July 22, 2012
Tags drops from 1st to 5th
By ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - Almost 50 laps into the Edmonton Indy, with Alex Tagliani still protecting a lead he grabbed in the opening minutes, everyone at the City Centre Airport Track had visions of a long-awaited Canadian victory.
Everyone but Tagliani.
Even after storming to the front of the pack on the second lap and fending off challengers for two thirds of the race, he had a gut feeling it wasn’t going to last.
He was right.
He was the fastest car as long as everyone was running at 90-95 per cent. But when the race changed gears over the final 25 laps and the field went for broke, Tagliani’s car just wasn’t up for the challenge and he dropped from first to fifth.
“The balance of the car was great when we were saving fuel and we weren’t forcing it,” he said. “But when everybody knew they (had enough fuel) to make it and they turned loose at the end
we didn’t have the pace to stay with the other guys.
“As soon as we started pushing, it started sliding a bit. When we were driving a little bit deeper (into the corners) the tires didn’t have the front grip.
“We didn’t have the pace at the end, a couple of tenths we were missing every single lap.”
Not that he’s complaining, though, after his underdog Barracuda Team’s best finish of the season, and best ever in Edmonton.
“I’m very happy with this team and this race. It was a bit unfortunate not to be able to close the deal, but a Top 5 is good for us.
“You look down the pit lane and there are four Ganassi (cars), three Penskes, three Andrettis. If you’re in the top five you’re beating a lot of big names and big teams so we’re all very proud here.
“We can’t forget that this is our first year as a group. To be consistently in the Firestone Fast Six in qualifying makes a statement.
“We can lead, we can run well, but you still have to cover all the angles and we still have a little bit to learn, but I’m so proud of everybody. We’re making some pretty big strides. Every race we’re learning, that’s why we’re getting stronger and stronger.”
Tagliani, who started fourth on the grid, decided his best chance to win was to get out in front and manage the pace. So he did.
“I thought the car had really good speed, we were working the corners well, so I thought maybe if I put my nose in front we can control the race. I went for it. We took the lead and just kind of ran our pace, saved a lot of fuel.”
It wasn’t until things began to heat up that he realized the top end of his car wasn’t quite tight enough.
“I didn’t know, you really need to push to find out,” he said. “But when we started pushing really hard, I knew after two laps that something was wrong with the car.”
He held it for as long as he could, but couldn’t fend off Helio Castroneves, Takuma Sato, Will Power and Graham Rahal.
Not a bad day, though.
“We just have to keep doing what we’re doing. This is a very competitive series with big strong teams and amazing drivers. If we’re pounding at the door like this every single race I think it will come to us.”
Fans in Edmonton were willing it to happen this weekend.
“At the beginning of the race they were screaming so loud I thought ‘this is going to be a long race, everybody is going to run out of lungs,’” he said. “Thanks for the atmosphere. The fans are great, I’m glad we were able to put on a good show for them.”
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