An interview with: Alex Tagliani Part 2 of 2 Q: What about Andretti's decision? Do you feel everybody has to do what they think is best for themselves, and do you feel a little bit betrayed, because he's been a CART driver for such a long time...
An interview with: Alex Tagliani
Part 2 of 2
Q: What about Andretti's decision? Do you feel everybody has to do what they think is best for themselves, and do you feel a little bit betrayed, because he's been a CART driver for such a long time and been such an integral part of one of the biggest names in the series? Do you feel betrayed because maybe he's kind of bailing on the series, when really, it really needs him to be in it? I don't know if he's actually leaving it himself personally, but I'm just saying...
Alex Tagliani: Michael is going to go wherever he thinks is best for them. By buying Team KOOL Green, I think it's a business decision. I don't know what's going to happen. I'm too far away to know all the details and to know what happened in that deal.
But, I mean, how much longer Michael is going to race - I don't know. So if you focus all your energy around Michael Andretti, it's not good for CART, either. There are plenty of guys in that series that should have their chance. If you look at Formula 1, they give chances to a guy that is a completely unknown. [Kimi] Raikkonen went to McLaren - he is good. [Juan] Montoya went from CART to Formula 1 - he's one of the head guys right now and he's been on pole a couple of times. If you don't change your guys all the time and you don't give opportunity to younger guys, it might die.
I mean, I'm not a good enough businessman to decide and tell others what to do, but it's not healthy when you are trying to focus energy on one guy and forget about the others, because it's not going to happen.
Merrill Cain: To be clear on the announcement, it was announced that Michael Andretti is purchasing a part of Team KOOL Green and will become part owner of the company, as well. Again, he did not make it clear as to what direction they are going to go in the future in terms of what series they are racing in. As far as we are concerned, he's still in CART and that's where he's going to be.
Q: When you guys were out here with us in Long Beach, the passion of the fans for the Team Player's merchandise was more than just being a fan, there was something really special about it. Talk about being an athlete in Canada. You don't just represent your home town or province; you represent the entire nation, don't you?
Alex Tagliani: Well, I don't know. I don't know how much I represent. I think I live in my own little world and I have stayed pretty much the same as I was when I was racing go-karts. I think I'm a very little person in a big team and in a big series. So I don't know how much difference I make.
Player's has been involved since 1961, their first involvement in a racing event, so after all those years and giving a chance to Jacques Villeneuve and other guys like Bourbonnais, Greg Moore, Pat, myself and helping many others in a different series, I think Player's is as important as any other sponsor in Canada, if you think of Molson and everything.
So all of those Canadian sponsors that try to help the sport that we love and want to be in - they love to represent their country. So as much as I wear the Canadian flag on my car, every other person that is involved into motor racing, far away or closer - they are a part of it. If those people are not there, then I cannot take the credit to represent my country because I would be still racing go-karts at the moment.
I don't want to take the full credit. I'm there to represent, yes, Canada, but if those people are not there to help us represent Canada, I don't think we'll be able to do it.
Q: When you heard the cheers at Toronto, and I'm sure it will be the same when you are get to Montreal, what does it feel like to feel that sense of emotion from your countrymen?
Alex Tagliani: Well, I'm telling you something. I'm proud of something, if all of the places we race, the only places where we are getting really close to the fans is in Mexico, and the people in Mexico are really backing up their Mexican drivers.
But when we come in Canada, I think the Canadian fans give a good welcome to everybody. But at the same time, a lot more to us which gives us little butterflies in the heart. Everybody turns around and looks at us. So, it's fun to see that we are one of the countries where racing is popular and the fans are really supportive.
Q: The way that Team Player's has been coming on the last couple of years, do you sense something is building here with your team into next year and through the latter part of this season and into next year?
Alex Tagliani: Well, the team is working very hard. Sometimes I call my engineers for a debriefing on the phone and they are still in the office at 8:00 at night and they are trying to make our car faster.
The involvement of Player's into the deal is really strong and they give them every possibility they need or they can to do what they need to do. But the guys that are working for that team are very committed and the only thing they want to do is be competitive and win races.
So we've been through a lot of changes. That team has been through a transition in the past with different engines, so a lot of things happen. But to be able to stay competitive, the way we are, most of the time, especially with this year and what happened with Reynard, I need to take my hat off to those guys because that team right now is working as a Formula 1 team: They are building, developing and doing everything on their own. They don't buy any parts from anyone, and they can't, anyway.
So it's 80 people working non-stop, and I think in the next couple of races and next year, especially, we are going to start winning races consistently, and that's going to change the whole aspect of racing in Canada, I think.
Q: What is your opinion of Team KOOL Green and Michael Andretti, and what's going to happen with Paul Tracy and do you think that Paul is going to run a third car in the Player's team.?
Alex Tagliani: I don't really know. I think it's a business decision. Michael, right now, he's racing for CART, and we don't even know. Maybe Team Green wanted to go to IRL and Michael bought part of the team to have a power of decision in the team to stay in CART; that's an alternative. I don't really know. It's too new to be able to know where they are going and which direction they are heading but we'll know within the next couple of weeks.
I would be surprised if the third car for Player's happened. I would be very surprised, but you never know. If Paul is out a ride because Team Green is leaving for IRL, I'm not very concerned about Paul. He's been in CART for 11 years. He proved what he had to prove in CART, and he's one of those guys that can find a ride anywhere he wants. So I'm not so concerned about his career at the moment.
Q: Just talk about the Molson Indy in Vancouver last year and the emotion of having Patrick beside you on the front row, all Canadians pulling in, there's still a lot of emotion there with Greg Moore. Just go back for us and recapture the emotion of the moment, because I know it was one of the highlights of your career.
Alex Tagliani: Well, I've been very close many times. In all of those races - Elkhart Lake I broke a CV joint with 10 laps to go. In Australia, I ran out of fuel, and in Brazil - it happens a lot of times. Even last year in Toronto, coming out of the pit, Michael beat me by half a second to finish second.
So, that's it. I was prepared. I've been through a lot of disappointments, but the thing that disappoints me the most is that we were there and it's the first time that I was coming back to Vancouver for a second year in a row, and the fans really were supportive. We saw a couple of the flags with Greg Moore and number 99, but we saw a lot of flags for Pat and myself. The fact that there's that pole award from Rick Moore, Greg's dad, was special. It was special because you can give it to anybody else, but if you give it to someone that is in the Player's team were Greg raced his whole career, and we can could do that for the fans, it's a little bit more special.
The way the weekend went was very good for us. We've been on top of the list every session. So after Friday, you kind of think that you have a shot for the pole. After Saturday, you kind of think that you have a shot for the win. And when you're leading after 68 laps, you can see that it might be that day. When you sit down on the wall for the rest of the race - I don't want to say what I said in my helmet. I expressed what I felt, because you can't explain.
It's not making me slow making me not believe anymore. It was just a race that was the saddest for me because we were in Canada.
Merrill Cain: Alex, thanks for taking a few minutes to talk with us today. We do appreciate it.
Alex Tagliani: Thanks, guys.
Merrill Cain: We wish you good luck in the race this weekend, and we'll see you in a couple days.
We'd like to remind everybody that the Champ Cars return to the track this weekend. Sunday's race will air live on SPEED Channel with pre-race coverage getting underway at 4:00 p.m. Eastern time. Thanks to all what participated in today's call and have a wonderful afternoon.
Alex Tagliani, part I