NNS: Alex Tagliani in for Team Penske at Road America, Mid-Ohio

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Long-time IndyCar veteran and current TUDOR United SportsCar Championship racer Alex Tagliani is set to make a return to the NASCAR Nationwide Series for Team Penske.

Tagliani will take the controls of the No. 22 Discount Tire Ford for the series’ road course excursions at Road America on June 21 and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Aug. 16.

A.J. Allmendinger (now at JTG Daugherty Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series) swept those events last year in the No. 22 car, which ultimately won the 2013 NNS owner’s championship by a single point.

But if anybody can follow that tough act, it’s the Montreal native Tagliani, who has four previous NNS starts and additional stock car experience from his part-time exploits in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series.

“This is a great opportunity to get back in a NASCAR Nationwide Series car and to do it for one of the best teams in the series and one of the greatest owners the sport has ever seen – Roger Penske,” ‘Tag’ said in a statement. “I’ve been able to run for ‘The Captain’ one other time in my career in a stock car and we were so close to winning the race.

“This gives me two great chances to get my first Nationwide Series win. And with the team winning both of these races last year, I guess you could say the pressure is on me to get the job done this season.”

Tagliani came close to a hometown win three years ago for Team Penske in the Nationwide race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, but finished runner-up to Marcos Ambrose.

“I have known Alex for a long time and he has driven for our team before, so he was the ideal choice to race the Discount Tire Ford for these upcoming road course events,” Roger Penske said in his own thoughts.

“Alex is a proven winner in both open-wheel and stock car competition. He has competed for wins each of the last two times he has raced in the Nationwide Series, including with Team Penske back in 2011. I think he, (crew chief) Jeremy Bullins and the No. 22 Discount Tire Ford team will be tough to beat at both Road America and Mid-Ohio this season.”

Tagliani, of course, is familiar with Road America and Mid-Ohio from his open-wheel days.

The Canadian made seven Champ Car starts at Road America, breaking through for a victory there in 2004. He’s also made seven starts across both Champ Car and the Verizon IndyCar Series at Mid-Ohio with a top finish of fourth in 2010.

Toro Rosso boss hopes to see Kvyat return to Formula 1

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Toro Rosso chief Franz Tost hopes to see sacked driver Daniil Kvyat return to Formula 1 in the near future, saying the Russian “deserves” a place on the grid.

Toro Rosso dropped Kvyat twice through the 2017 season due to poor form, with his final dismissal coming after the United States Grand Prix in October.

Kvyat is no longer part of Red Bull’s motorsport program and is exploring options both inside and outside of F1 for 2018, and Tost feels he could be energized by some time away before returning.

“I am still convinced that Daniil has a very high natural speed. He was sometimes even faster than Daniel Riccardo, but somehow last year and this year he couldn’t show the potential that is within him,” Tost told the official F1 website.

“He was involved in many incidents, but in his defence I also have to say that he had many reliability issues and that didn’t help build up confidence. Being the victim of too many incidents killed the performance he would have been able to show.

“Maybe a short break – to get organized again – and probably we will see Daniil back at his usual performance level with another team.

“Sometimes he was too aggressive at the beginning of the race. The first corner was his weak point. He wanted too much in the first hundred meters – success by any means!

“That puts you under pressure – unnecessary pressure – and that never works.

“I hope for him that he gets another chance, as I think he deserves to be in F1.”