Can Tagliani Pull One More Out Of His Hat?

(photo courtesy IZOD IndyCar Series)

In many, if not most, of the past Indy 500’s, the polesitter was considered the favorite to win the race.  However, this year it is not necessarily the case.

While fellow front-row starter, Scott Dixon driving his #9 Target Chip Ganassi race car, and his teammate Dario Franchitti driving his #10 Target Chip Ganassi Dallara, and starting from the ninth starting position are actually co-favorites to win the 2011 Indianapolis 500, with Las Vegas odds at 4-1.  The polesitter, Alex Tagliani, is slated in the odds at 13-2.

Tagliani, a 38-year-old French Canadian, has been the surprise of the month at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Tags, as he is known, has been among the fastest drivers on the 2.5-mile oval since practice began and wound up easily winning the pole for Sunday’s Centennial Indy 500 with a four-lap average of 227.474 mph.

He backed that up Friday in the “Carb Day’’ practice by trailing only Dixon on the speed chart for the one-hour final session.

“I feel my car’s very racy,’’ Tagliani said. “I love it in traffic. We got some consistency out of the car on older tires.’’

Pausing for a moment to digest what he had just said, Tagliani smiled and added, “It seems to be just unreal, too good to be true, sometimes.

“I want to think we deserve it. It’s not because we’re not (Team) Penske or Ganassi. We did maybe everything better than anybody else.’’

Tagliani has accomplished all of this driving for the unheralded team of Sam Schmidt, a former IndyCar driver who became a quadriplegic in a testing crash in 2000 and who has overcome tremendous odds himself to become a successful car owner in the second-tier Firestone Indy Lights Series.

Tagliani started his own team several years ago, but it was taken over this year by Sam Schmidt Motorsports.

The move to the IZOD IndyCar Series is a big leap, but Schmidt and Tagliani have certainly given big teams like Team Penske and Ganassi something to think about. Not only that, but a second Schmidt driver, Townsend Bell, will start fourth in Sunday’s race.

Notwithstanding all Tags good fortunes in the month of May, it will take a huge effort from the entire Sam Schmidt Mortorsports organization to be able to out race the Big Two of Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi for the Indy 500 victory.

Could this be the year that David slays Goliath at the historic 100th running of the Indianapolis 500?

What are your thoughts?


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