August 30, 2015
By Norris McDonald
BOWMANVILLE—He gave it the old college try, but Canadian road-racing expert Alex Tagliani wasn’t able to win the four races he entered at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park this weekend.
Although he won his class in both Canadian Touring Car Championship Series races, Tagliani was only able to finish eighth in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series stock car race Sunday morning and then, while he was right in the running to win the headline NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in the afternoon, the third gear on his Ford broke three corners from the checkers and he fell back to finish fifth.
In only his second road-course start, the Chevrolet Silverado 250 was won by 18-year-old Michigan native Erik Jones, who is so good he will be making some NASCAR Sprint Cup starts next year for Joe Gibbs Racing. Second was defending series champion Matt Crafton and third was Ben Kennedy. Fourth place went to Daniel Hemrick and Tagliani was fifth.
The second Canadian in the race, 19-year-old Cameron Hayley of Calgary, finished seventh.
The race was run under sunny skies with the occasional dark cloud passing over and before a huge crowd that was on a par with the first NASCAR trucks race at CTMP in 2013 when more than 70,000 turned out on race day.
Jones said he prepared well for the only road course in the truck series that includes mostly paved ovals and a dirt-track race in addition to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
“A year ago, I went to the (CTMP co-owner) Ron Fellows driving school in Nevada and this year I went to the Bondurant school. They have slightly different philosophies and I was able to take some of both and apply them here.
“This is a form of racing that I find really fun and I wanted to get good at it.”
Tagliani wasn’t apologetic for trying to win the four races he entered and told reporters afterward that he did a good job for his sponsors and the teams who’d hired him.
He said that as the trucks race was winding down and he was running second to Jones, there were several occasions when he got close enough that he could have bumped him off the track “but I don’t race like that.”
Tagliani is very aware of the NASCAR tradition of “bumping and running” cars in front and was a victim two weeks ago at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course when Regan Smith moved him out of the way at the last corner and went on to win the XFinity Series race there.
He became upset, then, after a reporter asked him about an incident in the Canadian Tire Series stock car race earlier Sunday when he and driver Jeff Lapcevich had a coming-together. Lapcevich was leading at the time but fell back after the collision in which Tagliani emerged on top.
Lapcevich, who had announced his retirement from racing earlier, suggested later that he would have won his last race if Tagliani hadn’t taken him out.
“These guys are really funny,” Tagliani said. “If they really like the bump-and-run, then it’s very easy for me to do. In this case, I went inside of him in Turn 3 and we went door-to-door, wheel-to-wheel. He decides to turn, the w touch, and he loses position. I don’t understand why he’s upset.
“I think the next time I’m at a drivers meeting in the Canadian Tire Series, I’m going to ask: ‘How do you want me to pass you?’ The bumper, or a normal pass. Whatever they decide, I’ll do.”
That Canadian Tire Series race earlier, incidentally, was won by Jason Hathaway — his first road-course victory — with L.P. Dumoulin second and, yes, Jeff Lapcevich third.
Lapcevich’s son, Cayden, finished ninth, putting two Tim Hortons-sponsored team cars in the top 10.
The series championship will go down to the wire at the Peterborough-area Kawartha Speedway on Sat., Sept. 19. Three-time champion Scott Steckly, who was seventh Sunday, holds a nine-point lead over Hathaway and Andrew Ranger, who finished sixth Sunday.
It was a great race, with only four caution periods and a margin of victory of only .310 seconds. There were eight lead changes among seven drivers.
As happened in the first Canadian Touring Car Championship Saturday, Tom Kwok won the race Sunday morning in a Super Touring Acura and Tagliani won his second race by finishing sixth overall — but first in class — in a Grand Touring Mustang.
And although it won’t be officially announced until Monday, the Star has learned that three-time World Figure Skating champion Elvis Stojko will start an auto racing career in 2016.
The two-time Olympic silver medallist and seven-time Canadian figure skating champion will drive sports cars after apprenticing for several years in karts.
He recently placed third in the Rotax DD2 Master Class at the Canadian National Karting Championships while racing with the Maranello factory team.