MONTREAL - A cancelled IndyCar race in China opened the door for Alex Tagliani to take another crack at winning a stock car race in his hometown.
The veteran from nearby Lachenaie, Que., will drive the No. 30 Chevrolet on Saturday at the NAPA Auto Parts 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Driving for the Penske team last year, Tagliani looked ready to take the checkered flag but was passed on a late restart by Marcus Ambrose and finished second by 1.112 seconds.
"Last year it all happened late," he said Thursday. "I got here and jumped in the No. 12 Penske car and just tried to do a weekend with no issues.
"I was pleased just to bring the car back to Roger (Penske) and say 'Here it is, it has no scratches.' That's a pretty big achievement in Montreal considering turn one and two restarts."
Tagliani, a regular driver for Team Barracuda in the IZOD IndyCar series, was scheduled to be in Qingdao, China, this weekend, but the event was cancelled in late June, reportedly because the local mayor feared it would interfere with the city's beer festival.
That prompted Tagliani to call Turner Motorsports about a Nationwide drive in Montreal.
"I love racing here," he said. "It gives me an edge.
"I have some local sponsors who support me through the IndyCar season, but racing here for them is important. So I tried to put a last-minute package together and contacted Turner."
Tagliani and Turner teammate Justin Allgaier, who is fifth in Nationwide standings, met with mayor Gerald Tremblay and signed the city's Golden Book on Thursday to help promote the sixth edition of the only event in NASCAR's top two series held outside the United States.
Some big names will be missing, including Ambrose .The Australian's win last week at Watkins Glen, N.Y., put him in contention for the final wild card spot in The Chase, the late-season push for the championship in the Sprint Cup, NASCAR's elite series.
Ambrose opted to skip Montreal to concentrate on the Pure Michigan 400 Sprint Cup event on Sunday. Past NAPA 200 champions Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards are also missing.
But Nationwide leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will be on hand, as will the ever-popular Danica Patrick, who is 10th in Nationwide standings.
And there will be a strong local contingent as regulars who specialize in oval tracks hand cars over to road race experts.
Tagliani is joined by 1997 Formula One world champion Jacques Villeneuve of Iberville, Que., in the Discount Tire Dodge and Patrick Carpentier of Joliette, Que., who came out of retirement to take over the No. 199 NAPA Toyota. Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond, Que., and Louis-Philippe Dumoulin of Trois-Rivieres, Que., are also entered.
And there is Toronto veteran Ron Fellows, who won the rain-shortened 2008 race.
The NAPA 200 is never short of action, as last year's event demonstrated.
Tagliani and Villeneuve were teammates for the weekend and started side by side on the front row. Ambrose was bumped to the back of the grid because he missed the pre-race drivers meeting while flying in with Edwards from Michigan.
Ambrose collided with Villeneuve on the 27th lap and fell to 28th place, but was back near the front in time to snatch victory from Tagliani.
The track was built for the annual Canadian Grand Prix Formula One event, and it's sharp turns, quick straightaways and relatively narrow sections can produce chaos with 43 heavy stock cars out at once.
"I think we may still see some interesting racing," said Allgaier. "Whether it turns out we have crashes and that I'm not sure, but one thing good about the race track in Montreal is how tight the racing is and how close the entire field is. That makes it a lot of fun for us.''
The 2011 race was supposed to be Carpentier's swan song, but he came out of retirement for this year's race with a vow to donate half his winnings to a children's hospital.
Attendance figures aren't announced, but it's generally estimated about 60,000 turn out for the race each year, which is good for the Nationwide series.
"The only place I can possibly think of for fans that even rival it is Indianapolis," said Allgaier. "They're both diehard fans and that's something for us that is really fun to come to."