Tagliani, Tracy different sides of same coin

CRASH CAMERON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:41 AM ET

It's a fascinating tale of two Canadians.

In a sporting series like racing that has a heavy international flavour, countrymen will always be lumped together.

So does that make Alex Tagliani and Paul Tracy -- the lone two Canadians left in IndyCar -- two peas in the same pod?

No. Sometimes yes.

Truth is closer to "same coin, different sides."

The clearest yes is that both were products of a late, great driver development program in Canada that was Player's Racing. (This is fact, not free advertising.)

An obvious no is that one is from Ontario, the other from Quebec. Keep politics out of this -- that just refers to cultural differences.

It's like lumping together two people who grew up in Edmonton. In the larger picture, yes, they are both Edmontonites. But one grew up in Beverly and the other in Mill Woods. Or one in Glenora, the other in Goldbar. The same, but not the same.

Tracy and Tagliani have been teammates and friends, but they're not always friendly with each other. In fact, you can still find the YouTube clips of them dropping their gloves on the sidelines at San Jose in 2006.

But the two have found themselves very much in the same boat in 2009: they are part-time drivers.

They are part-time drivers because they are both Canadians.

It means they have to do as much work behind the scenes to even get themselves in a race car as they do once they hit the track.

There are two Canadian stops on the current Indy Racing League series. In its glory years -- before racing industry politics created two weakened series out of one strong one -- there were three.

Long-established Indy races in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver were the core reason Player's created its program. That was a solid foundation that gave Canadian drivers a potential advantage. And the top ones proved able to use that edge.

Now, that edge is down to a lifeline. Very few -- if any -- drivers get "hired" anymore. A driver has to be part of a "package."

In other words: no money, no ride.

Tagliani and Tracy have had to use all their connections and shake as many hands as they can in the boardrooms, so those connections help them continue racing.

Tagliani, as we all know here, has made himself an ambassador for this event, sporting the Northlands/Edmonton Indy logo on the races he can get himself into with Conquest Racing (owned by Canadian Eric Bachelart). The seeds were sown years back by Tagliani's outgoing nature when Player's would arrange visits to Edmonton -- long before the outside-the-box dream that an Indy race would be held here -- to promote the Vancouver Indy.

Tracy's approach seems more laid back, trading on his reputation (justified!) as an outspoken, predictably unpredictable driver.

"We're not in the same category," Tagliani said on his last visit here, the fur on his back rising when a media member asked if he thought Tracy is, or should be, doing the same kind of schmoozing he does. "We're two different guys."

The reporter mistook Tagliani's boiling Italian-Quebecois-Canadian blood as being directed toward his fellow teammate/countryman/competitor/scrapper.

"We have two different personalities, (we're) two different guys.

"We're passionate in two different ways."

In a separate media conference, I asked Tracy how he felt about being one of the last two Canucks standing.

"The tough part is me and Alex, it's just part time. And that's frustrating ... why things are the way they are, I don't know. We have a lot of Brazilians in the series and we don't race in Brazil.

"You've got four or five guys from England and we don't race in England, three Australians and we don't race there anymore.

"Why things are the way they are, you'd have to ask the guys that are running the league.

"It's a question of sponsorship and how much money you can bring to the table. Or whether you don't have a sponsor. What has kept me out of a car on a more frequent basis is just sponsorship dollars.

"I don't think it's a lack of ability, or a lack of ability to promote, or perform on the track -- it's just not having the dollars, in the end."

That would be Canadian dollars.

Tagliani? He's been hustling it since his old man built the first go-kart for him.

He admits his career now is "75% selling, 25% driving.

"If we don't do anything, if I don't do anything, if nobody doesn't do anything and they pull out from the race ..."

This is where Tagliani mentions the Indy and Formula One races that used to be held in his hometown of Montreal.

"Sometimes my wife is wondering why I am doing all this. She thinks I'm crazy."

Another Crazy Canuck.

DAVID.CAMERON@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos