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ASHLEY ASKS…… Anthony Simone

After running his own team the past several seasons, Anthony Simone will embark on a new journey for the 2019 NASCAR Pinty’s Series, partnering with Canada’s Best Racing Team (CBRT) for the full schedule.

Ahead of the season opener at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, Simone shared his thoughts with POPULAR SPEED.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts entering the season?

ANTHONY SIMONE: Really looking to have some good finishes this year (by) trying to finish all the laps and finish consistently in the top-five. I definitely think this is the best shot that we’re giving ourselves to be successful with the set-up with CBRT and Mopar Engines and being aligned with them. Should be a great year, and looking to some great results.

PS: One of the questions that has come up since the unveil is why did you make the decision to partner with CBRT this season while having your own team?

SIMONE: I was approached them in December and just talked about it. I have a lot of other racing going on down south and it takes a lot of time to prepare the cars. So we just figured this year that this way I’d get new cars, new engines – and have a lot of solid support. It just made sense for me and the team to partner up and make a good push at the championship.

PS: What are your thoughts heading into CTMP?

SIMONE: Looking for a good start to the season. Looking at the weather, it’s going to be a little bit warmer with a bit of rain possible on Sunday, and with this race you don’t know what to expect. Sometimes it clear, sometimes you get a bit of a rain thrown in as it has rained the past few years. So just trying to keep positive and hopefully we keep it all together and have a good result.

PS: What’s the toughest challenge of CTMP?

SIMONE: Definitely the speed and having a good clean race throughout, hitting your marks. Going fast as you possibly can, but also while conserving tires. Nobody knows what the new General Tires are going to do and how they’re going to react on a long run. Everybody has just tried them, but nobody has been in the race conditions so it’s kind of an unknown going into the event on new tires. The car feels good on the short run, but we don’t know what it’s going to be 20, 25 laps on the tires.

So it’s just about hitting your marks and putting down consistent laps and at the end of the day, whoever has the best tires and equipment will be the best.

PS: What track are you most looking forward to this season?

SIMONE: I’m a road course guy so I like Toronto and Trois-Riveries. For the ovals, Jukasa is obviously a beautiful track so going there twice is nice for the series. Going out west, Saskatoon is a nice place. Looking forward to all those places, pretty well.

PS: What are your thoughts on the current state of the Pinty’s Series?

SIMONE: I think it’s in a good spot. I think you’re going to see the most full-time cars that you’ve probably seen the past four or five years; I think there’s 12 or 13 full-time cars this year. If you look at the competition, it’s the best in Canada.

PS: What would your advice to the next generation of racers be?

SIMONE: Just keep pushing and keep trying to achieve your goals. It’s a high spending sport so keep trying to get the sponsors and do the best you can with the best results, and keep pushing forward.

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.

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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.

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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.