Tagliani 'sad and angry' over Wheldon's death

DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:21 PM ET

LAS VEGAS -- Alex Tagliani could not contain his tears, or his anger, Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after his friend and teammate Dan Wheldon was killed in a 15-car crash in the final race of the 2011 IZOD IndyCar season.

Tagliani said that IZOD IndyCar drivers had been complaining all weekend that the combination of a super- fast banked mile-and-a-half oval and the 220 m.p.h.-plus generated by the Honda-powered Dallara race cars was a recipe for disaster.

The native of the Montreal suburb of Lachenaie had been teammates with Wheldon at Sam Schmidt Motorsports at this year's Indianapolis 500 where the pair teamed up to win the pole for Tagliani and the race for Wheldon.

He said the two always were joking with one another, but that both knew the danger of their chosen profession.

"It is one of those things that when you are racing you are always aware that there are risks," Tagliani said. "But you never think it is going to come to that.

"I am very sad and angry."

What angered the 38-year-old was that no one listened to the drivers' fears over the conditions before the race.

Tagliani said that like NASCAR, when it revolutionized driver safety after the death of Dale Earnhardt in 2001 at Daytona International Speedway, IndyCar must look at doing the same in its series.

"If we are going to come back to these (11/2-mile banked ovals) we are going to have to change the aero packages to slow the cars down," he said.

IndyCar will introduce a new, safer race car next season that, ironically, Wheldon was hired to test this season. In fact, that was Wheldon's full-time job in between racing for SSM.

"It is just not right that some one has to die to make those changes," Tagliani said.

One thing that Tagliani proposes is that drivers, team owners, track owners and IndyCar bosses get together in the off season to talk about what can be done to make racing both better and safer.

"There is definitely things that need to be discussed and things to look at," he said. "We for sure have to talk to the series bosses.

"Right now my mind is so confused. We have to talk about racing these types of cars on these types of race tracks. I don't think tracks like the mile and a half at Las Vegas is the right thing for us."

Another Canadian -- James Hinchcliffe of Oakville -- had been preaching the same thing for most of the race weekend in the Nevada desert.

He told QMI on Saturday that he saw the potential for a serious crash in the race.

And on Sunday he lamented the loss of Wheldon.

"It's proof that this is still a very dangerous sport," Hinchliffe said. "As hard as we work on the safety side, these things are still very possible.

"It's tough to put into words what everybody is feeling."

He said he didn't necessarily think thought it was the right thing to do to cancel the race given the circumstances.

"There was no right answer on how to deal with this situation in terms of the rest of the race," he said. "Deep down we all think Dan would have wanted us to race but out of respect for him we made a decision, right or wrong. We're going to have to regroup over the winter."


Videos

Photos