NASCAR

Hornish strong again, finishes second in Montreal

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MONTREAL (AP)

Sam Hornish Jr. is starting to get the hang of this stock car stuff.

In his first stock car start at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Saturday, Hornish, who qualified second, finished second to Justin Allgaier and ahead of former Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve in a wild road race at the 14-turn, 2.7-mile layout.

''I'm happy we finished second and that we came back, but I felt like there was some more in it,'' Hornish said. ''We're going to get some wins. We just keep finishing second and third like we have been and I feel like we're going to get there. It's just a matter of time.''

A former open-wheel star, Hornish won 19 races, had 10 poles and captured three IndyCar championships in eight seasons before making the switch to NASCAR. He struggled through three full Sprint Cup seasons and spent most of last year out of the car, running only one Cup event and 13 Nationwide races.

This season Roger Penske has Hornish, who just turned 33, running a full Nationwide schedule, and now he's in the No.22 Cup car that was left vacant when AJ Allmendinger was suspended.

Consistency has been a key for Hornish in Nationwide - he had completed all but two of the 3,652 laps run before Saturday. In his previous five races, he finished fourth, eighth, second, and third twice to zoom to third in the points standings, within 24 of leader Elliott Sadler prior to Saturday's NAPA 200.

He left Montreal tied for second with Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 22 points behind Sadler.

''To come up and run with a Formula One champion, I feel pretty good about what I'm doing,'' Hornish said before heading to Michigan for Sunday's Sprint Cup race.

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GANASSI'S ROLEX RULERS: Scott Pruett passed Ryan Dalziel for the lead midway through the two-hour Grand-Am Rolex Series sports car race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Saturday and piloted the No. 01 TELMEX BMW/Riley Daytona Prototype to the victory, increasing the series lead he and co-driver Memo Rojas hold over Dalziel.

It was the 150th triumph across NASCAR, open wheel and Grand-Am for team owner Chip Ganassi, and the reigning series champions were happy to get it. Juan Pablo Montoya won the pole last week at Watkins Glen in the Sprint Cup series and was hoping to get that signature win for his owner before suffering front end problems.

''It's nice to be able to pull out that 150th for a spectacular organization,'' Pruett said.

It was Pruett's 38th career win and boosted the team's lead over Dalziel to 18 points with two races left in the season.

''Our car was good and stayed consistent,'' Pruett said. ''We hadn't had a car this good all season. It's been a dogfight all season long. It's been exciting and a little nerve-wracking for the drivers.''

Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty finished second in the No. 99 Corvette DP, and David Donohue and former open-wheel star Paul Tracy of Canada were third in the No. 5 Corvette, recovering nicely after a spin on the first turn of the race.

''It feels great,'' Tracy said. ''It's been so long since I've been in a competitive car. We were challenging for second place at the end. I was just trying to get into the first corner (at the start) and the 90 car (Michael Valiante) spun around and got into me. We kind of dug ourselves a hole.''

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TAGLIANI'S BUSY DAY: Alex Tagliani, a regular driver for Team Barracuda in the IZOD IndyCar series, was supposed to be in China this weekend, but the event was canceled in late June. He managed to become a very busy man anyhow.

The veteran from Lachenaie, Quebec, who put his No. 30 Chevrolet on pole for the NASCAR Nationwide race, led that race late and finished 27th after being spun out by Jacques Villeneuve.

Before the NASCAR event, Tagliani also drove two cars in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series. He started the race third in the No. 8 Ford/Riley Daytona Prototype for Starworks Motorsport and easily maintained his position, once even looking to challenge Memo Rojas for second.

Tagliani was replaced by regular driver Ryan Dalziel early in the race after Alex Popow spun in the No. 2 car of Starworks, then replaced Popow and piloted the car to a seventh-place finish, one spot ahead of Dalziel.

Not bad for a guy hoping to land a ride in the Rolex 24 at Daytona next year.

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BORED BORIS?: Two years ago, road race ace Boris Said won a stirring last-lap battle with Max Papis to win the Nationwide race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Last year, he finished 37th after an accident. This year, he lost his sponsor and didn't race in the event, driving only in the GT class of the Rolex Grand-Am Sports Car Series.

Said has made just two NASCAR starts this year, both in Sprint Cup on the two road courses the series visits each year. He started 28th and finished 29th at Sonoma in June and last week started and finished 25th at Watkins Glen, both with crew chief Frank Stoddard.

But he's still a busy man, racing the whole season in Grand-Am and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, a street stock series, and also competing in Australia in V8 Supercars.

''I thought I had a Nationwide ride here, but I lost it at the last minute,'' Said said. ''It's definitely disappointing, but the economy's tough right now and teams are all struggling. Hopefully, we'll get a new president and next year it'll be easier to find some sponsors.''

Said, who turns 50 in a month, and teammate Eric Curran finished seventh in GT on Saturday in Marsh Racing's No. 31 Chevrolet Corvette.

Next year, Said is hopeful of a competitive Cup ride on both Cup road courses.

''I'm really excited about that,'' he said.

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DYNAMIC DUEL: J.R. Fitzpatrick held off Andrew Ranger in a stirring duel to win the Canadian Tire Series race Saturday at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Ranger had passed Fitzpatrick just before a caution flag waved, but under series rules Fitzpatrick was given back the top spot for the restart with two laps to go and held off repeated challenges from Ranger before a crash by Joey McColm ended the race.

''It's a weird rule. Sometimes that happens. It works both ways,'' Fitzpatrick said afterward. ''When he got by me, I think I may have gotten him because there was maybe five laps to go. My car was getting better and better, but if he would have gotten across the line with a green-white-checkered (finish), I probably wouldn't have gotten him.''

D.J. Kennington finished third, followed by Louis-Philippe Dumoulin and Scott Steckly.

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SPARK PLUGS: Eight cars were sent to the rear of the field in the Nationwide race, four for adjustments during the impound, one for switching to a backup car, one for an engine change, and two for driver changes, including the No. 54 Toyota of Kyle Busch. ... Austin Dillon in ninth was the highest-finishing rookie. ... Jacques Villeneuve posted his third top-10 finish in five races at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

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John Kekis can be followed at http://twitter.com/Greek1947

Tagged: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Alex Tagliani, Boris Said, Scott Pruett, J.R. Fitzpatrick, Jacques Villeneuve, Sam Hornish Jr., Andrew Ranger

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