|Alex Tagliani waves to the crowd after his qualifying run for the NASCAR Nationwide Series sixth annual Napa Auto Parts 200 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal yesterday. (Robert Laberge/Getty Images/AFP)
MONTREAL - Alex Tagliani drew cheers from his hometown fans after topping qualifying Friday for Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide NAPA 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
It was Tagliani’s first pole at the storied track — he was second last year.
Tagliani’s lap of 96.688 m.p.h. in the No. 30 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet beat out the No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge of Sam Hornish Jr., who had a lap of 96.649 m.p.h.
Jacques Villeneuve will start third Saturday after a lap of 96.402 m.p.h. in the No. 22 Penske Dodge.
Toronto’s Ron Fellows will start eighth in he No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet on a lap of 95.617 m.p.h.
Tagliani was the top Canadian qualifier in the Rolex Grand-Am Series DP class on a lap of 104.441 m.p.h., in the No. 8 Starworks Motorsports Ford Riley.
Jon Fogarty will start on inside of the front row after he laid down a lap of 104.713 m.p.h. in the No. 99 GAINSCO Corvette with Memo Rojas on the outside of him in the No. 01 Ganassi Racing BMW Riley on a lap of 104.615 m.p.h.
Toronto’s Paul Tracy, making his first attempt at qualifying the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette, was seventh fastest with a lap of 103.838 m.p.h.
J.R. SETS RECORD PACE
J.R. Fitzpatrick set a new track record for qualifying at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series NAPA 100. The 24-year-old from Cambridge. Ont., drove the No. 84 Equipment Express Chevrolet around the track at 93.163 m.p.h., besting the old record set by Andrew Ranger last year of 93.003 m.p.h.
Ranger was second fastest Friday at 93.067 and series points leader D.J. Kennington was third.
Montreal track promoters shift focus on Sprint race
Promoters of the NASCAR Nationwide NAPA 200 Saturday at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve are pressing hard for a Sprint Cup race at the legendary road course.
Octane Group boss Francois Dumontier told local media outlets that he wants a top NASCAR Sprint Cup race by 2015.
Dumontier, who also promotes the IZOD IndyCar Series in Edmonton, said the first step in that process would be to convince NASCAR to test Cup cars at the Ille Notre Dame track.
He said that big crowds and good television ratings over the first five seasons of the NAPA 200 has proven that Montreal is a great market for stock car racing.
“They need to see it as an opportunity,” Dumontier said. “I understand there are 36 races in a season, and they will not add one or let go one necessarily.
“But (Montreal) is the only race outside the United States and there have been incredible ratings on ESPN since 2008.”
Dumontier went as far as to say that the Montreal track should host the first road course in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
“I’m going even further and I would say we should be the first road course of the Chase,” he said. “There are none currently in the final, and I think Montreal should be there.”
Danica Patrick, who will be full time in Sprint Cup next season, said on Friday that she thinks Canada deserves Cup race.
“I have raced in Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton and race fans at all of them are fantastic,” she said.