Saturday morning at the Motorama Custom Car & Motorsports Show, which is being held this weekend at the International Centre in Mississauga, Canadian racing legend Alex Tagliani will make a major announcement about his sponsorship for 2017 in the NASCAR Canada Pinty’s Series.
Tagliani says the announcement will concern him but will also benefit stock car racing across Canada.
“This is exciting news for Tagliani Autosport with 22 Racing (Scott Steckly’s team) and for NASCAR Canada,” Tagliani said. “We worked hard during the off-season to secure new major partners. Their involvement will be an asset for the team, the series and the Canadian motorsport scene in general. We know this will generate a lot of attention for the upcoming NASCAR season.”
Tagliani is arguably Canada’s hardest-working racing driver, going literally non-stop from dawn to dusk to promote his sponsors and his sport. A veteran of Indy car racing as well as the stock-car wars, Tag — as he’s known to his fans — won the pole for the 2011 Indianapolis 500 and still makes an annual appearance in the iconic race, although nothing is settled for 2017 with A.J. Foyt Racing, which has given him a car at Indy in recent years.
Tagliani, who will continue to represent his long-time sponsor EpiPen (food allergies have nearly killed him several times), says his priority is the Pinty’s Series and — other than maybe Indianapolis — nothing will get in the way of him competing in Canada’s only national racing series.
The native of Montreal had his best season in Canadian stock car racing in 2016 when he finished third in the standings, despite missing one race. He won three races and had five podium finishes in 11 starts.
There are 13 races on the Pinty’s Series schedule this season. The opener will be held at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park as part of the Victoria Day Speedfest in May. The series will go as far west as Alberta and east to Nova Scotia before winding things up at Kawartha Speedway near Peterborough in September.
Highlights of the season will include being Saturday headliner at the Honda Indy Toronto in July and the main event at the Grand Prix du Trois-Rivieres in August.
The announcement Saturday will be made sharp at 11 a.m. at NASCAR Booth #2712 in Hall 2. The public is invited.
SPEAKING OF MOTORAMA, this is the third presentation since Greg MacPherson of Inside Track magazine took over the custom car show and twinned it with the Canadian Motorsport Expo. It promises to be the best one yet. It starts Friday afternoon and goes till late Sunday afternoon.
The show will feature more than 300,000 square feet of custom cars, hot rods, race cars, displays and exhibitors. Mothers Polishes, Waxes and Cleaners is the title partner.
One of the featured visitors will be Linda Vaughan, known far and wide – for years – as Miss Hurst Golden Shifter. She will be appearing at Motorama to sign copies of her new book, “Linda Vaughan: The First Lady of Motorsports.” As well, she will be participating in meet-and-greets, signing autographs and posing for photos with Motorama showgoers.
SPEAKING OF NASCAR, they announced this week that a second race will be held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2018. Am I in the Twilight Zone? Isn’t that exactly what NASCAR doesn’t need? Another boring, mile-and-a-half, round-and-round-and-round-anndddzzzzzzz “race.” What happened? Did Bruton Smith threaten to sue again if they didn’t give him another event? I mean, really???
NASCAR is in trouble. Everybody knows it. Everybody, apparently, except NASCAR. There have been columns written about how this is a make-or-break year. Boy, is it ever. Attendance is down, ratings are down. I am re-reading a fabulous book about the 2007 NASCAR season called “The 200-mph Billboard,” about how NASCAR had so many sponsors they were turning them away.
Not any more, boy. The bloom is off the rose. The money isn’t there. Not like it used to be, in any event.
I felt sorry for Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Gordon last Sunday. They were barely on the air before Joy started crowing about how interest in tickets for the spring race at Atlanta was up 40 per cent from the year before. Zoweee!! Are they trying to convince themselves that stock car racing is undergoing a renaissance? Because it isn’t.
And now, faced with everything that’s going on, they add another oval race to the schedule.
If they really want to save what they have, they can stop going back to the same tracks twice, shorten the schedule, shorten the races and add a couple more road courses. Any marketing person will tell you that.
But no. They’re going to stick with tried and true. Except it’s not working for them any more. Another race at Las Vegas? The one this weekend will be a crashing bore and now, starting next year, you will have two of them to look forward to.
NASCAR ISN’T THE only racing league screwed up. Ross Braun has been hired by new F1 owners Liberty Media to run the race division. Braun is a racer. He’s said in recent weeks that he wants to put the excitement back in F1 and have Pirelli build even wider tires and to bring back the ear-shattering shrieks! that F1 cars used to be famous for.
So while Braun was going on about this at the pre-season tests in Spain, Jean Todt, head of the FIA, was in Paris proclaiming that Formula One should be at the vanguard of the green movement.
Lord, give me strength.
SPEAKING OF F1, Canadian Lance Stroll hasn’t crashed so far this test and was fifth fastest in recent days. They open the season in Australia in two weeks. Then it will get real. This will be a learning year for Lance. Then, you watch him go.
BACK TO NASCAR again for a second. Kyle Busch won the Xfinity Series race at Atlanta last weekend. Then his car flunked post-race inspection. So they disqualified him, right? Nope. NASCAR is still NASCAR, living in the 1950s when people had to wait till the following afternoon to read in the paper about something that happened that day. That was the rationale for not DQing cheaters. NASCAR didn’t want fans to see somebody win a race and then find out the next day that they hadn’t. The fact that everybody has a smartphone these days and information is now instantaneous doesn’t seem to have crossed their minds. So, instead of throwing out the victory, crew chief Scott Graves was suspended for two races and fined $10,000 and Joe Gibbs Racing was docked 10 owner points.
In the Cup series, A.J. Allmendinger’s crew chief was fined $65,000 and suspended three races for fooling around with the lug nuts on tire changes (called “loading the dice,” which is a no-no) and A.J, and the team were each docked 35 driver and owner points. You’ve been a bad boy, A.J.!
THE VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES season will kick off in St. Petersberg, Fla., this weekend. The racing will be hard and it will be exciting. In its own way, this will be an important year for IndyCar, too, as its market share had better increase (some say) substantially or it will forever be tagged as the Indianapolis 500 with a bunch of little support races to justify staying in business for the big one that really counts.
As it is Canada’s Sesquicentennial year (that’s 150th birthday), I’ve told James Hinchcliffe of Oakville that nothing less than an Indianapolis 500 victory and an IndyCar championship will do and that we are all counting on him.
Hinch nearly died at Indy two years ago and then made an incredible comeback to win the pole for the 500 last May. But he was feeling his way and now that he’s settled it’s hoped that he will grab the bit in his teeth and be going for the front, focused and determined.
The Verizon IndyCar Series season opener from St. Pete can be seen on Rogers Sportsnet 1 (and ABC-Buffalo) on Sunday, starting at noon. The NASCAR race from Las Vegas will be on TSN at 3:30 (the pre-race show comes on at 3).
HOT LAPS: The Nissan Micra Cup schedule is out and there will be 12 races taking place across six race weekends starting with the Victoria Day Speedfest at CTMP in May. Three of the race weekends will take place at Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant in the Laurentians north of Montreal, with two at CTMP and one at Trois-Rivieres. . . . . . For the first time in its history, Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve is offering a covered grandstand at this year’s 50th anniversary Grand Prix du Canada. Located on the inside of the track (driver’s right) on the straight before the Senna Corner, the Platinum Grandstand will offer plush seating and a roof to protect spectators from either the hot sun or – I really don’t want to say this – rain. Three-day seats are going for $850 and that price includes all taxes and fees. You can buy them now by calling 514-350-000 during the week from 9 in the morning till 8 at night. Or go to the website: www.circuitgillesvilleneuve.ca . . . . . . Old supermodified driver Joe Paeno of Oswego, N.Y., has died at age 72. Joe raced at Oswego Speedway from 1973 until the mid-1980s and also raced on the ISMA circuit. A fisherman, charter boat captain and retired Oswego City fireman, Joe was honoured for an Act of Heroism in the Oswego River. They don’t make ‘em like him any more. . . . . . .Adam Martin of Ayr has announced he will chase the 2017 NASCAR Pinty’s Series Rookie-of-the-Year title by running the entire Pinty’s Series season. He’ll be supported by Johnsonville Sausages in his quest. Martin will be at Motorama this weekend to greet the fans . . . . . Roger Penske, Joe Gibbs, Red Farmer, Davey Allison and Bobby Labonte have been nominated for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. They are first-timers. They join 15 who had been nominated previously but didn’t make the grade. But just look at that list and try to figure out how some of the people on it haven’t already been enshrined. Ken Squier, for instance. He did as much or more to bring NASCAR into the mainstream than anyone. Jack Roush isn’t in (who’d he brown off?). Okay, here’s one for you: Buddy Baker won 19 races in the Cup series including the Daytona 500 and the Southern 500. Davey Allison won 19 Cup races and the Daytona 500. Who would you pick? Voting will take place May 24. . . . . . Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing will enter the Red Bull Global Rallycross Series with a Ford Fiesta ST for driver Austin Dyne. Gee, maybe Bobby Rahal can tip us off as to the location of that mysterious “Canada” race in June . . . . The Pirelli World Challenge field at St. Pete will be robust, with 45 or 46 cars entered. The PWC always puts on a good show at IndyCar races. . . . . Team Principal Karl Thomson of Toronto has announced that C360R (Compass Racing) will return to PWC competition with a brand new Touring Car program featuring the recently announced Audi RS 3 LMS USA Clubsport in partnership with Pfaff Automotive Partners of Vaughan and Newmarket. American driver Paul Holton will drive the car with sponsorship from AlphaClone, AERO Paint, Audi Genuine Parts, Audi Tire Centre and APR. . . . . British driver Jay Howard will attempt to qualify for this year’s Indy 500 (who am I kidding? They’ll be lucky if they have a traditional starting field of 33). He’ll drive a car entered by Schmidt-Peterson Motorsport (Hinchcliffe’s team) with sponsorship from Tony Stewart’s cancer foundation. . . . . . Paul Tracy and Jimmy Vasser have signed up for the Indy Legends Charity Pro-Am race at Indianapolis Motors Speedway on June 17. This is the race that Peter Klutt, owner of Legendary Motorcar Co. in Halton Hills, won last year with Al Unser Jr. as his pro partner. . . . .