By Dominic Fugure
Special for NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
MONTREAL -- Patrick Carpentier did it in 2007 and Jacques Villeneuve did it last year. Now it's Alex Tagliani's turn to be the hometown hero by scoring his first NASCAR Nationwide Series pole in his city.
Although he did not qualify in the final group of five fastest cars in practice, Tagliani was able to turn the pole-winning lap in 1 minute, 40.865 seconds for a 96.687 mph average.
"I want to dedicate this pole to the fans who come and make this event so special," said Tagliani while pointing to the grandstands. "I feel that there was still a tenth or two left in the car. I wanted to do a third flying lap with the tire pressures and temperatures at their best but my crew chief Trent Owens wanted me to save fuel so we have one more lap to go in our first stint in the race."
Sam Hornish Jr. had to settle for the outside of the front row despite turning the best lap in the last qualifying group.
"It took me a little bit of time to find my marks on the course but when came the time to qualify, I felt pretty good," said Hornish, the best qualifier amongst the NASCAR Nationwide Series regulars. "I made a little mistake in one of the corners of my first lap by riding the curbs a little too much. That probably cost me the pole. I know that JV (Hornish's teammate, Jacques Villeneuve) rides them completely so I wanted to give it a try but I quickly realized that my car was not set up for that. This being said, a front-row start on a road course has to make you feel pretty good."
Villeneuve said he was disappointed by his performance even though he achieved the third-best lap of the qualifying session.
"I got surprised by the car which braked much more that I thought it would," said a dejected Villeneuve. "I braked too early all through my laps and ruined my starting position. At least, I know the car has good brakes, which is a good omen for the race."
Danica Patrick, with whom Villeneuve had a run-in at Road America, will start besides the Quebec native on the second row while Owen Kelly (qualifying the car for Kyle Busch), Michael McDowell, Cole Whitt, Ron Fellows, Billy Johnson and Brian Scott completed the top 10. Fellows is the only former winner of the NAPA Auto Parts 200 to take part in the race this year.
Nationwide points leader Eliott Sadler could only manage to obtain the 17th-fastest time.
"It is a little disappointing to start this far back because track position is so crucial on those road courses," said Sadler. "We're going to meet tonight with the team to see if we can try to pull a rabbit out of our hat, strategy-wise, in order to make something happen."
As for the Quebec drivers, Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond qualified 12th while Patrick Carpentier of Joliette, who scored the pole here in 2007 and came out of retirement for this one race in order to raise funds for the St. Justine's Children Hospital Foundation, had to settle for 13th.
Louis-Philippe Dumoulin of Trois-Rivieres qualified 35th while Dexter Stacey and Derek White, both from Kahnawake had to settle for 38th and 42nd. Ryan Ellis was the only driver who failed to qualify.
NOTES: In the NASCAR Canadian Tire series, J.R. Fitzpatrick nabbed the pole position for the Autopro 100 which will be run Saturday morning with a lap of 1:44.681. Fitzpatrick, who won this race in 2009, bested local favorite Andrew Ranger by a mere 0.108 seconds. Championship leader D.J. Kennington qualified third. NASCAR Nationwide series regular Austin Dillon will take his first NASCAR Canadian Tire Series start from the ninth spot. ... Tagliani will run the Montreal 200 in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series in two different cars, a pair of Ford/Rileys for Starworks Motorsports. "Every time I asked a Grand-Am team to run the Rolex 24 in Daytona, they'd say no, arguing that I hadn't turned any laps in a Daytona Prototype car. They won't have that argument anymore!" Tagliani qualified 3rd in the No. 8 Ford/Riley which he will hand off to Ryan Dalziel after 30 minutes at the wheel Saturday. He will then take over for Alex Popow in the No. 2 Soloson Ford Riley.