While I was busy cavorting with the kids, John Bassett took some time with Alex Tagliani and asked some real questions.
Alex Tagliani has been the story of the month at Indy and will start SundayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s race from the pole, the first ever Canadian to grab the pole. Here are portions of the interview I had with Alex.
John Bassett: WhatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s winning the pole do for the team?
Alex Tagliani: Ã¢â‚¬Å“It rewards all the effort that the guys put into this program. They said we believe in Tag, we believe in the program, we have a good chemistry, I like working with you, we like working with each other, and just put our heads down and see what we can do. And after a year and a half taking pole from Penske and Ganassi at the biggest race ever, the Indy 500 Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ for our guys itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s their moment of pride.Ã¢â‚¬Â
JB: Any new phone calls and sponsorship opportunities since Saturday?
Tag: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think the phone has been ringing off the hook. But I am not deciding on the commercial side of the business anymore, it all goes through Sam (Schmidt). I think Joe has a pretty big say, as heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the title sponsor of the car, so we have some responsibility towards him. We cannot put any name that will effect the brand, Bowers & Wilkins, but to answer the question, yes, I think it will definitely help.Ã¢â‚¬Â
JB: Obviously you want to win Indy, but failing that, whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a good day for you?
Tag: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Thanks to the 15 points I got for winning the pole, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re now one point out of 6th place in the title. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re within striking distance of coming out of Indy 3rd in the championship. So itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s really important. Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ Every race is going to play a big role in the championship and we have to continue what weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re doing if we want to finish in the top 3 at the end of the year.
JB: Will you think points over the win at Indy?
Tag: Ã¢â‚¬Å“What would be the reward, winning? Ya, I think we would go for it. You would definitely go for taking a decision thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a risky decision, but the reward is winning the race if it works? ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s worthwhile risking. If you have a coin to flip and make a decision on strategy, fuel, at any point in the race, well if thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a race that you want to throw the dice, this is that race!Ã¢â‚¬Â
JB: Last yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Indy 500 car qualified 5th but didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t race well, have you found a way to make this years car better?
Tag: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I just ran a lot of downforce, and I know what the car feels like with a lot of downforce. I think our car is pretty fast with downforce, no downforce, whatever it is. I think where I was disappointed last year was the rate where I tried to pick up a launch, or a tow behind somebody. My car didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to tow behind anybody, but everybody was getting a tow from me. This year on the track it seems that I can be 10 metres from a guy and suddenly I accelerate as I get a tow, so that seems to be a plus from last year. That and Honda has provided me with a great engine thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s still going to be good for the 500, so we feel that weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going into the race with something we know. Ã¢â‚¬Â¦
JB: How important will clean air be?
Tag: Ã¢â‚¬Å“We have to protect our cars pace. Our pace is fairly strong so we have to think that weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re the winner, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re the front-runners, and because weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re front runners we need to run up front. You donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t set your car up for turbulence because if you set it up for that it means youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re planning on going to the back. We donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to be in the back, we need to be in the front. So my feel is that weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll probably run aggressively and run up front and make people try to run after us.Ã¢â‚¬Â
JB: What are your thoughts on Toronto?
Tag: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fun about Toronto is that itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been a really good race for me, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been competitive, been on the podium here, came short to Michael Andretti in 2001 in my second year in IndyCar. But I am excited about it because I was talking to my crew and I think it felt to me that in the first three street courses this season we made the car alive. We realized what we did wrong in 2010 and I think we have a pretty good idea of what direction we need to go to get this car fast in Toronto, so I just canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t wait to see if weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re right, because if we are, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re a threat.Ã¢â‚¬Â
JB: How important is it to have other Canadians on the circuit.
Tag: Ã¢â‚¬Å“If you look at the career IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve had, being able to race against Paul (Tracy) and the things that happened between us. As Canadians weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re still hanging out together. I was in his bus the other day when Pat (Carpentier) came to the track and we chatted and laughed. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re pretty tight and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fun to have Canadian drivers racing to bring the sport to a higher level and get it recognized and hopefully it will help to kick start the support we got from the fans a couple of years ago. Knowing that we really, really, take a very serious approach when weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re out there and they call us Canadian. I am Canadian, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Tag the Canadian taking the pole for the first timeÃ¢â‚¬Â. We carry the flag on our belt and on our car. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re really proud to be Canadian and when we can accomplish certain things like that, ya thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the crew, you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do it without a crew, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no golf or tennis, you need a car, you need a crew thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to do everything they can to give you the machine to do it, the engineers, the development, are we going to do the right thing, but we know all that and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s super important, it only takes a driver that appreciates what heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s got and not take it for granted, but other than that, when youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re in that car, you represent a country, you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t just represent yourself. If something good happens to you, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to make others proud, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s like the Olympics.”