ELKHART LAKE, Wisc. – Alex Tagliani is back in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, at least for a weekend.
The open-wheel star currently competes in the United SportsCar Championship, but he’ll be driving the No. 22 Discount Tire Ford for Penske Racing on Saturday at Road America.
Tagliani has four career NNS starts, with a best finish of second at Montreal in 2011. The Canadian won the pole in Montreal in 2012.
It was a no-brainer for him to give it another go in NASCAR.
“For some reason, I’ve always been attracted to running in the Nationwide Series,” Tagliani said. “Every time my schedule opens up, I bring my finger all the way down to the Nationwide road-course races to see if I’m available. I’ve always been competitive somehow, but I told the guys that this opportunity for me is like my Indy 500. I’ve always been a fan of Team Penske.”
Tagliani has some big shoes to fill when he climbs behind the wheel at Road America. In a one-off effort for Penske at Road America, A.J. Allmendinger drove the No. 22 Ford to Victory Lane last year. It helped him secure a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ride with JTG Daugherty Racing.
While he’s not looking to parlay the race into a permanent NASCAR gig, Tagliani does want to emerge from his car with the trophy waiting on him.
“I’m preparing to win and I’m doing everything in my power to win,” he said. “I have a team that is helping me tremendously to achieve that, but the only thing you can do is really try to put yourself in that sort of position.
“You never count your chickens before they hatch, even though you’re in a very good car and you have all the chance in the world to win the race. And I also approach the race with a lot of respect for my competitors. This is a very competitive series. The guys there are very strong and they’re used to it.”
If Tagliani has a leg up on most of his competitors because of his success in road-course racing in other disciplines, he didn’t seem overconfident about his chances.
“Obviously, being on the road course is an advantage, but I always have great respect for the other guys I’m gonna race against,” he said.
“It makes me stay on my toes and push the edge, so if we come out of there and win, that’s what we came for but everybody else is trying to do the same. Just the fact that we can put ourselves in position, that’s the only thing we can ask for and then we’ll see how the race unfolds.”