July 9, 2011
Tagliani's contract extended
By Dean McNulty, QMI Agency
Indianapolis 500 pole-sitter Alex Tagliani has agreed to an extension of his contract with Sam Schmidt Motorsports and sponsor Bowyers & Wilkins that will take him to the end of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season.
Rumours were rampant throughout the IndyCar paddock over the past month that Tagliani’s deal with Schmidt was in danger of collapsing before the end of the current season.
Those rumours ramped up earlier this week when SSM announced it would add former Firestone Indy Lights series driver Martin Plowman to the team in partnership with AFS Racing.
It was believed there would not be enough funding to carry both drivers.
But sources close to the
No. 77 SSM team said that a new deal with Tagliani has been worked out to keep him with the squad for the remainder of this season.
And his deal with sponsor Bowers & Wilkins is in place until the end of 2012.
“The second car actually helps Tag,” a team source said. “We can now spread out expenses over two teams, making it actually less expensive to operate our race team.”
It is also believed that at least two other IZOD IndyCar teams had expressed interest in signing Tagliani if his deal with Schmidt fell apart.
The deal, which has yet to be made public, marks the first time since the native of the Montreal suburb of Lachenaie left the powerhouse Player’s team after the 2002 season that he has a multi-year contract in his back pocket.
“(Tagliani) is really excited that this distraction is out of the way and that he can now concentrate on getting wins for the team,” the source said. “And with a new teammate it will make a lot better when it comes to gathering data on the race car.”
All of the top teams — Ganassi, Penske, Andretti — are all multi-car operations and Tagliani has admitted that it is hard to compete with those kinds of resources when you are a one-car team.
“It will bring the kind of stability (for Tagliani) that he hasn’t had for a long time,” the source said.