Jacques Villeneuve will almost certainly not be a part of the Roush Racing lineup next season.
Villeneuve had been negotiating with the team about a possible 2007 Busch Series schedule, but Roush Racing General Manager Geoff Smith said Saturday that there is only a remote chance of the former Formula One champion joining the team. "We're nowhere in that regard," he said. "There are general discussions that are going on, but I don't see us being able to make an arrangement to pull together a program. It's possible, but it's an outside shot given the timing of the year."
Sources tell Sirius Speedway that Villeneuve’s representatives have also been burning up the telephone lines to Robert Yates Racing, which has yet to name a driver for its #88 Ford next season. However, speculation in the Nextel Cup garage says Yates may actually be negotiating to sell the #88 half of his operation to Dale Earnhardt, Inc.
Yates refused to comment on the stories this weekend, but DEI's Steve Hmiel confirmed that talks have taken place to have DEI purchase the #88 from Yates, along with the 2006 owner points earned by Dale Jarrett. Team Red Bull has also reportedly made an offer to purchase the #88 from Yates, but Hmiel said DEI’s offer is for the entire operation; not just the number.
"We've heard Team Red Bull has made an offer to buy the number,” said Hmiel, “but we're not looking to buy just the number. If we can have more capacity, the number would be a bonus.”
A number of obstacles remain to be negotiated – including conflicting manufacturer commitments to Ford (RYR) and Chevrolet (DEI), but if a deal can be struck, Yates would be left with only David Gilliland’s #38 next season. RYR has fielded two teams on a full-time basis since 1996. Yates refused all comment on the matter Saturday, saying only that he has four different options to choose from. He admitted that fielding a single car is on his list of options, and sources say a decision on whether to sell the #88 to DEI must be made by Tuesday.