Taking a spin at Edmonton's track

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:31 PM ET

EDMONTON -- It was 9:30 a.m. when Alex Tagliani sat behind the wheel of QMI Agency photographer Laura Pedersen’s car, which had been outfitted with cameras on the hood and side.

The Canadian who won the pole at this year’s Indianapolis 500 had event general manager Anne Roy as a backseat driver, making sure he resisted the temptation to try a lap around the new Edmonton Indy layout at more than residential street speed for insurance reasons, and because of IndyCar rules regarding unfair advantage before drivers first get to walk the track next Thursday.

But you could tell Tagliani would have driven around there all afternoon at whatever speed he could get away with, if they didn’t finally call time and send him to his next series of interviews on his promotional tour of town Tuesday.

“Amazing,” he said.

“Really incredible.”

“It’s going to be huge. The double wide restarts here are going to be unbelievable.

“With the cars coming down this mile-long straightaway into Turn 1 … Oh my God, it will be bowling for sure!”

He was just getting revved up.

“There’s going to be a lot of action. It’s going to be a very exciting race. IndyCar really needs places like this for passing. This place has good passing, this long straightaway and good breaking. It’s going to absolutely be one of the best courses we’ll have this season,” he continued to rave as he stood for a photo op at the top of the straightaway.

Canada’s Paul Tracy had the first peek a couple months back. But he had to imagine it. Now it is an actual race track, or close to it, with the grandstands in place, the suites in front of the pits under construction, the concrete barriers, tire barricades and fencing going up.

But Tagliani didn’t have to imagine anything. He was driving it.

“I think it will be the most exciting race this season.”

And for Tagliani, who has come here early in past years and spent time doing promotion for a variety of nickel-and-dime sponsors he’d put together, this has been a most exciting season.

Prior to taking his spin around the next track, he provided the revised scoop that he’d just signed a three-year deal with sponsors Bowyers & Wilkins.

It had been reported it was a two-year deal with Sam Schmidt Motorsports, but Tagliani said the deal is with the sponsor, not the team — “I am not attached to any team for next year yet.”

He said it would be logical, since he put much of this team together, that he would stay, but for the moment he’s a free agent for the future, with serious sponsorship.

“It’s July and I can enjoy the next three years, knowing I’ll have a chance to fight up front and steal a pole against the big boys like I did at Indy,” said Tagliani, who is coming to the 11th race in the 18-race series tied for 10th with Danica Patrick at 173 points.

While he was knocked out of the Toronto Indy in the most spectacular crash of the day as he was clipped by Patrick and sent into the tire barrier airborne and upside down, Tagliani was fifth in Long Beach and sixth at St. Petersburg — on road courses — and likes his chances here.

“I think I can be in contention for a podium. I just have to stay away from Helio Castroneves,” he said of the three-time Indy 500 champion he says has done nothing but run into people all year, including himself.

Tagliani said he had no problem with Patrick, who he said had been forced into him. His problem was with Castroneves, who made contact with him in one of his three crashes on the day.

There’s been a lot drivers bad-mouthing other drivers this year, especially coming out of the Toronto race, where Will Power called Tagliani “a wanker” after the race.

Tagliani said he has no problem with Power calling him a wanker for knocking him out of the race.

“I had a fight once with Paul Tracy on pit lane. We’re friends now. When you’re racing at 200 mph, emotions fly high. It’s the drivers who are two-faced that I don’t like.

“I think a lot of the things that were said in Toronto will go away by next weekend. It all came out of one demolition derby weekend.”

That said, Tagliani said he can only imagine what’s going to happen and what’s going to be said by whom, if there are a lot of double-wide restarts going into Turn 1 on this new track.

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