Alex Tagliani has been hot on the heels of a NASCAR Pinty’s championship for many years now and 2021 was a perfect opportunity for the No. 18 Chevrolet to make a strong campaign for the title.
As a two-time winner at Sunset Speedway, everyone was looking at Tagliani heading into the season opener. After qualifying eighth, he remained within the top ten the whole race, and at the end of the Frontline Workers 125, he finished third, claiming a podium right out the gate.
In the second race of the night, Tagliani started fifth, but as intense battles ensued up front, the race headed into NASCAR Overtime, and the No. 18 RONA/Viagra/St-Hubert Chevrolet got pushed back. But once the checkered flag dropped for the General Tire 125, Tagliani came home in ninth.
GRAND PRIX DE TROIS-RIVIÈRES
A two-time winner on the streets of Trois-Rivières, Que., Tagliani is always a fan favourite at GP3R. Starting fourth, the 47-year-old took the lead on lap 18 as drivers made their mandatory pit stops.
The first restart of the day came on lap 35, where Kevin Lacroix briefly took the lead away before Tagliani regained it, dominating 18 laps.
A late-race caution put some pressure on the Montreal, Que. driver, as Lacroix and J.F. Dumoulin, both made charges for the lead, to no avail.
Tagliani controlled the field from the restart to the checkered flag picking up his third win at GP3R and tenth of the NASCAR career.
After leading 40 laps, Tagliani sat just one point back of Raphael Lessard in the standings. The victory also marked his first since Toronto Exhibition Place in 2019.
— NASCAR Pinty’s Series (@NASCARPintys) August 17, 2021
Tagliani has always been fast at Circuit ICAR. He’s claimed the pole award there three times and has never finished outside the top ten. Coming into Mirabel, Que. with some winning momentum, eyes were on the No. 18 Chevrolet.
Starting third for the La Fernandiere 75, Tagliani was poised and ready for a chance at a second win.
Fast forward to the final laps, the race was headed into NASCAR Overtime, and Tagliani brought his car down pit road from the fifth position to make an adjustment. The team managed to get him back out on track before going a lap down, keeping his position for the restart.
A second overtime attempt ensued and Tagliani battled hard with L.P. Dumoulin and Andrew Ranger for the podium but came up shy, finishing in fourth and giving him the points lead.
CANADIAN TIRE MOTORSPORT PARK
Tagliani, a former winner at CTMP, was looking to create some distance in the standings ahead of the final two road course events of the year.
First up was a 30-lap sprint race around the 2.459 KM track. While Tagliani held onto a top-five result, finishing fourth, L.P. Dumoulin won the race, taking over the points lead and putting the No. 18 Chevrolet in second, three markers back.
The next day, it was time for the Clarington 200 and 51 more laps at CTMP. Although Tagliani was starting seventh, he had a unique strategy versus the rest of the field. During pits stops the No. 18 team decided not to take tires, giving them a position advantage.
On lap 20, Tagliani took the lead controlling the field through the second half of the race.
But as the laps wound down, his teammate Marc-Antoine Camirand began to challenge him. With five to go, Camirand took the lead away, while Tagliani finished second.
Despite not getting the win, the result allowed him to retake the points lead, leaving CTMP eighth markers ahead of Dumoulin.
With the series heading back to the ovals, Tagliani and the No. 18 team were looking to gain as many points as possible.
Starting eighth for the MotoMaster 125, the 47-year-old battled multiple oval masters, trying to crack the top-five. As the race went on, many front runners began to have trouble, including Treyten Lapcevich, Shae Gemmell and Larry Jackson, allowing Tagliani to take home fourth place.
The result also gave him an 11 point difference in the standings and a nice cushion, heading to the final track of the season.
While Tagliani did enter the final three races with a strong lead in the standings, with three races remaining, anything could happen.
First up was the Canadian Tire 125 on Friday night. The team only qualified 18th and struggled to find speed for the majority of the race. He ended up finishing in 14th, two laps down.
The points battle tightened, as Tagliani only led Dumoulin by five.
On Sunday, the No. 18 RONA/Viagra/St-Hubert showed some improvement in qualifying. But after starting 14th for the QwickWick 125, he fell off pace soon after the green flag dropped.
During a caution on lap 48, Tagliani brought his car down pit road multiple times in an attempt to make adjustments and find some speed. Once the No. 18 rejoined the field he began to pick up positions quickly, making his way up to 13th.
But on lap 85, his teammate Lapcevich blew a tire, spinning right in front of Tagliani. With nowhere to go, he drove straight into the No. 20 car, causing major damage to the front end.
The No. 18 team worked quickly to get the RONA/Viagra/St-Hubert Chevrolet back out on track to pick up as many points as possible. When the checkered flag dropped, Tagliani finished 18th, 41 laps down and seven points behind Dumoulin in the standings.
Finally, it was time for the last race of the season, the Pinty’s Fall Brawl. Starting 17th, Tagliani tried with all his might to capture as many points as possible but struggled to stay on the lead lap.
Just after halfway, the No. 18 brought out the caution after blowing his right front tire and slowing on track. In the end, Tagliani brought the car home in 17th, 28 laps down, but all the trouble caused him to lose his position in the standings. He finished the season in fourth, 18 points behind Dumoulin.
— NASCAR Pinty’s Series (@NASCARPintys) September 27, 2021