CHAMPCAR/CART: Alex Tagliani press conference transcript Part I

T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon to everyone. Welcome to the CART Media Teleconference. Thanks to all of you for joining us this afternoon. Our guest today is driver Alex Tagliani of Players Forsythe Racing who currently owns the longest active ...

T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon to everyone. Welcome to the CART Media Teleconference. Thanks to all of you for joining us this afternoon.

Our guest today is driver Alex Tagliani of Players Forsythe Racing who currently owns the longest active streak of points paying finishes in the FedEx Championship Series.

Good afternoon, Alex and thank you for joining us today.

ALEX TAGLIANI: Thank you very much.

T.E. McHALE: Alex, the driver of the No. 33 Players Indeck Ford Reynard has scored Championship points in seven straight events dating to a 12th place finish at Portland. The streak also includes a career best runner-up result at Toronto. In addition to finishes of 6th at Michigan and Chicago, 7th at Mid-Ohio, 8th at Road America, and 9th last week at -- excuse me, Alex has scored 48 of 49 Championship points in his past seven starts and has moved from 25th to 14th place in the FedEx Championship Series in that span.

Heading into this weekend's Molson Indy Vancouver at Concord Pacific Place Championship he stands 14th in the FedEx Championship Series Championship with 49 points.

The Molson Indy Vancouver, Round 15 of the FedEx Championship Series, will be televised on ESPN2 on Sunday, September 2, beginning at 6 P.M. eastern time.

Just to finish Alex's list of points paying finishes that 9th place came at Cleveland.

With that, we'll open it up to questions for Alex.

Just would like to know what do you attribute to this long run of finishing in the points; what is happening with your car and yourself and Team Players?

ALEX TAGLIANI: I think -- I cannot really find a really good reason because at the beginning of the season my car was running as fast as it is right now. I think it was just a question of always being at the wrong spot at the wrong time. We were really competitive in Mexico, we were running a Ford, I think just before the car took fire on our last pitstop and in Long Beach I think we had the fastest car starting from the weekend, just got run from behind by Paul and same thing in Nazareth with Gil and then in other road courses we didn't have the chance to qualify in the fast group so we were a little bit penalizing. And just having a couple of -- DNF (did not finishe) in Japan and other places, so it was just a very bad period. We didn't change the car. We didn't do anything special, so the Players Team is just continuing to work the way they did at the start of the season. And the good thing of that is that they just kept their positive attitude; kept in believing in what they were doing, and suddenly you know, we go to Toronto, we have a very fast car, the way it was in Long Beach, and we qualify up front, clean race, and we're on the podium. From then we just did some really good running and we finished in the points every race so -- in the Top-10, so that's good. We're, I think, 5 or 7 points away from being Top-10 in the points so I would like to be in the Top-10 after Vancouver.

Can you just tell me what sort of influence Tony Cicale has had on you this year?

ALEX TAGLIANI: A couple of things. Tony is a very experienced guy. He's really aware of what is going on in CART for racing strategy and different stuff and he's just giving confidence to myself and Kelly Loewen that is in charge of the car as the chief engineer at the shop because Tony comes only for the race. We know that we have Tony and in we're in trouble we know he's going to help us. He became my race engineer at the track.

I am always in constant communication during the weekend to set the car up and we kind of learn to work with each other and he knows what I like and he knows the way I like to drive the car now and he's really able to bring the car to the level I like.

I think also always keeping in mind that races are totally different than qualifying. That's why I am probably doing good racing at this stage of the season, with a car that's reliable at the same time and if we continue to do that, our goal is trying to finish in the Top-10 for the rest of the year and maybe a win.

What about mentally, Tony seems like such a laid back guy, does he have like a calming effect on you at all?

ALEX TAGLIANI: He thought I was pretty calm. I mean, he didn't think he had to calm me down. He's able to see different things with different perspective and I think in a team there's so many people working that a lot of people have good potential and I think he's able to get the potential out of each person and make them work at their 100% and that's -- he's able to do that with me and he's able to do that with other people. So I have strength and weakness and he's really working with my strength right now and make sure that we're not going to touch the weakness part.

Is your backyard finished yet?

ALEX TAGLIANI: Close. Close. I think in Vegas there's only one speed and it's reverse. It's really, really slow to have things done. But it is coming along. I am really excited because I mean, when I go back to my house I like to just relax and spend time looking at the view and training a little bit, swim, but until it is not going to be done I am going to be really on the phone and try to find out if people are working in my backyard.

You were saying before that really the car is not different from early in the season. It is just early in the year you some bad luck and some things went wrong. Where do you think -- with the car the way it is, where do you think you might have been now had you had, say, a better start to the year and how far away is your car from being a Championship car from winning?

ALEX TAGLIANI: I think we're getting closer and closer every race. But you never know what to expect in a CART race. We qualify second in Elkhart Lake. I think we were running fast. I was third last year in qualifying. I was leading the race every year at that track, you know, we have good setup and we're fast. But last year broken axle and this year with all the confusion and everything, you know, we just got, you know, like a little bit penalized with the strategy with other teams and fuel and stuff like that. So you cannot predict or even go to a race with a very high expectation. I think we need to go there with confidence. We know that we have a very competitive car and we just need to work always to do the best we can and keeping in mind that we want to win, but it is not sure. Nothing is sure. If we continue to do what we're doing, it is going to come to us. We don't need to force ourselves or try to change things to win. We have a car to win, just, you know, everything needs to be in place. I mean, there's 10 cars that can win the race in Vancouver in my opinion, and the one who is going to win is the one that's going to have a perfect weekend, or a perfect race or perfect timing in every aspect of the strategy and everything. So it needs to come to you.

A few weeks ago Patrick was on the conference call and talked a little about how Bruce Ashmore has really helped him but he also mentioned at the time that he felt like there was more cooperation between the people on the two cars than there had ever been on the team. Do you feel that way too and maybe why has that happened this year?

ALEX TAGLIANI: I think in our team, in Players, we have a very good engineer and very good people working on the cars. My crew, my crew chief, Roy, and all my guys, they are very good. But I think Bruce, Neil Micklewright, Tony, Kelly and Michael Cannon, they are more organized and maybe it comes from the fact that last year we knew honestly that we had a terrible car on road course and street course. So Bruce came on board and I think he's in charge of the technical aspect into the team and he's working with Pat on the weekends, and he's making sure that all the strength that all the members the engineering side and the crew and everybody that works on the car have, they do the best job they can have their capabilities. And by doing that he's improving the work; he's improving speed into the car and we're a much better team.

But there's a lot of people that are still in Players Forsythe that were there last year. But I think there's a better organization and it becomes from the fact that our car was not good and they were tired of that and they put good people on board to organize that. And taking all the strength of everybody, and putting it at the right side at the right time, to working on the right things, and it is just improving every little bit on the car and all around the team is just better.

Tell me a little bit about the Vancouver track and what you like and don't like about it?

ALEX TAGLIANI: I like every track. There's not a track that I don't like. It is fun to have different configurations, different track like ovals, street course, road course, super speedway, it is less boring in a Championship season.

What I don't like about the Vancouver track is that -- most of the track when they are like is the problem of the passing, really long straight-a-way, but with a really fast corner in the middle and the turbulence you can lose the down-force in the front. You can't run behind a guy too close and with the layout of the straight-a-way in the back section, it is difficult to dive in and to pass people. So it makes for a very eye strategy of saving fuel and also no passing. But running by yourself, the track is really fun to drive because there's a fast, slow corner, mid-speed corner, really technical section, rough pavement, nice pavement, so there's a lot of interesting things in that track. It is just that when it is time for racing, the green flag drops there's no passing.

You think you can qualify there -- I am trying to remember back how you have qualified here in the past...

ALEX TAGLIANI: Oh, not very good. But I think we were really fast Saturday morning practice, we were I think 5th and 7th and I had a problem with the electric of the cars and the engine so we qualified at the end of the field.

Regarding passing, now I am thinking Turn 1, Turn 6 and maybe in a real gutsy move, Turn 11 as it goes on the start/finish --

ALEX TAGLIANI: Yeah.

-- pretty accurate in that?

ALEX TAGLIANI: Turn 1, yes, you are going to see some passing. But not cars -- if you have like the top 7, 8 cars you are not going to pass in Turn 1 because the last turn in front of the pit lane is -- it's a third-gear corner and it's really at the speed where it becomes really important to keep the down-force in the front and when you are following too close, you can't pass because you need to get a gap and then by the time you get that gap back you are into the corner and braking.

Turn 6?

ALEX TAGLIANI: Same thing at the end of the long straight-a-way we're coming out of a corner where you can really be close to a guy, that's really interesting, then you draft a guy, you get up to his gear box and then you have a fifth gear flatout corner in the back and really tough to be close to another car.

Then the straight-a-way is kind of funky because you get to the braking zone and the wall on the left side ends up and you can go all way to the left and turn back to the right so there's a possibility to incident because you don't know if the guy is opening the door because that's his normal line or it's because he's braking in his floor and then you dive in and he turns into you and it is like possibility of incident. That's what I am saying, it's really difficult to pass. I think you can pass people that are running slower than you, but how much, and I don't see in CART the gap being really big into qualifying lap time.

Part II

-CART-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Alex Tagliani , Bruce Ashmore