Passion Of NASCAR Excites Tagliani Passion is a compelling thing, and passion is as part of NASCAR as the Daytona 500. It's that fervor which excites Alex Tagliani (No. 7 Wal-Mart/Ubisoft Ford), who is in his first full season in stock...
Passion Of NASCAR Excites Tagliani
Passion is a compelling thing, and passion is as part of NASCAR as the Daytona 500. It's that fervor which excites Alex Tagliani (No. 7 Wal-Mart/Ubisoft Ford), who is in his first full season in stock cars after making the switch from the open-wheeled world.
Rumors that the 35-year-old Tagliani was going to race a full-time schedule in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Sirius Satellite Radio swirled all winter, but nothing was decided until about three weeks prior to the season opener at Cayuga Motor Speedway. That was when his team from Champ Car decided it was not going to participate in the newly-formed Indy Racing Series (the result of the merger between Champ Car and the Indy Racing League).
Ordinarily, that could be a devastating day for a driver, but for Tagliani it has worked out just fine. "I really wasn't sure what was going to happen, but I really enjoy racing the Canadian Tire Series and being a part of NASCAR," said Tagliani.
His exuberance for the burgeoning series is easy to sense. He lights up when discussing the future of the Canadian Tire Series and his role in that growth.
"My mind spins with ideas all the time," he said. "This series is going to continue to grow and grow and I want to be a part of it. So much that I think about starting my own team and beginning a driver search program in Canada."
The draw for the native of Lachenaie, Quebec is the love of the sport regardless of the level.
"Look at a guy like Dave Jacombs (Tagliani's current team owner). He's not going to make a lot of money at this, but he does it because he loves the sport and wants to be involved. It's not all about money," Tagliani said. "Then, look at guys like Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart. Every free moment they get they spend racing other types of cars all over the place. They love racing just like we all did when we started. That's what it is about for them and that is not true for a lot of drivers in the open-wheel world."
Another aspect of NASCAR that Tagliani likes is the ladder system and the intermingling of all the series.
"It's the whole package. It's set up to work your way through the ranks or to settle in where you feel comfortable and can compete," he said. "A bunch of guys race a number of different series and the differences are not that great. Also, the budgets to run the series increase step by step. In open wheel, you go from Atlantic Series for $600,000 a year, to Indy cars which takes over $15 million."
All that being said, Tagliani is not yet comfortable in the Canadian Tire Series. The organization and preparedness of his team is not where he wants it.
"We're getting there, but there was so much kind of put together at the last moment," Tagliani said. "So, we are still looking for that, but we are getting there."
The challenge of racing a stock car has become a huge motivational tool for the driver who was a perennial top performer in Champ Car.
"These cars keep you so involved mentally. It is very easy to overdrive them," he said. "You're in there working hard and feel that you are going fast, but you're not. You have to be right on the edge to make these things go. That motivates me as a driver. It's a real challenge."
This weekend's event in his home province of Quebec is an admitted big one. Not out of any pressure to do well and win - which is what Tagliani wants to do - but rather to expose the rabid fan base there to the rough and tumble excitement of the Canadian Tire Series on an oval track.
"We had two unbelievable road course races last year in Quebec. Now, we get to show all the fans how these cars do on an oval course. There is so much demand for this race that the track has added seats just since the rainout a month ago. I want to help make this a memorable show for the great racing fans of Quebec."
The Race: Kodak 250
The Place: Autodrome St. Eustache, St. Eustache, Quebec
The Date: July 5
The Time: 8:35 p.m. ET
TV Schedule: TSN, Noon ET, July 12 (delayed)
Track Layout: .400-mile paved
Race Purse: $68,511 CAD
2007 Winner: Inaugural Event
2007 Pole: Inaugural Event
Schedule: Saturday: Practice 1 - 3 p.m., Time Trials 5:15 p.m.
Not Much Fanfare For The Front-Running Lynch
Ask NASCAR Canadian Tire Series fans to name five top drivers and the name of Derek Lynch (No. 77 Allied Steel Buildings/Canadian Shield Dodge) probably would not surface on too many of the lists. However, when listing the top five drivers in the point standings, this year or last, Lynch has to be on the list because that is exactly where he can be found.
The driver out of Warkworth, Ont., currently holds third place in the championship point standings, just 95 points off the blistering pace of Scott Steckly (No. 22 Erb Group/Tow Truck in a Box Dodge).
Lynch has a pair of top fives to his credit this year, both coming on the oval tracks. In the road course event at Mosport, Lynch finished 11th and in his estimation, the road course results in 2007 cost the team an even better finish than fifth in the final standings.
"We gave away a lot of points last year on the road courses," said Lynch. "It is definitely an area of emphasis this year. I don't know where we would have finished if not for the sub-par performances on the road courses."
The jury remains out on the No. 77 team's commitment to improved finishes in the road races, but with five top fives in the last six races on ovals there is no doubt about Lynch's opportunity to contend for the title.
"The team continues to grow and get better. We don't put up the fast times in practice or qualifying but we are prepared and run smart races. The results have been there at the end and that's all anyone can really ask and that's where we're judged," Lynch said.
News & Notes
The Race: This event is the fourth of 13 races on the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Sirius Satellite Radio schedule. It is the first year the track is hosting the series.
The Procedure: The starting field is 26 cars, including provisionals. The first 23 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials. The remaining three spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 250 laps (100 miles).
The Track: The facility includes a .400-mile paved oval, a .125-mile drag strip and a 1.7km road course. The track was founded in 1965 as Fury Speedway de Fabreville, and the current configuration has been hosting various types of racing since 1970.
Try...Try Again: This event was originally scheduled for Saturday, May 31. After that day was a weather washout, the race was rescheduled for the next day. On Sunday, cars were able to practice, but nothing else as the rains returned. NASCAR and track officials quickly found an agreeable date for everyone to return.
Quebec First: The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series has raced two times in Quebec, but never on an oval track. Its visits to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres were road course events.
Also On Tap: Two classes of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series at St. Eustache will race on Saturday with the Cummins Pro-Trucks going 60 laps and the Sport Compacts racing 30 laps. Also, the ANCA Modified Legends will be on hand for a 50-lap feature.
A&W 300 Post-Race Notebook
Another With Three: J.R. Fitzpatrick (No. 84 Fitzpatrick Motorsports Dodge) picked up his third career Canadian Tire Series win at Mosport International Raceway on June 15. With his triumph at Barrie Speedway, Scott Steckly joins Fitzpatrick at the top of the all-time wins list.
Dodge Debut: Fitzpatrick made his series debut in a Dodge at the A&W 300. Dodge's commitment to stock car racing in Canada is greater than those of General Motors and Ford, so the 20-year-old decided to head in that direction. The former Chevy driver purchased the Dodge he used at Barrie from D.J. Kennington (No. 17 Castrol/NPP Dodge). It was the same car in which Kennington won both Barrie Speedway events in 2007.
Sticking Together: Teammates Andrew Ranger (No. 27 Wal-Mart/Tide Ford) and Alex Tagliani have finished right next to each other for the second straight race. At Mosport, Tagliani finished fifth followed by Ranger. This time around, Ranger beat his teammate to the line and placed sixth.
Turning Laps: Even though the season is only three races old, just three drivers have completed each of the 553 laps raced. Steckly, along with Don Thomson Jr. (No. 4 Home Hardware Chevrolet) and Derek Lynch have made every circuit in 2008. A tribute to Steckly's dominance this season is that he has led 287 of the laps this year which works out to almost 52 percent.
Mobil 1 Command Performance of the Race Award: As a reward for his NASCAR Canadian Tire Series victory at Barrie, Steckly collects $1,500 from Mobil 1 for his effort. He also has wins at Kawartha Speedway and Cayuga Motor Speedway to his credit.
Mopar Fast Five: This program awards the top five finishing Dodges in the race. In the A&W 300, Steckly was the highest-finishing Dodge and thus earned a $2,000 bonus. Kennington finished third overall and was the second-highest finishing Dodge, which earned him $1,250. Picking up $1,000 for finishing as the third-highest Dodge was Lynch. Collecting $500 for placing fourth among the Dodge entrants was Brad Graham (No. 19 Full Throttle Energy Drink Dodge). Rounding out the top five Dodges was Mark Dilley (No. 9 Dodge/Leland Dodge), which pays him $250.
POWERade Power Move: Doug Brown (No. 10 Haldex Dodge) earned the $1,000 POWERade bonus for improving his position the most over the course of the race. Brown started 19th on the grid and worked his way to a finish of ninth, his second top 10 of the young season.
Tow Truck in a Box Free Pass Award: In a new program in 2008, the driver who receives a free pass during the event and has the highest finish earns $1,000. Tagliani was a lap down at one point and used his free pass to help garner a seventh-place finish.
NASCAR Home Tracks: Cummins Pro-Trucks Power St. Eustache
Autodrome St. Eustache's premier division in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is the Cummins Pro-Trucks which will be on display this Saturday prior to the Canadian Tire Series' Kodak 250. It's a bit of a change from the usual late model program, but the race crazy fans of Quebec love it and the battle is heating up.
Last season's track and provincial champion, Guy Jubinville, finished 14th out of the thousands of participants in NASCAR's grassroots, local-racing program which encompasses tracks throughout the United States and Canada.
In 33 starts, Jubinville logged 15 wins, 27 top fives and 29 top 10s. Participation in the division ranges from 22 to 28 trucks.
This year, Jubinville once again stands atop the championship point standings. In 10 starts he has four wins and accumulated 382 points.
Right on his rear bumper, though, is Jonathan Bouvrette with three wins and 353 points in 10 starts.
This year's track champion will get a 2009 start in a NASCAR Canadian Tire Series event.
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series serves as the foundation of NASCAR -- grassroots racing across the United States and Canada. Whelen Engineering, a leading manufacturer of automotive, aviation, industrial and emergency vehicle lighting, is the series sponsor. More than 10,000 drivers compete at NASCAR-sanctioned short tracks throughout both countries.
The short-track racing program in NASCAR was founded in 1982. Since its inception, the series has been a successful starting point for the careers of many top drivers. NASCAR stars Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Kurt and Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Travis Kvapil, Bobby Labonte, Jamie McMurray and Brian Vickers all began their careers in this series.