Canadian Ready for More ‘Cheese’ In Wisconsin
It’s an American tradition to say “cheese” when smiling at a camera. With his recent string of racing poles, IZOD IndyCar Series driver Alex Tagliani has been saying “cheese” a lot these days.
For the past three weekends, Tagliani has started a race from pole position, beginning with the Indianapolis 500 on May 29. One week later, he went home to Montreal and grabbed the pole for a NASCAR Canadian Tire Series road-course race in a stock car. Back driving his Sam Schmidt Motorsports No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins Dallara/Honda/Firestone Indy car this past weekend, Tagliani was the fastest qualifier for the first of twin 111-lap races at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
With each of the poles comes the opportunity to pose for the TV cameras and photographers and say a big “cheese.” Tagliani would like nothing more than the opportunity to say it again in Wisconsin, the unofficial “Cheese State,” during the Milwaukee 225 IndyCar Series weekend at The Milwaukee Mile.
If history has anything to do with it, there is a good chance Tagliani will be doing more cheesing for the cameras. Wisconsin has been good to the veteran open-wheel driver.
Tagliani has raced in the “Cheese State” 14 times, with seven starts each on The Milwaukee Mile and the long, scenic Road America road course in Elkhart Lake, Wis. He has seen success on both tracks.
At Road America, Tagliani recorded his lone win in major open-wheel racing when he won a CART series race there in 2004. He also had three other top-five finishes and another eighth-place starting spot there. On The Milwaukee Mile oval, Tagliani has top-five finishes and two top-10 starting spots, including a CART pole in 2003. That’s a lot of “cheese.”
His recent poles have come on vastly different types of tracks and in different types of cars. Tagliani’s pole in Canada was won by driving a big, heavy stock car around a tight road course. In an Indy car, no oval is more challenging than Indianapolis, and “Tag” blistered his way around there in May to get the top spot. At Texas, drivers must keep the pedal to the floor and find the fastest line through the high banking in the turns. Again, Tagliani did it better than anyone.
Milwaukee is yet another kind of oval, presenting new challenges and with little in common with the other oval tracks other than turning left. The mile oval is flat with wide sweeping corners. Handling and braking are key ingredients to going fast at Milwaukee.
Tagliani also knows there is one more thing Milwaukee has in common with Indy and Texas: If you’re fast, you get to say “cheese.”
Alex Tagliani, Driver of the No. 77 B&W Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Sam Schmidt Motorsports:
You’ve said several times that you like the mile oval at Milwaukee as do so many other drivers. Why do you like it?
“I’ve been pretty strong there in the past. Every time I’ve been there – and I’ve been with two different teams – we’ve run up front. I’ve even been on the pole there. I guess I’ve had good cars there, you know, with Walker (Racing) and Rocketsports. Hopefully, we’ll have a good car at Milwaukee this year like we’ve had at Indy and Texas. ”
The team has been fast at the last two ovals. What are your thoughts headed to another oval?
Any track where you’re fast is a track you love.
“We’ll have two short ovals back-to-back with Milwaukee and Iowa, and I see that as a good opportunity for me to make up ground for the championship. I am looking forward to having a good run at Milwaukee. ”
Rob Edwards, Team Manager of the No. 77 B&W Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Sam Schmidt Motorsports:
Milwaukee is the third different type of oval in the past three races. What does this mean for the crew?
“It means another busy week for us. Fortunately, the car that Wade (Cunningham) raced in the second race at Texas is our racecar for Milwaukee and it came through unscathed. That’s the nature of the beast, you know. When you race on ovals, you’re going to tear up some equipment. This is our third oval in a row, now, and we’ll be keeping an eye on Iowa as we prepare for Milwaukee, as well. ”
Sam Schmidt Motorsports has been fast on the first two ovals. Why does the team seem to like ovals so much?
“Any track where you’re fast is a track you love. Right now, Indianapolis and Texas are looking pretty good to me. The last time Tag and I were in Milwaukee, it was ’06 and we certainly had a very quick car there. If we can produce some of that same magic when we get up there, we should hopefully have a good weekend.”