Roush Racing wants Jacques Villeneuve in NASCAR next year, but only if he can show them the money.
The former Formula One world champion has entered into a deal with Roush to begin his National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing career, but it hinges on his ability to come up with about $18-million (U.S.) in sponsorship.
Considering that the native of Iberville, Que., made about $100-million in his five years with British American Racing from 1999 to 2003, getting the cash should not be a problem for the driver, even if a backer does not materialize.
Once the money is in Roush's hands, the plan has the 1997 F1 champion starting his NASCAR career with Roush's Craftsman Truck Series outfit in 2007 and graduating to the Busch Series later in the season.
Roush president Geoff Smith said there is about a 50-50 chance Villeneuve would race in the Busch Series' Canadian debut in Montreal next August, where he would join another former F1 star, Juan Pablo Montoya, on the starting grid.
"We're open to it, we're willing to work with them, but, really, the ball is in their court right now," Smith told Speed TV last week. "I've heard in the garage that certain sponsors are being pitched by him, so there is some activity going on."
Montoya was released by McLaren this year after signing a deal to race in NASCAR next season with his old Championship Auto Racing Teams series (now called Champ Car) boss Chip Ganassi.
While Villeneuve may find himself in the Busch series next year, when he would make the next step to the Nextel Cup is unknown. The driver has been exploring his options in NASCAR since being fired by the BMW-Sauber F1 team in July.
He was replaced by Polish rookie Robert Kubica, who has been confirmed as a BMW-Sauber race driver next year.
Meanwhile, Villeneuve's old boss, BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen, said he does not regret the decision to sack the Canadian-born driver after the German Grand Prix in late July.
"Yes, for sure," Theissen told Credit Suisse's E-magazine when asked whether he'd fire Villeneuve again. "[Former F1 driver and Jaguar team boss]Niki Lauda hit the nail on the head, didn't he, when he said, 'The team boss is not there to pick up the Nobel Peace Prize, he's there to win races.' "