Tagliani's legacy could be his complaining

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:49 PM ET

It’s hard to dislike a guy like Alex Tagliani. The Quebec racer always does his best to promote whatever race series he’s in, particularly if the event is in Canada.

On Saturday he issued a impassioned defence for the Honda Indy Toronto, urging fans and the media to get behind the event, which has been struggling to regain it’s spot as a major attraction in this city.

The Montreal native is always front and centre at pre-race events, such as parties and autograph sessions, and is particularly great in dealing with the public. Prior to the start of yesterday’s Honda Indy Toronto, Tagliani unveiled a two-piece shirt-type ensemble featuring the Toronto Maple Leafs at the front and the Montreal Canadiens at the back.

He’s genuinely a good guy, and though he has struggled in IndyCar racing the past two seasons, he remains one of the more popular racers on the circuit and is definitely a go-to guy with the media.

Unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more apparent that, after the 37-year-old racer finally hangs up his racing suit — which may not be that far down the line — his legacy will be one of a guy known more for his complaints and issues with other drivers than it will be for his performance on the track.

Which, when it’s all said and done, is pretty sad.

In a decade of open wheel racing at the highest level in North America, Tagliani has posted all of one victory, at the 2004 Champ Car series event in Elkhart Lake. He hasn’t earned a top-five finish since 2007 and has only one in three seasons on the current Indy series, though he has two podium spots in Toronto, a second in 2001 and third in 2005, and could have won last year if not for a controversial pitstop rule.

Yet, despite his struggles on the track, especially of late, Tagliani continues to garner headlines for reasons other than great racing.

Yesterday, the FAZZT Race Team pilot lashed into Dreyer & Reinbold driver Tomas Scheckter, after the South African sent him into the tire barrier in Turn 1 with 12 laps to go as they fought for eighth place. Tagliani ended up finishing 17th in his Bowers & Wilkins/Hot Wheels vehicle, while Scheckter was 15th.

Tagliani said that Scheckter told him after the race that the crash was pay back for last year’s Toronto Indy when Tagliani caused a crash that sent Scheckter back to 16th. Scheckter called it a “stupid, non-brain move” and ended up throwing a racing glove at Tagliani as the Canadian drove by later.

“He was more interested in getting payback and taking me out than making points,” Tagliani said. “I went to see him and said: ‘Thanks for pushing me into the tires’, and he said: ‘We’re equal now.’ That said it all. It’s pretty sad.”

For his part, Scheckter basically called Tagliani a cry-baby, which wouldn’t be the first time the Canadian was cast in that light.

“He can go cry,” said Scheckter, the son of former Formula 1 king Jody Scheckter. “Come speak to me if you want to speak to me. Otherwise, he’s just crying. It’s over with, it’s done, we move on to Edmonton.”

Tagliani desperately needs a strong finish on the IZOD IndyCar series if he expects anyone to take his complaints seriously, and a good finish next week in Edmonton would go a long way in helping that cause.

In years past, when he was feuding with fellow Canadian Paul Tracy, who moved up to 13th yesterday after qualifying 24th, Tagliani’s complaints were taken seriously, because he was often in the mix on the track.

But now, as he continues to struggle and continues to point fingers, his words are increasingly falling on deaf ears and his legacy is in danger of suffering greatly.

For his part, the “Thrill from West Hill” was mildly impressed with his performance on Sunday, other than when he locked up brakes and stalled his motor on Lap 65.

“That probably cost us a top 10, top seven position in the end,” said Tracy, who led the race between laps 18-31, the result of an alternate pit strategy, staying out on the track after the leaders had gone in. “But at the end of the day, even though we were a lap down, I was running with the leaders, running the same pace with the leaders. We just have to qualify better, that’s the main thing for Edmonton.”

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca


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