Categories
Home Tracks

Alex Tagliani Out-Battles Ranger for Victory in Toronto

TORONTO, Ontario — Last season, Alex Tagliani led all the regulation laps in the Pinty’s Grand Prix, but lost out on the victory to Andrew Ranger in overtime.

This time around, though, it was Alex Tagliani coming out on top at the end of the 35-lap event.

“It’s amazing,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “I just love this place. I mean, this track has been good to us and I’m very thankful for the team, the hard work they are doing. Having a win here is very important. When you can score good points in a championship like this that’s so tight, it’s very important.

“Hopefully we are able to continue on this particular run and continue our climb towards a championship.”

Starting on pole, Tagliani grabbed the early advantage and appeared ready to cruise away from the field. However, Ranger used a restart on Lap 15 to get by for the top spot. Tagliani wasn’t about to denied, putting the No. 18 RONA/EpiPen/St-Hubert/Spectra Premium Chevrolet back out front two laps later.

Tagliani then led the rest of the way, despite significant contact to the rear of his Chevrolet from Ranger on a restart with three laps to go.

“I think the contact was pretty much as far as he was going to bring it,” Tagliani commented. “I think Andrew was driving like a driver with a championship to protect and a championship lead to take this weekend. I think that’s how he was driving and when you have a lot to lose and want to score points, you drive in a way to where his driving was as aggressive as he could do it. It also brought in a good finish, scored good points. So I think overall, he was fair with me.”

The victory continues Tagliani’s solid start of the season. After finishing outside of the top-10 at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, Tagliani has now scored three consecutive top-fives to sit fourth in the standings. He will hope to gain some ground in the double header event at Wyant Group Raceway, a track that he has yet to win at in the series despite three top-five’s and six top-10’s in seven races.  

“I think it’s an interesting format because you can’t get in trouble in the first race as second race is worth a lot of points, and there’s no time,” he said. “If you break your car, you’re done. So during the race, it’s walking on eggs the first race to make sure you come out with the most points over the two races as that’s very important. Getting our car right is going to very important to make sure our short oval program is better.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
News

Alex Tagliani Wins in Dramatic Fashion at Toronto

TORONTO, Ont — One year ago Alex Tagliani was in position to win.

After leading all 35 regulation laps, Tagliani was passed in a heartbreaking NASCAR Overtime finish by eventual winner Andrew Ranger. Flash forward to 2019, and Tagliani came to Toronto with one goal in mind – redemption.

Tagliani, who won the E3 Spark Plugs Pole Award, was challenged by stiff competition all race by Ranger and teammate Marc-Antoine Camirand. With two late race restarts and a NASCAR Overtime finish, Tagliani redeemed himself by scoring the victory in this year’s Pinty’s Grand Prix of Toronto.

Tagliani’s No.18 RONA/EpiPen Chevrolet lost the lead to Camirand in a late restart, however Camirand gave the lead back after a late crash set up NASCAR Overtime. Tagliani was able to sneak by the wreck and hold off a bloodthirsty Ranger, Kevin Lacroix and LP Dumoulin.

In the end, the 45-year-old driver from Lachanaie, Quebec was able to hold off all who opposed leading 34 of 37 laps to claim his ninth career NASCAR Pinty’s Series victory and second on the streets of Toronto.

“After last year, we felt like we had some unfinished business,” Tagliani said. “It was a great race, a great qualifying, maximum points for the weekend which is good for the team. It seems like this race track brings a bit of luck and its a turn around for our championship, it was last year. Hopefully it’s going to be this year and hoping for more good things to come this year”

Ranger, who came into the weekend one point behind Kevin Lacroix in the standings, managed to steal the lead from Tagliani near the halfway point. On the final restart Ranger did all he could to get around the No.18, Ranger would ultimately settle for second grabbing the points lead from Lacroix.

“On the start, my car was very fast and we got to lead some laps.” Ranger said. “Last restart, I stayed with Alex. Green, white, checkered, same thing. I tried to make a move on the inside but it didn’t work. I was not trying to push too hard and destroy the car.”

L.P Dumoulin used the overtime restart to his advantage, surging to his first podium finish of the season, and second at Toronto.

Lacroix brought his battered and bruised Bumper to Bumper Dodge home in fourth. He was followed by J.F Dumoulin, who completed the top five finishers.

Anthony Simone was sixth and Peter Klutt following behind in seventh. Jason Hathaway, D.J Kennington and Jason White rounded out the top ten.

Following the Pinty’s Grand Prix of Toronto, Ranger opens a two point gap over Lacroix. With the win, Tagliani remains in third place, moving within 14 points of Ranger for the lead.

The Pinty’s Grand Prix of Toronto will air on TSN July 21 at 1:30 p.m. and on RDS2 July 30 at 10 p.m.

The NASCAR Pinty’s Series next embarks on their annual Western Swing. The Velocity Prairie Thunder Twin 125s at Wyant Group Raceway will be July 24, followed by the LUXXUR 300 at Edmonton International Raceway July 27.

Categories
Home Tracks

Alex Tagliani Thrilling Fans, Ready to Lead Field to Green

TORONTO, Ontario — Alex Tagliani has been successful in the streets of Toronto previously, so it marks no surprise that he will lead the field to green for Saturday’s Pinty’s Grand Prix.

The driver of the No. 18 Chevrolet laid down a lap of one minute and 15.918 seconds to take the pole for the event ahead of his 22 Racing teammate Marc-Antoine Camirand. Gary Klutt will start third, followed by L.P. Dumoulin and Anthony Simone.

While he’s performing well on-track, though, he’s also keeping the fans entertained off the track.

“It’s a big event with the sponsors that we have; they like to be here,” he said on Friday. “The fans, with some research, seem to love a lot of activations and when we come here, it’s a big deal. So we have a giveaway from Craftsman Tools over the weekend with challenges that they will be able to take part of. So, it’s a big weekend and it’s important for us to be here.”

As fans fill out ballots to enter the draw to win a NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series race experience, they will get the chance to try their hand at being a tire changer, or shooting a ball with a leaf blower. The idea came about courtesy of Tagliani himself. 

“I have a leaf blower at home and I mess around with because I have a four-year-old, and I try to be a cool dad,” he commented. “I came up with something that shoots. Now we’ve brought it here in the paddock so hopefully we don’t kill nobody.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bz3GwJRnGVk/

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Home Tracks

ASHLEY ASKS…… Alex Tagliani

Despite starting off the season on a rough note, Alex Tagliani rebounded with two wins and 10 top-10’s to finish second in the year-end standings. Recently, the 22 Racing driver broke down his season and more in an exclusive interview with POPULAR SPEED.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts on the season?

ALEX TAGLIANI: I would say that I’m pretty happy. I would say that in general, we had a great season because when we started the year at Mosport (Canadian Tire Motorsports Park) for the first round, leading the race with three to go and we had a mechanical issue. We had another mechanical issue that we discovered afterwards after the round at (Autodrome) Chaudiere. So two rounds together, and boom, right away we’re behind quite a bit unfortunately. We fought back literally the whole year, almost, to get where we should’ve been from the get-go.

Nether the less, I think the season was really strong, somehow consistent with regards to performance, podiums, and things like that. So in general, I’m very happy with the season. The team did a beautiful job on the car and with the sponsors, and winning two in a row at GP3R (Grand Prix of Trois Riveres). It’s tough to win one; two in a row was pretty cool. We were on pole at (the Pinty’s Grand Prix in) Toronto, and believe it or not, we won Mosport. In all those years that I’ve been racing, we’ve been super strong there, but somehow a ton of bad luck to a point it was a joke internally with the team that the track owed us many races. Finally after a couple of years of always being there, we got the win and it came at the second round, because the first round again we were in the lead, and something happened, and the guys were quite sad. That’s why I saw some tears in Matt, and the excitement of Tyler (Case) and all the boys because somehow Mosport, for us, have always been afraid to go there for fear of something else happening so we always approached the race with a lot of fear.

So that being said, I think on some points, I wish I would’ve been stronger myself, personally. The race in Toronto, I think that one I felt I left the door open; I didn’t close the door too much. I think Andrew (Ranger) did a good move, but I left some points on the table there. So that’s a race that I think that we didn’t have in the bag, but a race we should’ve come out with more points looking back.

I think, at the end of the year, what was fairly significant in winning the championship or not was our race at New Hampshire (Motor Speedway) and Jukasa (Motor Speedway). New Hampshire, we had been in the top-three the whole day on Friday so very competitive, really strong. So we were doing really well, and I think the tire pressure and a few items on the car got away from us, and we paid the price from not being as competitive as what we should’ve had. Jukasa – again, we were very competitive in the first race there. We had a really good car; we had a podium finish there and were strong. We went there with high hopes; I think we were fairly strong all practice long. We normally have a good car on the long run with the team, and again, something happened, a bit of bad luck, and we couldn’t capitalize on how good the car was.

I felt like maybe the championship slipped between our fingers because of those two rounds, and the bad luck at Mosport and Chaudiere. The rest of the year, other than maybe not capitalizing on the Toronto Indy by not winning which is on me, I felt we capitalized pretty much everywhere. So very content, very happy with everyone. That’s why overall, I give ourselves a pretty high score and finishing second in points is very good. Thumbs up to everybody at 22 Racing for coming back after those two races to fight for a championship, and finally win Mosport. So it gives us lots of positivity for next season with what we accomplished compared to where we are. It now just requires fine tuning, and improving a few small things, but overall, if you capitalize on the season like we have next year, we’ll be there right again.

PS: You mentioned New Hampshire. What are your thoughts in seeing the series head south of the border for the first time?

ALEX: Well, I think it was nice that we went there. If we would have a track of that size in Canada, I think everybody would love it and enjoy it, but we don’t. I think the chance for the competitors, the NASCAR Canada fans to see the cars at high speed, perform, going sideways – I think we’re giving them the chance to see the performance of our cars at another level, which is quite nice. I think it was also nice because the way the promoter organized the whole event mixing a couple different series together to make it quite interesting, and a nice format. I think the autograph line says it all. It was amazing to see all the fans in line to try and get every driver of every series.

I think, overall, the racing in itself was good for a series, and it was good also because we were able to race on another track and our fans from Canada had a chance to come. I seen a lot of people from Quebec down there, and that was quite nice. So because of all of this, I thought it was a successful event and sometimes we need new things to re-create excitement. Everybody was really pumped up to have a chance to put our car on a bigger size track like that.

PS: What is it about you and Tyler Case that just makes things seem like they click flawlessly?

ALEX: I think Tyler is a guy that really wants to win, like everybody else, but I think he has this desire of always finding the edge and trying to get everything perfect. With my background coming from big teams with either NASCAR when I raced for (Team) Penske or IndyCar, there’s a ton of research, ton of analyzing driver, tracks, tires, temperatures, and what I like about Tyler is he’s always basically open to work with the driver on how we can make the car better. How can we improve on this? What we can do at Toronto to make the car better? What can we do at Mosport? What can we do at Three Rivers? This to me is something that I really respect.

I think Scott (Steckly) is also a guy that you have to respect in that approach, because he’s a leader and he’s allowing the crew to follow a little bit of their own philosophy. I like that because I really think that shows a lot of character in a team or a person. When you have had the success that we’ve had at Mosport, Three Rivers, Toronto – it’s quite easy for someone to take the approach, “Oh we were on pole last year; let’s go with the same car. Oh, we won the race last year, so let’s bring the same car.” It’s quite easy to settle in and say that. But, to me that I really appreciate from Tyler is he never takes for granted the fact the competition in NASCAR is going to continue to rise, continue to grow, the teams are bigger and better, and there are a ton of drivers that are competitive and capable of winning races. So if drivers pushing the limit to perform against other drivers, I think it should be the same thing for crew, crew chiefs, owners, and I think that’s what we have within the team. We need this.

The approach of 2019 – this is something that I am going to be looking for in working with Tyler and Scott and everybody else, because I don’t think everybody is going to go home and just park their car in the garage and take them out at the beginning of the 2019. I think they’re going to work all winter long in 2018 and 2019, and then we show up, we’re going to realize there’s lots of performance and mentally, you need to be prepared. Also, there’s all kinds of ways to skin the cat. There’s trying to get a car that is fast on one lap, and there’s trying to get a car that is really fast over the course of the case, and Tyler has been really good with me on communication and reading what the driver is feeling and how we can approach it. I think the combination is quite good because I don’t want to make a suggestion and the crew chief say, “Well, you don’t need that because we were on pole last year.” I want a crew chief that is willing to be open-minded and say, “Alright, let’s analyze this,” and that’s how we can push ourselves to get better, stronger, and hopefully that’s what’s going to take us to another level.

PS: Speaking of 22 Racing, how closely do you and Marc-Antoine Camirand work as teammates?

ALEX: The three guys (Tagliani, Camirand, and Donald Theetge), I think we work really well together this year. We were exchanging feedback on what we felt in our car, and what we think the car has. So at some point when we were approaching Mosport, for example, I remember that we tried two different things on two different cars and then we met after practice. It was really important because sometimes the weather doesn’t allow us to really capitalize on doing a qualifying run. I think we didn’t even qualify there, so it was really important to make the right choice for the race so we worked together on it, and we did. I think it worked well; we had a really good car.

Again, the team is really important because the cars are quite close to each other and sometimes there’s little differences, but overall, I think they build really good cars close. So we’ve been able to get close enough to share feedback and it’s been serving us well for the team’s performance in general.

PS: You’ve ran a couple XFINITY and truck races here and there. Anything in cards for that next year?

NKP

ALEX: I had the opportunity to do it, but it was clashing with GP3R and it was clashing with Mosport. I chose, in comparison to previous years, I chose to prioritize our season for the first time since I joined the series. It paid off in rewarding the crew by putting all the emphasis on them, and putting priority on our season was a mark of respect to everybody on the team. So sometimes it’s quite hard to say no, or to not look at some races that I’d like to do, because I came so close to winning in XFINITY and Truck that I’d like to do it more often. The trucks is quite easy because we’re there the same weekend, but the XFINITY had two clashes and by not going, I won the GP3R race.

I think that I’m always looking to tell you the truth, but I will continue to prioritize my program because I’m very thankful for the sponsors that we have on-board that are supporting us and are there, and I think the crew deserves it also. If the opportunity presents itself and it’s not creating any conflict or heavy workload to make it happen, I will; but other than that, I’m quite content where I am. There’s always an opportunity that presents, but I just have to make sure it doesn’t jeopardize what we’re doing with the NASCAR Canada program because that’s where my focus is at the moment.

In the past, I ran in China, I can in XFINITY, I ran in Truck, I did the Indy 500 for many years and missed the opening round at Mosport, and I don’t want to do that anymore. The team deserves from me to be focused and keep attention on our program.

PS: The Pinty’s Series has so many positives right now. But what is one change you feel they can make to improve the series even more?

ALEX: Well, I mean this question is the most difficult question to answer because I don’t think see one sentence or something small. I look at a series like a car. It’s 100 small little things that will make a good car. If you have a bad car and your set-up is bad, and someone tells you what right front tire pressure you run, and you tell me them x amount and he tells you, “Oh no no, you should run this amount,” because he’s on the pole, right? Well, don’t kid yourself. It’s not because you’re putting the same right front tire pressure of the guy on pole that you’re going to all of sudden make your car a bullet. It’s every small little detail. You can’t just believe that your car is going to be a winning car if you only do one thing; it’s everything. I think it’s the same thing with the series.

It’s all kind of small little things that to their extent are important, and we need to evolve and adapt. I think the world right now has shown interest in stuff that is digital, like reality shows are really popular. Young kids like technology, so you need to improve certain things for engagement with the fans, as potentially everything you show on TV has a reality component, not only racing component, to engage in the demographic that has an interest in those type of TV shows. I think we have lots of positives. We have access to a lot of things, but modeling and customizing our series a little bit to get it in a new direction doesn’t mean we’re bad. It means we need to evolve, change, adapt to the new world.

We’re in 2018 now and I’ve seen a lot of very positive comments this year with the cars, with the new body kit, new extension on the side skirt, new nose, new rear skirt on the rear bumper. People have enjoyed to see our cars low to the ground and the updated look of our cars. That was one small change, but it’s not enough; we need more new stuff, and we need to also balance it with being cost effective at the same time. Overall, I would say everybody has really good ideas when we meet with people – owners, drivers. Everybody has good points. I think when you take everybody together and put them around a table and you look into what people need from an owner’s standpoint, driver’s standpoint, marketing standpoint, sponsorship standpoint – if we all put our heads down and bring suggestions before our governing body, that’s how we can potentially a better series in the future. I don’t have all the answers to your question, and I don’t have the truth on everything, but I know I’m listening a lot of different owners and drivers, and I’ve heard some interesting valid suggestions. So that being said, I think getting together and working together as a group and applying some suggestions.

I think bitching or saying some things that are not good is not the right thing.  I think it’s better to find something to improve, and then bring a suggestion along with what we feel needs to be improved and try to do it in a timely fashion. From that point on, having people giving ideas and suggestions on all kinds of different aspects. There’s a lot of things that you could improve. Is our racing good? Yeah, our racing is quite good. Are the drivers good? Yeah. Could we improve certain things so we improve a different crowd? Yeah. What is the most important thing? Do a top-10 list and from there start with number one and go all the way down to 10. I have my own ideas, others have ideas, and we’ve been talking with different owners and drivers, and I’m kind of positive about it because I’ve seen the willingness in the series to work towards improving the series. it’s not going to be an overnight thing in 24 hours, but I think there’s room to listen and discuss.

Finally, to answer your question after I gave you this explanation, what I want to maintain is it’s not one thing. If someone is able to answer your question and say we’re going to do this and it’ll be much better, I think that’s unrealistic because everybody in the series has different challenges. You have people that are challenged with sponsorship, or with the technical aspect of the car for performance on the track, or with personnel, or travel, or marketing and visibility. There are other people that have challenges with support and activation. So everybody out there has a different challenge so fixing one won’t change the series in itself. It’s a couple of things that need to be improved at the same time with a big picture in mind, and that’s what will make the series grow and improve in a positive way.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Home Tracks

Alex Tagliani Ready for Another Chance at CTMP

TORONTO, Ontario — When asked what it’s going to take to win the Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, Alex Tagliani kept it simple – “just having enough of a gap in front of second-place and no green-white-checkered so we don’t get the bump and run.”

For the fourth time in his career, the Canadian will take part in the lone NASCAR Camping World Truck Series north of the border, driving for Young’s Motorsports for the second straight season. 

“Very excited about the opportunity with Young’s Motorsports,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “The team is going to be build a really good truck for that round, and we have been close many times. So I think going into the race, it’s going to be important to be focused on working with the crew chief and the guys, and when we arrive, we need to be as ready as we can because we have an opportunity to do really well there.”

Tagliani has come close before to winning, placing fifth in 2015 after running as high as second to eventual race winner Erik Jones. Other years, he has ran in the top-five throughout, but faded in the late stages due to contact. 

While that remains on his radar down the road, his focus right now is on the NASCAR Pinty’s Series, where he is running all the events as he competes for the championship. He dominated the Pinty’s Grand Prix in Toronto, leading all the laps until he was passed by Andrew Ranger via a well-time cross-over move into turn one on a green-white-checkered restart. J.F. Dumoulin and Tagliani also made contact, but Tagliani managed to fend him off to finish second.

“It is what it is,” he said. “Obviously we wish we could’ve finished first, but sometimes in NASCAR when there’s a green-white-checkered, you have to expect that the race is going to get aggressive. Andrew did a great job. He used me to make the corner, and I would’ve done the same. The 04 was pretty much last minute and was a harder bang and damaged our car. We didn’t really challenge Andrew after that, and it’s really unfortunate because we had the car to do it.

“So I’m just glad that we finished second and scored some important points. Four races, two podiums – I don’t think it’s too shabby at the moment where we stand. We just have to keep pushing, and continue to score the points for the championship. That’s what matters at this point in the game.”

Now entering the west coast swing, Tagliani currently ranks sixth in the championship standings, just 18 points behind Ranger and L.P. Dumoulin.

“We didn’t have a really good car the last oval race,” he said. “I think we learned what not to do, and from that point on, I’m really excited to see what’s going to be the decision of the team to make the changes so we can be a bit better. it’s important to see what we got, but Chaudiere was maybe a good thing in what happened to us. We learned what not to do and where we need to be, so maybe that race can cause us to come out on the west coast swing with a really good strong showing.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Home Tracks

OBSERVATIONS: Pinty’s Grand Prix of Toronto

TORONTO, Ontario — The Pinty’s Grand Prix of Toronto  always produces exciting racing for the NASCAR Pinty’s Series, with contact and close racing from the start of the event to the checkered. This year’s edition was no different as we look back at the action that took place.

Alex Tagliani was clearly the man to beat, as he set the quickest lap in qualifying and was set on his own pace from the drop of the green flag. If there wasn’t a late-race yellow flag, he would’ve been celebrating a win in victory lane. However, it wasn’t meant to be.

When you have a Green-White-Checkered on a street course, you’re bound for excitement and the Pinty’s Grand Prix of Toronto was no different. Andrew Ranger practically put together what will probably be the move of the season, perfecting the crossover as the field headed into turn one, getting the run on the inside of Tagliani to grab the lead and set on cruise control. J.F. Dumoulin tried to follow him through, but contact prevented that from happening.

The damage to Tagliani’s No. 18 Chevrolet from that probably prevented him from making a late-race charge on Ranger and you have to wonder what would’ve happened if he would’ve caught back up to him. But alas, Tagliani got himself a second-place finish while Ranger celebrated the victory. Dumoulin was able to finish third, marking a stellar performance as he continues to get better with more laps under his belt.

The other feel-good stories have to be James Vance and Pete Shepherd overcoming adversity to score top-10’s, with Vance sixth and Shepherd in 10th. Both drivers were involved in separate incidents during the day, but yet never gave up and made their way to the front at the end.

ALSO: See Pete Shepherd’s thoughts on the day.

On the flip side, Anthony Simone is probably wondering what if. After pacing the series’ lone practice session, he was biding his time in a top-five when a broken rear axle took him out out of the running just seven laps into the event. 

Kevin Lacroix won the event last year, but he started off the weekend on a sour note and it just went downhill from there. During qualifying on Friday, he suffered a crash, with his No. 74 Dodge sustaining heavy damage. He would borrow a car from Scott Steckly and 22 Racing, and tried to battle his way forward on Saturday, but ultimately crashed with five laps to go.

The incident dropped him in the championship standings to seventh, 22 points behind co-point leader Ranger and L.P. Dumoulin. With over half of the schedule to go, it’s anybody guess who will walk away with the title with how close the standings are, and the fact some competitors find strength on ovals, others on the road courses. if you add in the mixture of veterans and young talent, it’s going to be interesting right until the end of the season at Jukasa Motor Speedway.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Home Tracks News

PINTY’S SERIES: Lacroix Dominates Toronto; Fellow Contenders Find Trouble

TORONTO, Ontario — The Pinty’s Grand Prix had a familiar name on the top step of the podium following the 35-lap event on Saturday at the Honda Indy Toronto, as Kevin Lacroix dominated en route to his second straight series victory.

After an action packed race which saw new faces up front and contenders find trouble, here are some observations.

Lacroix Dominates

Kevin Lacroix has always been quick on the streets of Toronto, as evident by his podium finish last season. This year after qualifying up front, he took the lead on Lap 7 and did not look back from there as he led the rest of the way.

The driver of the No. 74 Dodge did not go unchallenged, though, as Marc- Antoine Camirand was right on his bumper through the middle portion of the event. However, a mistake by Camirand resulted in him crashing his No. 22 Dodge into the wall with six laps to go.

Being a road/street course expect, Lacroix has showcased his ability to date, winning all three events this season so far. And although ovals are not his specialty, he has still been solid with a fifth-place finish at Delaware Speedway, followed by a sixth at Autodrome Chaudiere.

“I think we’re having a good season with three wins, a fifth and a sixth,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “Our goal is to finish on the podium on road courses and get the most points we can and try to get a top-five on ovals. That’s what we’ve done since the beginning of the season, so it’s looking good.”

The results have benefited him well so far as he heads to Saskatoon with a 13-point advantage over Alex Labbe in the standings. Even with success to date, he admits they could be better, but it’s tough to do with the series regulations.

“We don’t have much testing before races,” he said. “So we’re not allowed to test a lot, so it’s pretty risky to try something weird in qualifying or the race, so it’s hard to get better. But I think slowly, we can get even better.”

Contenders Crash Out

Camirand was not the only contender to crash out of the Pinty’s Grand Prix, as shockingly neither Andrew Ranger or Alex Tagliani were on the podium at race’s end, either.

The pair qualified up front in the top-three with Ranger scoring the pole and Tagliani qualifying second. They also showed their speed early in the event, making up the top-two positions in the early stages. However, their battle for the lead came to a head on Lap 6.

Ranger held the top spot with Tagliani close behind. As they went into turn five, Tagliani made his move, though caught the rear bumper of Ranger and caused him to spin around. The result was heavy rear-end damage for Ranger, along with minor front end damage for Tagliani. Both drivers headed down pit road under caution for repairs, falling deep into the running order.

Ultimately, Ranger’s chances of winning were over as he went three laps down making repairs, en route to placing 15th. Meanwhile, Tagliani continued and worked his way back to the top-five, though was slowed by a mechanical problem four laps to go, finishing 14th.

Coming into Toronto, Ranger had been solid each week this season with no finishes outside of the top-nine, including a pair of runner-ups. For Tagliani, the Pinty’s Grand Prix represents just another frustrating weekend this year with bad luck following an 18th-place finish in the season opener at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.

“We’ve been running pretty fast, always up front,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “I just need to find the right place at the right time because I think we’ve had a lot of bad luck, and domination doesn’t matter if there’s a restart as you’re exposed. Last weekend (at Circuit ICAR), we got taken out after leading 61 laps out of 75. Very disappointing, but it is what it is.”

Simone Finds Some Luck

For the longest time, fans would watch Anthony Simone and keep asking themselves the question – what will plague him today?

After all, his pair of previous trips to Toronto had resulted in finishes of 30th and 26th, including a fire last season. He also started off this season on the wrong foot, posting a pair of finishes outside of the top-10.

Though if you look at the past two weeks, perhaps Simone is finding some much-needed luck as he finished ninth at Circuit ICAR, followed by an eighth-place finish at Toronto. After qualifying in the top-10, he ran as high as third before fading back following contact on a restart and battling a loose handling car.

While the team was left wondering whether they could have done better, it marked the first time he has scored back-to-back top-10 finishes since 2010 with a pair of sevenths at Barrie Speedway and Riverside Speedway.

He will look to score his third straight top-10 at Saskatoon, where he has placed fifth and ninth in his past two events.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Home Tracks News

Pinty’s Series Ready for Unpredictable, Rough Race in Toronto

TORONTO, Ontario — If you’re traveling through Toronto, you’ve become well aware of the bumps and variety of pavement which makes up Ontario’s capital city. Now just imagine having to race a 3,500-pound race car across those surfaces, while avoiding the concrete walls on either side of you.

That is the challenge ahead of the NASCAR Pinty’s Series drivers for the Pinty’s Grand Prix on Saturday afternoon.

Throughout the 11-turn course, each turn is unique, whether via how tight it is or the pavement used, making the track very technical to run. Some have given more headaches than others, with competitors typically circling turn one, three and eight.

“The brake zone going into turn eight is paved, so that’s quite nice now,” Alex Tagliani said. “It’s always been a rough braking zone. But turn one is rough, so I’m sure everybody is struggling a little bit with brake bias, wheel-hop, and all that stuff. It’s a challenging track, but a fun street course to drive on.”

While the challenge is steep, the track is better than it was last season, as Kevin Lacroix notes they repaved some spots, while making turn 11 a little wider than it was last season.

The balance between being successful and not is slim, as recognized in qualifying. Adam Andretti bounced his car off the wall, popping the right rear tire, while Kevin Lacroix caught the turn-two wall after setting the third quickest time of the session. Those incidents occurred racing around the circuit by themselves so now putting 20 cars under a blanket, you’re bound to create some drama.

Typically on an oval, the stars of the series are close together in competition, bouncing off each other in sections with bent fenders and hurt feelings standard. As Tagliani noted, a late caution at Circuit ICAR last week resulted in him finishing sixth after leading 61 of 75 laps.

“All it takes is a restart at the end, and then you’ll see stuff is going to fly,” he said. “We will do what we can control, and that’s the best that we can.”

In qualifying, Andrew Ranger was the master of the circuit, picking up the pole award ahead of Tagliani and Lacroix.

“I’m very happy about my car,” he said. “The guys did a really good job in practice for qualifying. Everything about the track here is very technical, and we’re sliding around, so it will make it interesting for the fans. So I’m proud of my team, and I think tomorrow is a long race. Anything can happen, as Alex said.”

Despite running up front each week, Ranger has failed to reach victory lane this season with a best finish of second, twice.

“We’ve had a good car every week, but NASCAR is a very close series so every lap things can change,” he said. “In every race, the car is good, but against these guys, it’s tough. We have really good drivers in the series – Tag, Lacroix, (Alex) Labbe – they were all fast, so it’s going to be very interesting, but I am going to do everything I can to win.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Home Tracks News

Tagliani Hopes to be in “Right Place at the Right Time” in Toronto

TORONTO, Ont — Last year, Alex Tagliani played out the inaugural Pinty’s Grand Prix well on the streets of Toronto, running up front throughout the event in the top-three. He then passed Andrew Ranger, leading the final 13 circuits en route to scoring the victory.

Now flash forward to 2017, things haven’t gone as smoothly for the Tagliani Autosport/22 Racing driver as following an 18th in the season-opener at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, he has posted only one podium despite leading 117 laps in the three races since.

“We’ve been running pretty fast, always up front,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “I just need to find the right place at the right time because I think we’ve had a lot of bad luck, and domination doesn’t matter if there’s a restart as you’re exposed. Last weekend (at Circuit ICAR), we got taken out after leading 61 laps out of 75. Very disappointing, but it is what it is.”

While the fifth-place finish wasn’t what he had hoped for, it allows him to enter this weekend with an added boost of confidence.

“I’m excited about the weekend,” he said. “I think our car has been really good. We won last year, so I think we’re going to try the best we can with what we control, and run quick, and try to stay in front and away from the mayhem.”

The belief he can run well once again comes not only from ICAR but the fact no matter the series he has competed in, the streets of Toronto have always seemed to treat him well.

“Some places suit you well, some places you can extract time out of it, but I’ve learned throughout my career that there’s not a place you can feel too confident about,” he said. “Things change. It only takes one small thing out of preparation and out of the car to feel you have it and then all of the sudden it doesn’t feel good. So I think you just always have to be on your toes, and push and never take racing for granted because things change.

“I’ve learned in my career even if you’ve had success at a place, you just have to approach it like it’s brand new and you have to do what it takes to win, but can’t just sit calmly.”

Coming out of this weekend with a strong finish could certainly kick off a good stretch for Tagliani in the second half of the season, which includes their marquee events at Trois-Rivieres and CTMP. The driver of the No. 18 Dodge could very well begin a streak of victories, based on success in previous seasons.

Though while he continues searching for success, he also is making his mark known outside of the racecar, continuing to spread awareness about food allergies, recently launching the “Drive the Discussion” contest.

“It’s on food allergy Canada website so all the NASCAR fans, everybody that wants to participate, has a chance to win pretty amazing prizes, like gift cards from Lowe’s,” he said. “Lowe’s has decided to join the initiative and thanks to them, plus all the weekly prizes that we have for the next six weeks. So whether suffering from food allergy, or just a fan, you can participate and maybe be a winner.”

Being allergic to nuts, Tagliani has been using his own experience to give tips and offer ways for people to handle food allergies.

“I think this particular contest with the fans will be interesting because it includes people with food allergy, and people without it – so friends that will comment on it,” he added. “So for us, it will be quite interesting to see what the challenges that they go through. People have heard my story, but being a supportive person for the initiative,

“I’m looking forward to hearing everybody else who is suffering from this particular thing that is a growing health issue in Canada at the moment.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Home Tracks News

Lowe’s Takes Sponsorship North of the Border

There’s no denying the success Lowe’s has had as a NASCAR sponsor partnered with Jimmie Johnson in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series over the past 15 years. Now they hope to do the same north of the border.

The home improvement store was revealed as a new co-primary sponsor on Alex Tagliani‘s No. 18 NASCAR Pinty’s Series Dodge for 22 Racing, set to be featured alongside long-time supporter EpiPen.

“I am very excited about our newest sponsor, Lowe’s Canada,” Tagliani said. “As someone who really enjoys home renovation and construction, carrying the Lowe’s logo is a huge honor for me. It’s no secret that I spend as much time as I can in Lowe’s and can often be found there while my wife is doing the groceries! It’s not every day that you can find such a personal connection with the brands you represent. I can’t wait to start interacting with our new fans, customers and Lowe’s employees across Canada.”

Sylvain Prud’homme, President, and CEO of Lowe’s Canada expressed his excitement in the partnership, noting Tagliani is about excellence and integrity just like they are.

“EpiPen is proud to have Alex as our brand ambassador,” Mrs. Kerri Elkas from EpiPen said. “His profession as a racer is full of risks, but living with severe food allergies could be even riskier for Alex. Over the past four years, our partnership has seen us reach out to the community with a mutual goal of raising awareness among those with food allergies. With these great new partners joining our program, we look forward to more success in the future.”

Tagliani is coming off a season-best season in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series where he finished third in points, despite missing the season-opener due to racing in the Indianapolis 500. He’d visit victory lane three times throughout the season, including at the Honda Indy Toronto, seven top-fives, and 10 top-10s in 11 races.

Tagliani Autosport also revealed they would receive sponsorship from St-Hubert, Quebec’s largest rotisserie restaurant chain founded in 1951.

“I feel fortunate to unveil this car,” Tagliani said. “Our partnering sponsors are a great fit for me personally,” Tagliani said. “I have been the brand ambassador for EpiPen since 2013, and since then we have successfully promoted food allergy awareness using the motorsports platform. It suits me well to have St-Hubert join our team. It’s just great. The whole family loves St-Hubert, and knowing how much my wife enjoys her chicken, it’s a perfect fit!”

You can see a video of the sponsorship announcement at the Motorama Custom Car and Motorsports Expo via the Tagliani Autosport Facebook Page.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.