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.

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)