Tagliani looks for jump-start in Edmonton

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Two weeks ago in Toronto, Paul Tracy's homecoming was a wreck — literally. Alex Tagliani, the other prominent Canadian in the IndyCar Series, is hoping to escape that fate this week. To be sure, the Rexall Edmonton Indy is not a homecoming for "Tag," who hails from Lachenaie, Quebec, and now resides in Las Vegas. But considering that the race has been on the sidepods of his Conquest Racing machine all season, it might as well be. In Toronto, Tagliani and Conquest were stout for much of the race before an ill-timed caution helped squash their hopes for victory. After that, he was involved in a three-car incident at Turn 3 that put Tomas Scheckter into the tire barrier. Once he got out of the car, Scheckter threw his gloves at Tagliani when his car came back around. Tagliani came home in ninth place, a result that didn't match how competitive his car was. "It's very unfortunate to dominate like this in a race and lose it by a 'pits are closed' rule," Tagliani said afterward. "It's a little bit disappointing, but what can I say? We were kind of the victim of our own performance. ... That rule really destroyed our whole race. It's a shame to see it slip away between our fingers. But in the end, we came here and we showed that we could be faster than anybody else." It also proved that as of right now, the best shows in the Indy Racing League are coming from the road and street courses — a rather ironic point considering the IRL's all-oval upbringing that lasted until 2005. If Tagliani can win this week, it'd be a major boost for the underdogs at Conquest as well as the Edmonton event, which is looking to cement its long-term future on the schedule. Tagliani is also hoping to do the same for his driving career, which has gone to part-time this season. But he's had some memorable moments during the times he's been in the cockpit. While it can be debated whether or not he deserved to be in Conquest's lone qualified car in the Indy 500 (a car that was qualified by Bruno Junqueira), his charge from 33rd to 11th left no debate about his determination. But will his determination be enough to get the fan favorite back into a full-time ride next season?

Money issues

A lot of people will have their eyes glued to the on-track action at City Centre Airport, but others will be keeping watch off the track as well. The Rexall Edmonton Indy is in the second year of a three-year deal with the Indy Racing League. But many in the city of Edmonton are angry after promoter Northlands lost $5.3 million on last season's race — a bill that was paid by the city's taxpayers and far bigger than was expected. This year, the projected deficit is at $1.5 million and many will be watching to see if Northlands can execute the race on its $14.5 million budget. However, the promoter has received a financial boost from the Canadian government. Ottawa's Marquee Tourism Events Program gave a $400,000 check to event organizers Friday. As for the race's future, the Edmonton Journal reported this week that Northlands is interested in extending the deal through 2012. Race and league officials will meet this weekend for discussions, but nothing is expected to be finalized.

Don't forget about them

There's certainly plenty of contenders this weekend in Edmonton, from the "Big Two" of Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske to former Edmonton Champ Car winner Justin Wilson. And of course, there's the two Canadians — Tracy and Tagliani. But how about adding Luczo Dragon Racing rookie Raphael Matos to the list of contenders? The Brazilian, who finished 10th at Toronto two weeks ago, has won twice at the airport course in the Atlantic Championship (2007). He also raced there with Atlantics in 2006, his rookie season. Matos has expressed a fondness for the layout at Edmonton, which seems to be a hybrid of road and street course. "It is fast and wide open and quite bumpy," he says. "The last (corner) is one of the fastest corners of all the tracks we've raced. Turn 1 is probably the most challenging part of the track. It has a very fast entry and a big bump in the middle of the corner. It's a very wide entry as well, not a lot of references." This week's action could be pivotal for him as well as Robert Doornbos in their battle to claim Rookie of the Year. Heading into City Centre Airport, Matos has a seven-point edge on the Dutchman, 182-175. "Bobby D" finished 23rd at Toronto, succumbing to electrical problems after 26 laps.
Tagged: Paul Tracy

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