By: Ashley McCubbin
Despite COVID-19 being on everybody’s minds through the summers, series directors and race track promoters were able to work together so the NASCAR Pinty’s Series was able to get a shortened schedule in this season of six races across three tracks.
“It was good,” Alex Tagliani told POPULAR SPEED. “The fact that NASCAR was able to support us from a promoter to organize some races, I think it was quite nice to get us on-track. I was surprised that we had as many cars as we had at the last race. It shows that there’s a desire of racing from a lot of people and probably the car counts can go up as soon as gets the chance to really open up racing.”
Tagliani was able to compete in four of the six races, missing Sunset Speedway due to running the Daytona International Speedway in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoor Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports. The Quebec native was able to have some success, scoring three top-six finishes.
“We worked a lot on our cars,” Tagliani revealed. “The plan was to use these races to find some new directions for the oval races, and that was our goal in 2020. We used those races as tests, and I think that we saw some confirmation at the last race and saw some improvements. We’re looking forward to next year, for sure.”
The season finale at Jukasa Motor Speedway saw Tagliani run up front with eventual race winner D.J. Kennington, along with Kevin Lacroix and Jason Hathaway.
“We had a car to be competitive and finish the last race with racing really well with DJ, Lacroix, and Hathaway ,and I think those cars were faster, but we had some pretty good improvement,” he commented. “At the end, Lacroix and I had a 25-lap fight where our car was able to run strong, which is good to finish the season like this. We didn’t want to cause any damage, but it’s encouraging to see us taking steps in the right direction. We have more to go, but we’ve definitely made some gains. I think if we continue making our way that direction, there’s some really positives.”
The series also saw some positives, like new faces with Treyten Lapcevich making his debut at Sunset in Tagliani’s car with a runner-up performance. With Scott Steckly’s son Kyle Steckly showing speed in a late model at Frostoberfest, joining a host of other young talent across the country, the future could easily expand.
“It’s pretty cool,” Tagliani said. “I think the goal is to get more cars in our series and NASCAR is working harder with the series to attract drivers, sponsors, teams across the board. I think they’ve done a really good job over the last two years in making some steps. It’s not an open-eye situation. I think all the work that the sponsors are doing, and all the work the sponsors are doing, and it’ll pay off when we’re running full steam.
“We saw last year that there was a greater interest from fans, from sponsors who support the entire series, and continue to make our event better. The Toronto race, the Trois-Riveres, the Jukasa event – the guys that sponsor those marquee events have good leverage with the series. It looks positive, and I think over time with some few changes, we can continue to progress and making NASCAR bigger. And with COVID, I think we need to be prepared that as soon as COVID finishes, I think the people are going to come out to the stands and re-enjoy or really fully appreciate the night out to watch the races.”
The fan interest has always been there, with Tagliani noting the sold-out crowd at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in May 2018. Though he feels those numbers could easily be surpassed.
“Last year, they were just there because the sun was out, and it was first nice weekend, and people came out camping – so it was a ton of people,” he explained. “So I imagine coming out of COVID on top of that, the crowd will be incredible so I think we need to be prepared for that type of attention and capitalize on it on every front, and that’ll be a positive outcome for NASCAR.”
The series has also created outside interest, with original plans on the 2020 schedule set to have a dirt event at Ohsweken Speedway.
“I am a bit cautious about that situation,” he admitted. “I have some reservations in regards to racing on dirt. I think it can be great because of the popularity of the race there, and all that, but I also feel there’s a negative side out of that for the teams. It’s going to require quite a bit of preparation. The cars are going to be completely destroyed and I think we’re going to have to get our cars for that race, and we don’t have our cars pay the price after when we go back racing on asphalt.
“But I think there’s some prices to pay in improving the popularity of the series, and I think if you’re able to improve the popularity of NASCAR by making some of these changes, then it might bring some headaches on the team aspect, but I think it might help on the commercial side. So I think we need to look at both sides to make sure before we approve or don’t approve. I think it comes out of there with more positives, then it’ll be fine.”
With the series seeing things heading in a positive direction, combined with success for Tagliani this past year, it seems that 2021 could hold a lot of good fortune ahead.