After posting the ninth fastest speed in the pre-qualifying practice session on the 2.6-mile street circuit in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Alex Tagliani had to settle for a starting spot on the outside of row 10 for Sunday’s Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 IZOD IndyCar Series race.
Early in the first round of qualifying, Tagliani smacked the wall with the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins Dallara/Honda/Firestone entry, bending the rear-end suspension. He struggled with the handling of his car the rest of the qualifying session, finishing in 20th overall. It marked the lowest starting position for Tagliani and the Sam Schmidt Motorsports (SSM) team in 2011.
“Obviously, things have changed a bit. The tires are different, so we had to go away a little bit from the set-up we had in 2010,” Tagliani said. “We found our way back this afternoon in the last practice before qualifying. It was a decent car. Unfortunately in qualifying, I just tagged the wall a bit with the rear and bent a tow link. The tow was bent in the rear and the car was not acting the same. We should have made it out of the first segment, for sure. I don’t know exactly how fast our pace would’ve been and if we could’ve made it all the way into the Fast Six. Out of the first group, I think that was possible. We have an OK car. We just have to regroup and try to make it from the back tomorrow. We can definitely come up through the field and finish in the top-five again from where we are.”
In 2010, Tagliani joined Ganassi Racing’s Dario Franchitti, the 2010 Indianapolis 500 winner, on the front row of the inaugural Sao Paulo Indy 300. This year, his lap of 1 minute, 23.7801 seconds (108.971 mph) was nearly 1.5 seconds from earning him a spot on the front row.
SSM Team Manager Rob Edwards knows the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins squad has a long way to advance on Sunday, but he said the team will work hard to do so.
“After qualifying on the front row last year, it was not what we were hoping for, so we’ll put our thinking caps on tonight and play the strategy card and see what tomorrow brings,” Edwards said. “It looks like we might get a shower or two tomorrow, so that’s good for mixing things up. We’ve shown before we can overcome adversity. The starting position is not what we were hoping for, but tomorrow in the race is what counts. We’ll see what we can do to make up for today and to get the best finishing position we can.”
Team Penske’s Will Power won his fourth PEAK Performance Pole Award of the season with a lap of 1:09:0649 (102.582) and earned car owner Roger Penske his 200th pole position in Indy style racing. Power picked up where he left off in 2010 when he won the Sao Paulo event by 1.8 seconds over Ryan Hunter-Reay, who will start next to Power on the front row.
Rounding out the Firestone Fast Six are Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe, Ganassi Racing’s Graham Rahal and last year’s polesitter and current point leader Franchitti.