Tags Is It Again In Qualifying

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, June 10 2011

Alex Tagliani earned the right to kiss his car for a second straight race as he won the pole in Texas on Friday afternoon. (Photos courtesy of the IndyCar Series)

Fort Worth, Texas – Alex Tagliani celebrated his second consecutive IZOD IndyCar Series pole Friday afternoon with a shout-out to his team, and a not-so-subtle message aimed squarely at one of his rivals.

“Being on the pole on an oval is great,” said Tagliani, who bagged P1 for Saturday night’s inaugural Firestone Twin 275s with a cumulative two-lap qualifying effort around Texas Motor Speedway in 48.6834-seconds and 215.186 mph. “But our goal is to stick it to the Penske guys and Will (Power) on the street course. I’m not going to be happy until I’m on the pole there, and that’s my next challenge.”

Actually, Tagliani’s next challenge is more likely to come from Dario Franchitti, the three-time/reigning series champion who will start alongside him in the two-car front row. Franchitti’s two-lap effort around TMS’ 1.5-mile quadoval was timed in 48.7708-seconds and 214.801 mph, relegating Power – winner of all four street/road-course poles this season – to third after lapping at 48.7901-seconds/214.716 mph. Takuma Sato of KV Racing Technology – Lotus also will start in Row 2 after posting numbers of 48.8461-seconds/214.470 mph.

Rounding out the top-10 are Ed Carpenter of Sarah Fisher Racing at 214.373 mph; Tony Kanaan of KV Racing Technology – Lotus at 214.252 mph; Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing at 214.021 mph; Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Wade Cunningham, Tagliani’s Sam Schmidt Motorsports teammate at 214.013 mph; defending event champion Ryan Briscoe of Team Penske at 213.891 mph and Danica Patrick of Andretti Autosport at 213.850 mph.

A TMS open-wheel record 30 cars will start Saturday’s first 114-lap Twin, scheduled to

Sam Schmidt and Alex Tagliani are on the pole again.

take the green flag at 7:45 p.m. (CDT) and be telecast by VERSUS. Race 2 will start at approximately 9:45 p.m. The grid for Race 2 will be determined during a one-hour intermission between races…when luck of the blind draw will prevail.

“That means when I’ll draw tomorrow night after the first race I’ll draw the pole, right?” said Tagliani, hoping to extend to three-in-a-row a Peak Performance Pole Qualifying streak that began at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 14. Tagliani qualified his No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins SSM entry on-pole for the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500 and led 20 laps en route to a 28th-place finish on May 29.

The first Canadian to win a pole at IMS, Tagliani and team-owner Schmidt produced one of the feel-good stories of the Month of May as their first-year collaboration successfully challenged the Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing juggernauts.

“A lot of people don’t realize that 2010 was a lot of effort,” said Tagliani, who founded and raced under the FAZZT Race Team banner last season. “But to build the infrastructure of a team and actually get from one race to another, it was a lot things we needed to sort out and a lot of percentage of our work. Because of the time constraint we were just building a team.”

Former IndyCar Series driver Schmidt, who was paralyzed in a crash while testing in January 2000, purchased the assets of Tagliani’s team in March.

“From the end of the year, all the way through the winter and to this race I think I’ve seen a lot more time spent making sure that we build a car to win, we build a car to go fast,” said Tagliani, 38. “Our second year it’s just starting to show how good this team is and how good we made it over the winter. I think it’s going to get better and better. Hopefully, the street course and road course are going to get better as well, because I promised Will that I’m coming after him and I’m not going to be happy until I’m on the pole on a street course and a road-course. So this is just the beginning.

“It’s (two poles) a tribute to how much effort and how much love those guys put onto this car. I’ve seen them work the last two weeks and they worked harder than they worked when they brought the car to Indianapolis. That’s what the team is all about. You need to want to work on the car. You can’t just feel that because of a good result you can sit back and lay back and it’s going to come to you.”

Friday’s pole was the first with new engineer Todd Malloy, who replaced Allen McDonald earlier this week. McDonald opted to return to Andretti Autosport as director of engineering and as race engineer for the No. 27 car driven by Brit Mike Conway.

“We have to be honest, this is the continuity of what Allen McDonald and the whole team put together this winter,” Tagliani said. “There’s no secret about that, he’s going to be missed. He’s a great engineer, but Todd is also a great engineer. He’s Canadian and we speak the same language. Couple of looks through the helmet and a few words and all of a sudden I felt like we were working for five years.”

Franchitti, meanwhile, earned his third consecutive top-two start in eight events

Dario Franchitti was fast again Friday at Texas.

at TMS. “It’s always an easier day to start up-front because the traffic gets really interesting here, particularly with the side-by-side restarts and stuff,” said Franchitti, driver of the No. 10 Huggies Dallara/Honda. “If you stay up-front it definitely makes the car feel a lot better _ less frantic. Hopefully the car can stay up-front and we’ve got the pace to do that.

“But the lottery is going to be the drawing at the half to start the second race, which could have fairly serious championship implications. I think it will be great if they inverted the field, because then you’d see the entertainment aspect of the guys who won the first race coming from the back and it would take some of the lottery aspect out of this draw.”

Tagliani, who led 33 laps of last year’s Firestone 550k en route to an 18th-place finish, agreed the entire second race will be intriguing. “Obviously, we need to save the car and come out of here with the most amount of points,” Tagliani said. “We’re still ninth in the points and we can continue to move forward with the momentum of a couple of ovals coming.

“Maybe we’re going to strategize a little differently _ in the first race we’re going to go for it and depending on what we draw for the second race maybe change things in the car so we can run better in traffic. That’s about it. We’re going to find out tomorrow night.”

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, June 10 2011
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  • Jan says:

    Can everyone please get it right? It is “Tag” not “Tags”, there is only one of him. Ask him, he will even correct you!!!