After fighting to keep a float last year and stay in the IZOD IndyCar Series, Alex Taglani is back and ready to make a run at it.
The Lachenaie, Quebec, Canada native teamed up with Sam Schmidt at the beginning of the season to get things back on track this season.
“Last year, he fought and fought to have that team and this year, he was able to partner Sam Schmidt – here’s a guy that was paralyzed in a car – and the fact that they’ve come together and been very successful,” Randy Bernard, IZOD IndyCar CEO, said during his presentation at the media luncheon in Toronto last week.
This year for Tagliani has been successful, espically on the series’ biggest stage. Back in May, it was Tagliani taking the pole for the Indianapolis 500, which marked a surprise to a lot of people.
“To me, in my sixteen months I’ve been here, I will say that’s in the top three highlights of my career here so far,” Bernard said of the moment. “The fact that I was sitting up in the grandstands and here’s a small team, not a Penske or Ganassi that just took the pole for the Indy 500, was a pretty amazing event.”
The pole also equaled Tagliani being the first Canadian in history to win the pole for the Indianapolis 500 in its 100 year history. He backed that pole up two weeks later at the next event at Texas Motor Speedway, where he sat pole for the IndyCar Firestone Twin 275s.
Tagliani has also had success beyond Indy, including a fifth place at the Grand Prix of Long Beach.
“Slowly but surely this season is showcasing the results that comes from good teamwork and good sponsorship,” he said. “Now we look like a race team. Now we are really going after wins.”
For the driver that most refer to just as Tag, he credits the sponsorship package from electronic entertainment experts Bowers and Wilkins.
“The big thing is that our association with Bowers &; Wilkins was so good last year that it allowed us to develop the car this past winter,” Tagliani told the Toronto Sun last month. “It made a 180 degree difference. Instead of being a team that was 90% focused on building walls and floors (on the Indianapolis race shop) we were able to work on the car and nothing else for the 2011 season.”
He’s also had success this year outside of the IndyCar Series as he ran the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race at the ICAR Circuit in Montreal. He sat on the pole for that event and led till being spun by his own teammate with less than five laps to go.
Tagliani, who began his professional open-wheel career in the Toyota Atlantic Championship Series in 1996, will be one of the three Canadians trying to win the Honda Indy Toronto.
The Honda Indy Toronto, which is set to be run July 10th, is the first of three events for the IZOD IndyCar Series in Canada.
Last year, Tagliani finished 17th last year, however had better success the year before with a ninth place finish. For Tagliani, the success has been better in Toronto for him when he was running the Champ Car World Series, which saw a second in 2002 and a third in 2005.
For team owners Sam Schmidt, it’d mark a great milestone in the climb from being an Firestone Indy Lights owner to a IZOD IndyCar Series owner after winning four Indy lights championships.
Part of getting that first win will be about getting the No. 77 car more consistent.
“We still have a couple of thing to figure out how to make our set up more consistent during the race,” Tagliani said. “Once we solve that, and we are close, I want to find a way to win the championship.”
For more information on Sam Schmidt Motorsports, check out http://www.samschmidtmotorsports.com/.
For more information on Alex Tagliani, check out http://www.tagliani.com.