May 21, 2011
Tagliani takes pole for Indy 500
By Dean McNulty, Toronto Sun
Officials at Indianapolis Motor Speedway should look around for a recording of “O Canada” to go with “Back Home Again” in Indiana next Sunday after Alex Tagliani won the pole Saturday for next Sunday’s centennial running of the Indianapolis 500.
Tagliani, waiting until the final possible moment, put together a four-lap average speed of 227.472 m.p.h., to bump New Zealand’s Scott Dixon to second place at the world’s most famous oval.
The 38-year-old native of Montreal had sat on the pole for most of Saturday’s Pole Day qualifying, laying down a four-lap speed of 226.954 m.p.h., in the No. 77 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Honda Dallara.
But after a rain delay, Dixon came back out in his Ganassi Racing Dallara and laid down speeds averaging 227.340.
With less than three minutes left in the six-hour qualifying period Tagliani went back out for a last ditch effort to dislodge Dixon from the top wrung of the leader board.
He ended up with laps of 227.733, 227.488, 227.430 and 227.238 m.p.h.
With team owner Sam Schmidt in tears as he watched the results on a trackside monitor, Tagliani tore into pit lane and began a wild celebration.
“We’re playing in the big boys league now,” Tagliani said. “And we’re trying to bring it. The next step is to try and win the race.”
Spain’s Oriol Servia filled out the front row with a 227.168 m.p.h.
Canadian rookie James Hinchcliffe made it to the top 24 at 225.572, good enough for a 13th spot on the grid in a Newman Haas Racing Dallara.
“I feel pretty good,” the Oakville native said. “The team did a super job getting everything prepared, and I feel really comfortable in the car. We just need to make sure we make it through 200 laps (next Sunday) now that we’ve gone through the first four.”
Toronto’s Paul Tracy didn’t fare nearly as well as Tagliani and Hinchcliffe, failing to crack the top 24 spots with a speed of 224.353. He will be back on the track on Sunday in attempt to make the grid in the No. 23 Dragon Racing machine.
“Our car just wouldn’t go,” he said. “We don’t know the answer. I don’t think anybody in the pit lane knows the answer. We’re frustrated. You just have to get the car right. That’s the bottom line.”