Motegi, Japan, May 10, 2000 Team Player's rookie Alex Tagliani, who has recorded points in each of his first three FedEx CART Championship series races, is seeking to maintain the streak this weekend in his first visit to the Orient and the ...
Motegi, Japan, May 10, 2000 Team Player's rookie Alex Tagliani, who has recorded points in each of his first three FedEx CART Championship series races, is seeking to maintain the streak this weekend in his first visit to the Orient and the 1.5-mile Twin Ring Motegi oval, site of the fourth event of the CART season.
Tagliani, who sits atop the CART rookie standings with 18 points and is the overall lap leader in the series with 84, has already collected points on two continents a ninth and fourth place in North America and a pole position and most-laps led in the Rio 200, the South American stop on the schedule. The latter race, which was run two weeks ago, saw Tagliani lead for 76 laps before being forced to retire.
"After we were so close in Rio, a lot of people have told me to hang in there and not get discouraged," related Tagliani. "I appreciate their words of encouragement and, believe me, I'm not down at all. In fact there were so many positives coming out of the last race that I'm convinced we're closer than ever to getting that first win under our belt.
"I know that winning the first one is always the toughest, especially when you're a rookie, but everything is clicking with Team Player's. I think the fact we were able to get the pole and lead for most of the race in Rio is a sign that we're right there."
The first two editions of the Firestone Firehawk 500 at Motegi were won by Adrian Fernandez, who enters this year's event fresh off a win in the last race, in Rio. As he sets out to make his first trip to the Orient a winning one, Tagliani has left nothing to chance.
"International races like the one in Japan can be tough on a driver with the time change and different eating habits, but Anthony Young, the physiotherapist for Team Player's, has devised a plan to help us deal with things like jet lag and nutrition, and I've been following that to the letter," explained Tagliani.
With Patrick Carpentier rehabilitating his injured left wrist and scheduled to return to action on May 27 in Nazareth the race after Motegi Memo Gidley will be making his third straight start for Team Player's. He performed well in the previous two races, earning five points in Rio with an eighth-place finish.
"I look at the race at Motegi as another opportunity for me to perform to the best of my ability and try to contribute to a win for Team Player's," said Gidley. "I wasn't sure how many races I'd have when Player's called on me to fill in for Patrick, but right from the start I was determined to give it everything I've got. I'm pleased with the way things have gone so far. It was nice to get into the points in Rio in my first-ever CART race on an oval track. Being up with the leaders at Rio gives us a big boost of confidence as far as handling the oval circuit at Motegi."
Racing fans can watch the 201-lap Firestone Firehawk 500 live on The Sports Network at 11:00 p.m. ET on Friday.