the end of the first Nationwide Series practice at Road America, it was a bunch of road course ringers leading the charts.
[media-credit name=”roadamerica.com” align=”alignright” width=”215″][/media-credit]Billy Johnson, driving the No. 60 for Roush-Fenway Racing, was at the top with a speed of 108.050 mph (134.871 seconds). RFR brought Johnson over from the Roush Racing Grand-Am Sport team, where he competes in the No. 61 Ford Boss 302R Mustang with Jack Roush Jr. The last race ran was at Walkins Glen, where they led 30 laps in route to victory.
Jacques Villeneuve, driving the No. 22 for Penske Racing, was second with a speed of 107.996 mph (134.938). Villeneuve has driven road course in a variety of different cars, including F1, Le Mans Series, Speedcar and TRV6. He has also raced in NASCAR before, as he has made a total of five Nationwide Series starts, dating back to 2006.
“Road America is one of my favorite tracks and I’m super excited to be returning there this weekend to race in the NASCAR Nationwide Series,” Villeneuve said coming into the weekend. “I was fighting for the win in last year’s race so I have some unfinished business at this event, for sure. This will be my first event both in the No. 22 Discount Tire/Ruby Tuesday Dodge Challenger, and with Penske Racing, so I’m really looking forward to getting in the car and seeing what we can achieve together. It’s a track I know and love, having won the Indy car races there in ’94 and ’95, so we should be very competitive.”
During those past five starts, he has three top-five starts and three top-10 finishes.
“Road America is the longest track on our schedule with long straights and big braking zones that give one of the best road racers, Jacque Villeneuve, lots of opportunities to get the Discount Tire Dodge out front,” crew chief Todd Gordon said. “We have tested with Jacques a couple of times and had good speeds as a result of the testing. We feel we have a good package to unload with and build from for this circuit. The challenges of having to turn both ways and stop well are something this whole No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge team looks forward to.”
Sprint Cup Series driver and past road course expert Michael McDowell (driving the No. 18 for Joe Gibbs Racing) was third (107.972 mph, 134.968 seconds) with Max Papis fourth (107.641 mph, 135.384 seconds).
Papis will driving the No. 33 for Kevin Harvick Incorporated. They teamed up last year for Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, where Papis qualified ninth and second. Papis has previous experience at Road America through the Champ Car Series, where he collected several podium finishes.
“I am really looking forward to racing this weekend at Road America,” Papis said in the team preview. “This will be my first NASCAR race there so I will be considered a rookie, but it will not be my first race at the track. I spent a lot of time at Road America and in the Milwaukee and Green Bay area when I raced in the Champ Car Series. It is a great track and the area is beautiful. They have awesome fans. I can’t wait to get there and race.”
Elliott Sadler was the highest series regular in fifth (107.566 mph, 135.478 seconds), followed by Ron Fellows, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jason Leftler, Trevor Bayne and Justin Allgaier.
The Nationwide Series has another practice at 4:30pm EST today with qualifying slated for Saturday at 3:05pm EST. The race will follow on Saturday at 5:30pm EST.