CHAMPCAR/CART: Toronto: This Week in Ford Racing - Alex Tagliani

Alex Tagliani, driver of the No. 33 Player's/Forsythe Ford, is in the midst of his third season driving in the CART FedEx Championship Series. Currently ninth in the championship standings with 36 points, Tagliani heads to Toronto for the Molson...

Alex Tagliani, driver of the No. 33 Player's/Forsythe Ford, is in the midst of his third season driving in the CART FedEx Championship Series. Currently ninth in the championship standings with 36 points, Tagliani heads to Toronto for the Molson Indy, where he qualified fifth and finished second a year ago. Having scored points in five of the seven races so far this season, including the last three, Tagliani is still in search of his first Champ Car victory.

ALEX TAGLIANI - #33 Player's/Forsythe Ford - YOU FINISHED SECOND IN LAST YEAR'S MOLSON INDY TORONTO. WHAT WAS THAT EXPERIENCE LIKE FOR YOU?

"It was great. I've always performed well in Toronto throughout my career so I guess the pressure of performing in Canada is a positive thing for our team. All the guys on the team are excited to be going there this weekend, but it's going to be tough because it's so competitive in this series and it's really difficult to be successful. I don't think there are really that many secrets to winning. If you want to win in CART you have to be fast, obviously, but you also have to have great pit stops, you have to have good race strategy and in the end you have to have some luck."

YOU MENTIONED THAT YOU'VE BEEN SUCCESSFUL AT TORONTO IN THE PAST. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?

"We were fast last year and we had good cars, but you cannot say that because you had a good car in the past you will have it again this year. There are so many things that change and to keep up with the advances in technology that you have in auto racing isn't easy. The car changes a lot from year to year, and I don't remember a track that we went back to with the same setup a year later and everything was perfect. For us to duplicate last year's success at Toronto will require some work, but I think we can do it."

WHAT WAS YOUR SOPHOMORE SEASON LIKE FOR YOU LAST YEAR? LOOKING BACK AT YOUR RESULTS FROM 2001, YOU STARTED OUT SLOWLY AND PUT TOGETHER STRINGS OF TWO OR THREE RACES WHERE YOU POSTED SOLID RESULTS.

"My first year I was up there in the points for the first five races. I started fourth in my first race at Homestead and led the race, in Brazil I started on pole, in Long Beach I finished fourth and then later on in the season I started third and led the race in Elkhart Lake. But for some reason that I still cannot understand, I didn't manage to win two races that I was really dominant in. Perhaps it just wasn't my time, I don't know. But last year was completely different; through the first six races of the season we struggled, suffered through some terrible luck and didn't have any points. We caught up during the second part of the season, but this year we started strong, we've been in contention many times, and with 14 races to go it gives me the confidence that we can do it."

WHAT WERE SOME OF THE GOALS AND EXPECTATIONS YOU SET FORTH HEADING INTO THIS SEASON?

"This year I would really like to win my first race and finish in the top three in the points."

ON THE AVERAGE YOU'VE BEEN VERY QUICK THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER IN QUALIFYING WITH THREE POLE POSITIONS AND SEVERAL STARTS FROM WITHIN THE TOP FIVE AND TOP 10, BUT SO FAR THE FINISHES HAVEN'T BEEN THERE.

"Yeah, I don't know why. Well, there are some races that I know why. We qualify fourth, third, second; we finished second in Japan, fifth in Monterrey and I guess we had problems in all those races. We had a jack failure problem in Laguna Seca, and in Portland we had a wheel problem, so those are some of the reasons why we didn't finish up front. In Long Beach we were running sixth and we got punted, so you can go back and say, oh yeah, that's why we didn't do this or that, but even if we know we just need to go back and continue to work hard. Like I said before, to win in CART you need to be fast, and I think we are. You also need to have very good pit stops, and I don't think we did, so the team has been working on improving that with the mechanics and me. You must have good pit strategy, which I think we have, and a little bit of luck, which I hope we have now. There were two items out of those four that we were lacking and we're working on trying to get better at them."

YOU PRETTY MUCH ACCOMPLISHED EVERYTHING YOU CAN IN CART SAVE WINNING A RACE. HOW CLOSE DO YOU THINK YOU ARE TO THAT ELUSIVE FIRST WIN?

"We've been close many times. In Vancouver last year we started from the pole and were pulling away from everybody, so I guess you can't always think about the past and say we can't win because it's so difficult. Sometimes you begin a race not expecting to win or score a good result and all of a sudden you're there in the end, but we don't have any control over that. But we can work and prepare to be there at the end and if we achieve all those things that we need to then that day will come for us eventually."

HOW MUCH HAVE YOU CHANGED AS A DRIVER SINCE JOINING PLAYER'S IN 2000?

"This is the second year in a row, last year and this year, that I am working with the same staff of engineers and I'm more comfortable. They know what I want and I know that they want and the chemistry is much better, so that's a big improvement. And when I first started in Champ Cars my goal was to win, win, win at any cost and sometimes I paid a really high price trying to win. I think things would've looked a lot better had I scored a couple of podium finishes instead of sometimes pushing too hard. Now I realize that if I can finish fifth I'll finish fifth, and if I can finish second I'm going for second, but sometimes pushing too hard is not worth it."

YOU'RE A VERY EMOTIONAL PERSON AND A VERY EMOTIONAL DRIVER. DO YOU THINK THAT EMOTION AFFECTED YOU NEGATIVELY WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED RACING IN CART?

"Yeah, maybe, but with that emotion comes heart. I drive with my heart and I race with my heart. I don't think racing for me is a business, so I give everything I have to perform. I'm working very closely with my guys and when I'm not able to do as good as I wanted I'm disappointed and really sad for them because I know they work really hard for me. I guess the emotion comes with how you are inside and how you drive, but I'm able now to control it a little better and I know it's worse if I try to give too much and try to do too much because sometimes it doesn't work."

WOULD IT BE FAIR TO SAY THAT YOU'VE LEARNED HOW TO DEAL BETTER WITH ADVERSITY? I THINK THAT'S MAYBE WHERE WE SAW A LOT OF YOUR EMOTIONS, WHEN SOMETHING WOULD GO WRONG FOR WHATEVER REASON.

"Yeah, but also my first year I wanted to prove to everybody that I was a good driver. When you've proved absolutely nothing you always think that the team doesn't believe in you and that you should always be fast and scoring podiums for the team, which recognize your talents, and during my first season I was really frustrated when I wasn't able to perform. But now that I've started from the pole, led races and scored podiums, I've done pretty much everything I needed to do to show that I was meant to be a Champ Car driver and it wasn't just luck that I ended up in this seat. I'm less concerned about people's opinions and I'm fully secure with what the team thinks about me and that's why if something goes wrong I don't take it so hard. I just continue to work to get better."

I'M SURE YOU'VE HEARD ALL THE TALK IN RECENT WEEKS REGARDING THE STATUS OF OPEN WHEEL RACING AND THE FUTURE OF CART. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON CART AND THE DIRECTION IT'S HEADING?

"I think Chris (Pook) did what he had to do. He made some major changes and I'm quite happy that he decided to go with Cosworth as the engine supplier for next year - that's great news for us. We already have a good relationship with Cosworth and it couldn't be better. He also came up with a plan to help out the teams financially and make it less expensive for them to compete. I think all the teams that will stay in CART will have the best of both worlds because they're going to be able to run the Indy 500 and run a CART schedule that includes some very good events. His goal is to put 20 cars on the grid next year that are healthy and fully-funded and there are rumors that some IRL teams may switch over as well as an Atlantic team that may step up, so it's a really exciting time. If there's a man that can do the job, it's him."

THERE ARE SOME PEOPLE WHO HAVE CONCERNS THAT THE QUALITY OF RACING MIGHT DECREASE NEXT YEAR WITH A SINGLE ENGINE SUPPLIER. BASED ON YOUR EXPERIENCE IN ATLANTICS, COULD YOU TALK A BIT ABOUT WHAT KIND OF RACING WE MIGHT EXPECT?

"I think it's going to be a good show because there are still plenty of areas that a team can exploit to try and gain an advantage. Launching that program doesn't say that other engine manufacturers aren't going to come back in the future. This is just a step ahead and the door is going to stay open to bring back some other manufacturers to CART. But in the short term, I think it'll help make the show more enjoyable for the fans."

WITH 14 RACES LEFT IN THE SEASON, WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO ACCOMPLISH?

"We want to finish in the top three in the points standings, and if we're in the top three I'm sure we're going to be in contention for the championship. I'm not saying it's going to be easy, but I think we're heading in the right direction."

-ford-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Alex Tagliani