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NASCAR Pinty's Series

Tight championship battle highlights Pinty’s return to Toronto

Matthew Manor | NASCAR

For the third-consecutive season and fifth time overall, the NASCAR Pinty’s Series will join the Verizon IndyCar Series and compete on the streets of Toronto in the Grand Prix of Toronto.

Kevin Lacroix is the defending winner of the event and will try to join Andrew Ranger as the only back-to-back victor on the 1.755-mile street course at Exhibition Place in downtown Toronto. In addition to Ranger and Lacroix is joined by Alex Tagliani, whom won the race in 2016.

The Montreal native has seen plenty of track time here over the years in both stock cars and Indy cars and has qualified second in addition to his lone win. Thus, he feels pretty-confident in advance on Saturday’s 35-lap showdown.

“You never want to count your chickens before they hatch, but we’ve always seemed to run well there,” Tagliani said. “It’s a fun course to race and a pretty challenging track to compete on every year.”

With that said, Tagliani finished 15th last year and enters this race with a degree of desperation. He’s seventh in the championship standings after a lot of misfortune at Bowmanville and Chaudier. The top-six in the standings are separated by 11 in the standings.

It’s a bit of a drive to Tag in seventh.

“(Toronto) is a good course and we’ve always ran well there in my previous starts,” Tagliani added. “The challenging part is figuring out how to set your car up for the race.

“You can set it up for a long or a short run but you can never predict how the race is going to go so you have a fine balancing act on the set up.”

Tagliani feels that the race will probably not have long green flag segments and in fact this race has averaged almost three cautions per event over the past four races.

“I feel the set up for all of us will be a crap shoot as you don’t know what to expect,” he added. “I want to set up the car for long runs but I just don’t think that will happen (this weekend). I expect a couple of full-course cautions in the race.”

In addition to having the correct set up, the course also features the second fastest straightaway the Pinty’s Series drivers compete on during the season so you have to have a well-handling and fast car according to Tagliani if you want to have a chance to win.

“The course is fast and you have some opportunities to make some passes but you also don’t want to allow yourself to be taken out either,” Tagliani said.

In addition to Ranger and Lacroix, Tagliani will also have to deal with the series points leader L.P. Dumoulin in this race. The Trois-Rivieres native already has one win on a road course this season and reclaimed the points lead after the last series race at Autodrome Chaudière a couple of weeks ago.

Dumoulin, who won the 2014 Pinty’s Series championship, leads Cole Powell by seven points entering the weekend with Ranger now third after his first win of the year at Autodrome Chaudière.

Pinty’s Toronto Notebook:

Tight Points Battle After Three Races: While L.P. Dumoulin is no stranger to leading the points, where he’s done that on numerous occasions throughout his career, he’ll lead the series to Toronto with just a seven-point lead in a battle that features the top six drivers within 11 points of the lead. Cole Powell is seven points behind (128-121) with Andrew Ranger and Marc-Antoine Camirand eight points behind and Kevin Lacroix and DJ Kennington 11 points out.

  1. L.P. Dumoulin Ldr.
  2. Cole Powell -7
  3. Andrew Ranger -8
  4. Marc-Antoine Camirand -8
  5. Kevin Lacroix -11
  6. D.J. Kennington -11
  7. Alex Tagliani -23
  8. Donald Theetge -28
  9. Brett Taylor -28
  10. Adam Martin -31

READ MORE: Julia Landauer set for three Pinty’s races this summer

New Sponsor On Board: Pete Shepherd III will make his first road-course start with the NASCAR Pinty’s Series, and he’ll do so with a new look. The Amherstburg, Ontario, driver announced this week that he will have VRX Simulators and VRX eSports on his No. 79 Ford for Jacombs Racing.

“Robert Stanners and VRX have been exceptional marketing partners. They have really delivered all season, and they are passionate about what they do! Their future plans are really exciting and I am proud to be a part of them. I’ve wanted to run a road course for a long time now, and it doesn’t get much bigger than the Pinty’s Grand Prix in my own backyard,” Shepherd said.

New faces in Toronto: Cole Powell will make his second series road course start and he’ll be joined by James Vance and Donald Theetge in their first starts on the famed street course. While Theetge is no stranger to the series he’s mostly competed on ovals until this season where he’s competing full-time for the first time in his career. Vance, finished eighth in his first race driving for Canada’s Best Race Team in May at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Peter Klutt Likes Toronto: Halton Hills, Ontario native Peter Klutt is the patriarch of the Klutt family that also features his sons Gary and Ryan. The veteran has made 31 series starts and scored 11 top-10 finishes with four of those coming in Toronto including a 10th-place showing in last year’s event. Peter and Gary Klutt are both entered to compete this weekend.

Annual Western Trip Up Next: After the NPS finishes its event in Toronto, the competitors and officials will head west for the annual trip to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and Edmonton, Alberta. This first stop will be at Wyant Group Raceway on July 25th for a pair of 125-lap features. Three days later the series will compete at Edmonton International Raceway for a 300-lap race.

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Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He is also the associate motorsports editor of Autoweek Magazine and its website, which allows him to cover the highest levels of the sport.

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