Looking To Turn Momentum into Magic
INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 10, 2011) – Sam Schmidt Motorsports (SSM) driver Alex Tagliani hopes to turn the momentum he gained from last Sunday’s sixth-place finish in the IZOD IndyCar Series race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington into some magic when he takes the green flag in this weekend’s MoveThatBlock.com Indy 225 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.
Driving the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins Dallara/Honda/Firestone car for SSM, Tagliani had some magical moments earlier in the season on ovals, including winning the pole for the Indianapolis 500 in May and then backing it up with the pole for the very next race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. A string of poor finishes and DNF’s, however, dropped Tagliani from the top-10 in points, and he’s been fighting hard to get back on track. The Mid-Ohio race almost produced a top-five finish and has Tagliani looking forward to New Hampshire.
Known as the “Magic Mile” in racing vernacular, New Hampshire Motor Speedway could be just the track to create some more magic for the Bowers & Wilkins team. It is a 1.058-mile oval with banking between two to seven degrees, and ovals have been good to Tagliani this season.
Again, the Canadian grabbed the prestigious pole for the Indianapolis 500 in May. Two weeks later, Tagliani sat on the pole and finished fourth on the oval of Texas Motor Speedway. A few weeks later, in Newton, Iowa, Tagliani was blistering the Iowa Speedway oval, setting the official fastest lap of the race. Only an untimely yellow flag that put the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins car a lap down after a pit stop kept the team from a top-five finish.
The MoveThatBock.com Indy 225 also marks just the second oval race for SSM engineer Nick Snyder to call the shots on set-up for the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins car. Snyder joined the team just prior to the Iowa race and had an immediate impact.
Though the New Hampshire race is just a two-day event, IZOD IndyCar Series officials scheduled a one-day test for teams on Thursday of race week. Since Indy cars have not raced on the Magic Mile since 1998, this weekend’s race will be the first time many of the drivers and crew members have competed here. After a day of testing, teams will have Friday to analyze data and work on set-ups before practice and qualifying gets underway on Saturday.
All of them, including the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins team of SSM, will be looking for some magic in New Hampshire.
Alex Tagliani, Driver of the No. 77 B&W Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Sam Schmidt Motorsports:
Like most of the current IndyCar drivers, you have not raced at New Hampshire Motor Speedway? What do you know about it?
“I don’t know much. I’ve never seen the complex. I know it will be a challenging track, like short ovals are. I know it’s flat and has a tighter radius in the corner than Milwaukee. I expect it to be a really difficult track that is a set-up-driven track.”
Share your thoughts on the full-day test on Thursday at New Hampshire.
“It’s going to be very important to get a lot done that day. We need to get the car right early so we can spend the rest of the time adjusting on it. Nick (Snyder, engineer) has a good amount of experience on ovals, so I’m confident we will be good.”
Next to Toronto, this race is fairly close to your hometown. Do you have friends and family coming down for it?
“I’ve heard from several people and keep seeing messages on Twitter that they will be in Loudon. I expect a lot of people from Canada will make the trip. It’s not far, at all. I’m actually driving back to Montreal, myself, after the race, so it’s not far, at all. I hope to see a lot of Canadian flags out there.”
Rob Edwards, team manager of the No. 77 B&W Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Sam Schmidt Motorsports:
With the series going back to Loudon, how does a team prepare for a circuit that few of the team members have seen?
“Basically, we look at what data we do have from the few of us who have been there. Contrary to popular opinion, we are not going to take the Ben Bretzman (new team engineer acquired from Hendrick Motorsports) NASCAR set-up and put it on the car. Seriously, a few of us have been there. The last time I was there was 1995. We’ll take what we do know from there and from similar tracks and make that our starting point. The good thing is, the format allows us to run on Thursday and then we have a day on Friday to think about it before the rest of the weekend starts. On the face of it, Friday might look like a day to go hang out in Boston, but there will be a lot of hard work done between Thursday and Saturday.”