Tagliani busier than ever

Alex Tagliani has races planned in Montreal for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. (QMI AGENCY)

Alex Tagliani has races planned in Montreal for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. (QMI AGENCY)

DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:16 PM ET

MONTREAL — Alex Tagliani is easily the busiest man in motor racing.

Over the next 10 days Tagliani will drive two cars — the No. 8 and the No. 2 Starworks Racing Ford Rileys — in the Rolex Grand Am Series on Friday at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, then on Saturday he hops in the No. 30 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet for the NASCAR Nationwide Series NAPA 200, also at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, and he’s back in his regular job next Sunday in the No. 98 Barracuda/Bryan Herta Autosports Honda for the IZOD IndyCar Sonoma (Calif.) Grand Prix.

There was a time in his career — not that many years ago — when he couldn’t buy a steady job in the seasons following the merger of the old Champ Car and Indy Racing League series.

But in a one-off race in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series at the Edmonton Indy in 2008, Tagliani won, proving he still had the talent and the will to race at the top levels, no matter what car he was driving.

It was that performance that put him back on the IndyCar radar and he has been there ever since.

So far this season he is the only driver to advance to the qualifying Fast Six in each of the past four IndyCar events and he almost pulled off an upset win at the Edmonton Indy last month for the one-car BHA team.

And he is doing it against teams like Penske Racing, Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport that have multi car teams and budgets that dwarf that of BHA.

So you would think the native of the Montreal suburb of Lachenaie, would be satisfied with his accomplishments this season.

Tagliani, however, has not forgotten the lean times and that is why he never turns down an opportunity to race anywhere, anytime, just in case it might lead to something better for him down the road.

That is the case this week in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

It is no secret that Tagliani has loved just about every minute of his time in stock car racing and he knows that the big bucks in North America for a racer is behind the wheel of the tin top sedans.

Tagliani also knows that it isn’t an easy transition to go from open wheel to stock cars. Just look at IndyCar stars like Dario Franchitti, Jacques Villeneuve and Paul Tracy who have tried it and stumbled.

“Those cars are really difficult to drive, and you need to allow yourself a period of adaptation, learning the tracks, understanding how the car changes throughout the race so you can be an asset to your crew chief to set the car up for different conditions,” he said. “I would have made the jump a long time ago but I want to pay my dues and to learn.”

Tagliani said that because NASCAR is so competitive, the big teams want drivers to hit the ground running. There is not much time for on the job training in NASCAR’s top ranks.

“I would have loved to have progressed into NASCAR by now, but it’s not easy to get in,” he said. “(NASCAR) people have a tendency not to fully be comfortable with an open-wheel driver or give you a chance.”

Tagliani certainly will get that chance on Saturday in the No. 30 Chevrolet in front of his home town fans.

He knows that it is his opportunity to shine, again, in a stock car and it will open a lot more doors for him if he can pull off a win.

Tagliani almost did it last year in the No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge, finishing second to Sprint Cup regular Marcos Ambrose in Montreal.

He would love nothing more than to win Saturday and he has to be considered among the favourites as the No. 30 Chevrolet team is coming off a win at Road America in June with former F-1 driver Nelson Piquet Jr. at the controls.

“I think the Nationwide car is a very good car,” Tagliani said. “Obviously Nelson won with that car. I’m hoping to do a good job. Last year I finished second, so I have pretty high hopes.”

As for his NASCAR future, Tagliani said that is where he’s like to go next in his career.

“I won’t lie,” he said. “The wish is there. I would definitely like to try to make the jump.”

AMBROSE ON THE CHASE

The defending champion of the NASCAR Nationwide Series NAPA 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is giving the race a pass this time around.

Marcos Ambrose, who came to the Ile Notre Dame track last season after winning the Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International has his sight on a bigger prize.

Although Ambrose won for the second time at the Glen this past Sunday, the Australian native now thinks his No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford team has a chance to make the Chase for the Championship.

He is 44 points back of the final wild card spot currently held by Ryan Newman. But another win would vault Ambrose into the Chase.

And for that to happen he has to concentrate on getting top spot at Michigan International Speedway this weekend where the Cup race goes Sunday with qualifying on Saturday.

Ambrose said he wants his full focus on the Chase.

“We need to win another race to make the Chase,” Ambrose said. “There’s no easier formula than if you’re not first, you’re last. That’s the way we’re approaching this weekend and the next three.

“We have to go out there on full attack mode, really concentrating on car speed, being aggressive in our strategies, to try to get us that next win.”

 


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