May 28, 2011
Tagliani ready for Sunday's Indy drama
By DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency
INDIANAPOLIS - Indy 500 pole sitter Alex Tagliani has a healthy dose of respect for Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
And that was why, after the final hour of practice was over Friday for Sunday’s “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” Tagliani was wary of handing out predictions about how he and the No. 77 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara Honda team will fare once the green flag drops.
“I mean, I am not going to make any predictions; I am not going to tell you that we are going to win,” he said.
“Because you cannot do that at this place. You need to respect this place.”
The 38-year-old from the Montreal suburb of Lachenaie did admit he feels as confident as he has ever felt in his racing life.
“I think we are doing everything in our power to put ourselves in a position to have a chance to win the Indianapolis 500,” he said.
A lot of that is because he has been consistently fast at the 2.5 mile speedway since the team arrived here three weeks ago.
“I feel good,” he said. “The worst I have been on the track this week was second fastest and that was today.
“So I am feeling very confident about our chances when the race starts.”
If there is a caveat to Tagliani’s optimism it is that a warm-front is moving in to the Indianapolis area that will take temperatures from the 20C mark on Friday to near 40C on the track on Sunday.
So the team worked hard in that final practice, trying to adjust the car for those race conditions expected on Sunday.
“I think everything we learned will help a little bit, but if the weather changes drastically as it is supposed to we will still be basically guessing,” Tagliani said. “(Friday) the conditions on the track were probably the best they have been all month here.
“We had a whole lot of downforce that we very likely won’t have when the race starts.”
He said even with those kinds of constraints, he thinks the team made progress.
“We went out with the approach that we needed to create a car that was going to feel as to close to what it will be like on Sunday,” Tagliani said. “I am still talking to my engineers; fine tuning how we want to start the race.”
He said one of the difficulties is that the race is so long — the only 500-mile race on the IZOD IndyCar calendar.
“What we are looking for is to get a car that will be as consistent as possible over 500 miles,” he said. “That is not easy to do at the best of times, never mind that the weather is going to be completely different on Sunday.
“We also have to look at how the tires will react on long runs, we want to be strong from the get-go and try as best we can to take care of our tires because they will play such an important part in the race as the temperature rises and the track gets very slick.”
Tagliani said a radical change in weather will only be a negative if they are not prepared.
“And I tell you right now our team will be prepared,” he said.
Speculation the double file re-start rule would be changed for Sunday’s race was quickly dismissed at Friday’s drivers’ meeting where IndyCar rules boss Brian Barnhart said the procedure would remain the same as it has all season. Several drivers, most notably Tagliani, have argued the NASCAR-like re-starts cause mayhem on the grid. ... A British high court has ruled Team Lotus can keep using its name in Formula One. The team had been in a dispute with Group Lotus, that also has an F-1 team. ... Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne will miss one more week of NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series events “as a caution” to make sure the mystery ailment that caused him to develop double vision, nausea and fatigue after being bitten by an insect has finally cleared. Bayne is scheduled to be back in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford at Chicagoland Speedway.