August 20, 2011
All-Quebec front rowVilleneuve wins first pole at circuit named for his dad, with Tagliani right beside him
By DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency
MONTREAL - It was a qualifying result that not even a Hollywood fiction writer could have scripted better: Quebec's favourite racing son and the pole sitter from the 2011 Indianapolis 500 making up the front row for Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide NAPA 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
Jacques Villeneuve, son of the man for which the track is named, and Alex Tagliani, making only his third-ever NASCAR Nationwide start, will start 1-2 in identically prepared Penske Racing Dodges.
For Villeneuve it is, amazingly, his first pole position on the Ile de Notre Dame circuit after more than 20 tries over almost 20 years in Formula One, Formula Atlantic and NASCAR races.
And he took an extra lap to do it in the No. 22 Dodge after he bobbled his first two attempts, but his third lap of one minute, 41.500 seconds vaulted him to the top of the leaderboard.
As for Tagliani, his lap of 1:41.935 in the No. 12 Dodge s streak of big race front rows that began in May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"If there is one place you want to be quick at it is at home and also this is a special track that has my father's name," Villeneuve said.
"So there is a lot of history with what happened today."
He joked that it is the first time since his world championship season of 1997 that he came to the track feeling he had the best car on the grid.
"It is wonderful to experience knowing from the minute you get to the track that the car will be wonderful," Villeneuve said.
Tagliani too, talked about how great it was to have such good equipment.
"When you are a small team, like we are in the Indy- Car series, it is very difficult to fight against the big teams," he said.
"But having Jacques and Penske behind you is such a good feeling. I know that if we have an issue we can look at what Jacques did at Elkhart Lake (in June) and us that information.
"It really is a luxury that we don't have in IndyCar."
Jason Leffler in the No. 38 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet will start third on a lap of 1:42.165.
Among the other Canadians in the race, Patrick Carpentier will start eighth, Andrew Ranger 11th, Ron Fellows 13th and J.R. Fitzpatrick 21st.
But two drivers who weren't in Montreal Friday could prove to be Villeneuve's and Tagliani's toughest competition when the flag drops at 2:45 p.m.
Both Carl Edwards, who is a past winner in Montreal, and Marcos Ambrose, who has finished second here twice, will start from the back after missing qualifying because they were at Michigan International Speedway preparing to race in Sunday's Sprint Cup Pure Michigan 400.
The pair will fly in from MIS right after Cup practice. It could be tight for them to make it on time for the race.
"Well, it is going to be a little tougher than it should have been because I left my passport at home," Edwards said.
"I believe my passport is going to be driven up (to MIS) Saturday."
Meanwhile in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series NAPA 100 today, Ranger will start on the pole with Tagliani--with whom he has a history of hostilities-- beside him.
Even though the pair share the same Dave Jacomb Racing garage, it doesn't mean they are bosom buddies.
In fact, earlier this season Ranger took certain victory away from Tagliani at the ICAR Circuit, pushing the No. 12 Dodge into the wall on the final lap.
Starting in third will be Kerry Micks in the No. 02 Dickies/Digital Imaging Ford.
He too, had a famous run-in with Ranger, at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 2007 when the two beat on one another down the whole front stretch, with Micks winning by the narrowest of margins.
Jason Bowles, in the No. 11 Toyota, will start fourth and Fitzpatrick with start fifth in the No. 84 Dodge.