Following his failure to land a permanent sponsor for the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and his failure to qualify for Sunday's Daytona 500, NASCAR rookie Jacques Villeneuve has been replaced at Bill Davis Racing by series veterans Mike Skinner and Johnny Benson.
In a statement released by BDR on Friday, team boss Bill Davis re-iterated that he will continue to support Jacques Villeneuve in his pursuit of a successful career in NASCAR but, with the #27 both sponsorless and outside the top 35 in Sprint Cup owner points, he has had little choice but to lean on experience for now.
Benson and Skinner, who both drive for the teams' Craftsman Truck Series operation, have more than 500 Cup Series starts between them, will share the #27 Toyota over the coming weeks with Skinner stepping aboard for the next round of the championship at the California Speedway.
“We know that Jacques has the talent and the desire to be in NASCAR, and are diligently working on a long term relationship with him,” added Davis.
Despite being fast in practice and setting 17th fastest time in Bud Pole qualifying at Daytona, Villeneuve failed to take one of the automatic qualifying positions available to drivers whose teams did not finish among the top 35 in the 2007 NASCAR owners' championship. His participation in the 50th running of the Daytona 500 then depended on his performance in Thursday's second Gatorade 150 qualifying race but despite running near the front during the early stages the Canadian-born driver crashed out shortly before half distance, ending his chances of making NASCAR's biggest race.
Davis' decision to stand Villeneuve down comes at the end of a whirlwind six months for the 1995 Indy 500 winner and CART champion that saw him qualify a stunning sixth for his Cup Series debut at Talladega before a crash put him out. Since then it has all been downhill for the 1997 world champion with a full-time sponsorship deal for 2008 falling through and the ending of his long managerial relationship with Craig Pollock.
Although Davis plans on having Villeneuve back if and when the necessary funding is found the Canadian born driver has already been snapped up as part of Peugeot's driving strength for the Le Mans 24 Hours in June, automatically ruling him out of the first Michigan International Speedway race of the year.