Time To Get Down to Work
INDIANAPOLIS (April 5, 2011) – It was a quick marriage and a short honeymoon. Now, it’s time to get down to work.
The union between Sam Schmidt Motorsports (SSM) and the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins Dallara/Honda/Firestone IZOD IndyCar Series team took place just three short weeks before the start of the season. With the opening race in St. Petersburg, Fla., serving as the honeymoon two weekends ago, the new SSM IndyCar team and driver Alex Tagliani are back, ready to put the nuptials behind them and focus on this weekend’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Ala.
The focus of getting back to work doesn’t mean the luster is already gone from the marriage. In fact, both parties returned from the honeymoon excited about the future, which is the rest of the 2011 IndyCar Series. In their first outing together in St. Petersburg, where Tagliani qualified in the top-10 and finished in sixth place, one of the key qualities needed in a successful relationship quickly surfaced.
After struggling in both practice sessions in St. Petersburg, it was communication that saved the weekend. Driver, team manager, owner and engineers all talked through the braking and handling issues after the first two practice sessions and produced a solid package that Tagliani used on the tricky and bumpy street course.
With a supportive owner, a hungry driver and a veteran crew in 2011, look for SSM to turn more race weekends into happy honeymoons, starting with Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama.
Alex Tagliani, Driver of the No. 77 B&W Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Sam Schmidt Motorsports:
How important is the fact the preseason open test was at Barber Motorsports Park?
“We learned a lot at the Barber test. Last year was my first time at Barber and we didn’t test, so it was good to get to test there. The test was especially important for us because of the little track time we’ll have race weekend. Being sixth in points, we will miss out on the first hour of practice.”
With just one previous race, Barber is still considered a new track for IndyCar racing. Talk about it.
“I think Barber was uniquely made for motorcycle racing. It’s not really wide and it has some Mid-Ohio qualities, but without the grip that Mid-Ohio has. It has a lot of free-flowing, momentum corners and some fast corners. Barber is beautiful. The grounds are so well manicured, even better than my house.”
It has a lot of free-flowing, momentum corners and some fast corners. Barber is beautiful.
Sam Schmidt, Owner of the No. 77 B&W Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Sam Schmidt Motorsports:
Are you pleased with the progress of the entire Sam Schmidt Motorsports operation since acquiring the IndyCar program?
“Everything went really smoothly at St. Pete when you consider this group (the IndyCar team) had only been together three weeks with me involved, and I really have to give it up to both crews through this transition. Chris Griffis (SSM Firestone Indy Lights Series team manager) really had to take the bull by the horns and run that thing by himself, not that I’ve ever provided too much help to him, anyway. The Lights team really did well. If not for that crazy last restart, we would have had a one-two-three with an eighth, so that cost us a little bit. Certainly, though, one-two-six and nine is not a bad way to start that season. With the IndyCar team, you always want to be on the podium. On the third restart, I think, he (Alex) got hit by somebody and that knocked the right toe out and made the car extremely loose the rest of the day. So, considering that, I was very pleased, and still am, with the sixth. We can certainly build on that. The communication has been nothing short of fantastic between both programs. So, I’m just really pleased with how we started the season.”
Rob Edwards, Team Manager of the No. 77 B&W Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Sam Schmidt Motorsports:
What was it like to have a definitive team owner around at St. Petersburg?
“It was great to have Sam around the team at St. Pete. It’s been a great experience since the first opportunity I got to spend time with him. His leadership has been very easy and very comfortable. He’s going to be a huge benefit with the IndyCar part of the team as we head toward May and the Indy 500. There is always some apprehension to get the first race out of the way under new ownership, but we can put that behind us. We are excited for the rest of the year.”