Jacques Villeneuve will be making his first return trip to Indianapolis since winning there in 1995 -- and only his third race ever there -- for this year's Indy 500.

Hinchcliffe ready to race childhood hero Villeneuve at Indy 500

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During his time in the IndyCar Series, James Hinchcliffe has shown that he respects those that have raced before him.

We all know about his deep respect in particular for late Canadian driver Greg Moore, which we see every weekend in the cockpit as he wears a pair of red driving gloves like Moore did.

Then there’s Hinchcliffe’s paint job on his No. 27 United Fiber and Data Honda, which appears to somewhat echo Moore’s classic Player’s No. 99 Champ Car.

But as a proud Canadian, Hinchcliffe was also a big fan of Jacques Villeneuve, who himself took a Player’s-backed machine to the 1995 Indianapolis 500 and CART titles before he went on to the F1 World Championship in 1997.

Now, almost 20 years after his “500” win, Villeneuve is heading back to the Brickyard this May as the third driver for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Since the news first broke Monday, fans have debated over why Villeneuve is returning and whether it’s a good thing (he’s certainly a marquee name) or a bad thing (he hasn’t raced an open-wheel car since 2006).

But Hinchcliffe, for one, is happy for the apparent time warp.

“Selfishly, I am kind of happy he is going to try it,” Hinchcliffe said to the Toronto Sun’s Dean McNulty on Wednesday while making the media rounds in his hometown.

“He was one of my heroes growing up. I was part of the Jacques Villeneuve fan club – I got my letter every month through his IndyCar years and his F-1 years.”

That said, he’s not exactly sure why one of his childhood idols has chosen to go for it one more time in the “500” after such a long layoff from IndyCar racing.

“As a Canadian, it is going to be fun to race against one of my heroes,” he added to the Sun. “But as far as why he is doing it, it is beyond me, man.”

Villeneuve appeared to give an insight into that matter yesterday, when he mentioned the desire to race for his children in a teleconference.

“I don’t want to be for my kids just the guy that used to race, that they can see in books,” he said. “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.”

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Carlos Munoz

Carlos Munoz
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver roster in this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series. Next up in 13th is Carlos Munoz, who fell back to earth a bit after winning Indianapolis 500, then series rookie-of-the-year honors in consecutive years.

Carlos Munoz, No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda

  • 2014: 8th Place, Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 3rd, 3 Podiums, 5 Top-5, 8 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 10.5 Avg. Start, 12.6 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 13th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 4th, 1 Podium, 3 Top-5, 7 Top-10, 25 Laps Led, 14.0 Avg. Start, 12.1 Avg. Finish

Munoz fell down to earth a little bit in his second full season in IndyCar, albeit not as badly as fellow 2014 rookie Jack Hawksworth, who’d switched teams and had a myriad of issues throughout the season. He won his first race in the rain at Detroit race one, which was well judged, but there were precious other highlights from the driver who has showcased “wow” potential in the past.

His qualifying fell off year-to-year and that was probably the single thing to pinpoint as to why the decline occurred, falling from eighth to 13th in points. What had been a 10.5 average in 2014 fell to 14th this year, and behind teammates Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Ovals seemed his strongest type of circuit this year on the whole. Like teammate Justin Wilson, he’d been in position to score what would have been his third straight Indianapolis 500 top-five finish if a late splash of fuel wasn’t needed. Sixth at Texas from fourth on the grid marked his best overall weekend of the year, and fifth at Iowa and Pocono were also fairly good results.

But whereas Munoz picked his spots well last year and delivered a handful of podiums, his Detroit win marked his only podium visit this year. He didn’t really make much of an impression and was more anonymous than not over the course of the year. His future with Andretti is uncertain for 2016.

Williams maximizes wet setup work despite limited running in Sochi

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With action pretty much limited in both practice sessions due to the diesel spillage in free practice one and rain in free practice two for the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, teams could only do limited wet-weather runs.

Williams Martini Racing tried to make the best of the circumstances, as one of only five teams that completed laps in FP2 (McLaren, Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Ferrari) with eight cars.

Felipe Massa led second practice but it was an essentially meaningless session.

“It was quite a stunted session today which stopped us from completing all of the work we wanted to,” said Rob Smedley, Williams’ head of vehicle performance. “We had planned to run in the wet but we had a strange situation this afternoon in that half of the circuit was much wetter than the other half which made most of the tests null and void.

“We have been working on the wet set-up of the car and so wanted to get out at the end of FP2 to see the progress we have made. In a similar vein to our low speed corner work in Singapore, we seem to be making progress. We got through all of the bits and pieces we wanted to get through in terms of control systems and power unit set-up, and we have to go into tomorrow with a good plan for FP3 to get the car set-up for qualifying and the race.”

Valtteri Bottas finished third in Sochi a year ago, while Massa seeks a rebound after a fuel flow issue in qualifying resigned him to a Q1 elimination and an 11th place finish.