Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, August 18, 2001 In a wild and exciting final lap, Team Player's driver Alex Tagliani clocked the second-fastest qualifying time for Sunday's Motorola 220 on Road America, the best grid start of his FedEx CART Championship...
Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, August 18, 2001 In a wild and exciting final lap, Team Player's driver Alex Tagliani clocked the second-fastest qualifying time for Sunday's Motorola 220 on Road America, the best grid start of his FedEx CART Championship career for a road-course event. Tagliani's previous best qualifying performance on a road circuit came last year at Road America, when he started third on the grid and led the race for 23 of the 55 laps.
Tagliani's front-row start, next to Sweden's Kenny Brack, puts Team Player's in a favourable position as it goes after its fifth straight podium. Tagliani started the podium streak with a second-place finish in Toronto and his teammate Patrick Carpentier extended the string with a first-, second- and third-place finish respectively in the last three races. Carpentier will be starting the Motorola 220 from Row 6.
Wet weather and red flags combined to turn Saturday's qualifying session on the 4.048-mile Road America course into a last-lap shoot-out, during which seven drivers put in their quickest lap, displacing first-group driver Memo Gidley from the pole. A light but persistent drizzle began early in the session of the first group and although it subsided for much of the second group's run, the track, especially the back section, remained rather slick.
When the Group 2 session was red-flagged with just over five minutes remaining, Carpentier, the fastest of the second group, was in seventh place and Tagliani was ninth. The track was under green with two minutes left in the session, enough time for one flying lap, and Tagliani led the charge. He shot to the top of the leader board with a time of 2 minutes, 3.674 seconds (117.832 miles per hour), only to have Brack, the CART series points leader, grab the pole a split-second later with a clocking of 2:03.531 (117.969 mph).
"When we were waiting in the pits to go under green, we saw that the track was starting to dry up and we definitely felt everything was going to be played out at the end," said Tagliani. "Team Player's gave me a real fast car under wet conditions. We were consistent and competitive again today, as we've been for quite a while now. We just need to keep on doing what we've been doing.
"It would have been terrific to get the pole but the front row is still a great position to start from. Last year, we were third on the grid and managed to get up front and take the lead for quite a few laps. Team Player's is even stronger this year, so it's looking pretty good for the race."
Carpentier was poised to continue his climb up the leader board by letting it all hang out on the final qualifying lap. As he tried to find a dry line, he went a bit wide and went off in corner 5. He was able to keep going but the incident cost him a shot at being one of the quickest on the last lap.
"It's a roll of the dice," admitted Carpentier. "If you don't push, you don't improve. And if you push, you have to take chances. Still, 12th position isn't bad considering the conditions, especially when it comes down to having only one lap to do it. Middle of the starting grid is OK at Road America because you can pass on this track. Paul Tracy proved that last year, when he went to the back of the grid (23rd) with a mechanical problem on the opening laps and still came back to win the race."
Racing fans can follow the progress of Team Player's throughout the weekend by logging on to the team's web site at www.teamplayers.ca. They can also watch the 55-lap race on tape delay on The Sports Network starting at 8:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday.