THE BLOG
10/22/2012 05:48 pm ET | Updated Dec 22, 2012

Driver Spotlight: Alex Tagliani

Alex Tagliani is a 12 year veteran of American Open Wheel Racing. His career has been one of trials and tribulations, but he is finally at a point where he is at the top of his game driving for Bryan Herta Autosport and is a force to be reckoned with.

Alex's tenure in major league open wheel racing began in 2000 when he began driving for the Players/Forsythe team in the Champ Car World Series as open wheel racing was still in civil war. "I chose Champ Car because of Canadian races and I had connections to sponsors in Canada," Alex says when talking about starting his career. He stayed with them until the 2003 season, when he moved on to Paul Gentilozii's Rocketsports Racing where he won his first race at Road America in 2004 and stayed until the 2005 season. He then moved on to Walker Racing for two seasons and then he returned to Rocketsports. When Champ Car and the Indycar Series merged in 2008 Rocketsports did not make the transition and Alex was lost in the shuffle and was out of a full time ride. Being unemployed is a tough pill to swallow, but that did not demotivate Tagliani. Alex says, "In order to save my career, I had to try and run a few races and give everything I had." Later in the 2008 season, Tagliani jumped at the opportunity to fill in for Enrique Bernoldi at Detroit and Chicago. He made his return at Detroit and finished 22nd with a broken gearbox, but at Surfer's Paradise he showed what he was made of and finished 4th. In 2009, Alex ran a few more races for Conquest and had a great showing at Toronto where he led several laps and until bad luck but him down in 9th place. He turned a few heads during that time and in 2010, he was finally able to get a full-time ride with the new FAZZT Team. His first season with them had some impressive runs including starting second at the team's first race of the year at Sao Paulo, Brazil. The team was then purchased by Sam Schmidt in 2011, and Alex remained there for one season. That season, Alex won the pole for the Indianapolis 500 holding off Scott Dixon who made a final run at the end of the session. At the end of the 2011 season, Alex signed with Bryan Herta Autosport.

The 2012 season was one of ups and downs for Alex Tagliani and Barracuda Racing. For starters, they started the season without any money from the Leaders Circle (Indycar's revenue program), so that set them back. The team also initially signed with Lotus as an engine provider, which turned out to be underpowered compared to the Hondas and Chevys. Four races into the season at the Indianapolis 500, they switched to Honda, and results became to improve, but at there were some costs involved in that. Not only did the team have to spend money on a new engine lease, they were in recovery mode after the Lotus fallout. "We were able to compete well and had some amazing qualifying pace from there on out," Alex says. At the Indianapolis 500 he qualified 11th and during the race worked his way up to the front and ran competitive in the early stages until a speeding penalty forced Alex a lap down. Alex fought hard for the rest of the race and got his lap back and managed a 12th place finish. Things improved from there, with winning a pole at Texas. Even with having a better powerplant at his disposal, he had a lot of bad luck. At Detroit, he qualified third, but the engine did not fire at the start and he had to start from the pit lane, but recovered to finish 10th. At Iowa, he had a good run going until his motor blew. He had another great showing at Edmonton leading the most laps until a bad set of tires put him back in the pack and eventually ending up in 5th. At Fontana, it was a bigger letdown. "In opening practice, the car was so loose I almost wrecked three times," Alex recalls. The team made some changes before qualifying but still ended up 16th on the grid, but during the race, the car came to and Alex let the cat out of the bag. With 20 laps to go, Alex was running up front and after the final pit stop was running in the top three when the engine let go. "It was a shame because I think if we would have finished in the top 3 we would have finished in 11th the spot in the championship and coming from 11th from 28th and recovering from 28th in points to 11th would have been fantastic."

When discussing his season, Alex admits the season was tough but does believe that it was good as well. "Once we were in a recovery mode, every DNF after that pushed us back to exactly where we were," he says. "We had a good run at Edmonton and finished in the top five, at Milwaukee we finished seventh, and we were keeping a good top eight finish as an average, but it wasn't enough to put us in the top 10 in the championship because we had to recover." "It was essentially our championship was eight races out of 14, and if you run eight races, you had better win all eight races to make a statement." "We were on pace everywhere and had good qualifying runs." "We didn't have as clean of championship as we wanted, but honestly it was my favorite season ever." "We also did not test throughout the season other than the Sebring test with Lotus while other teams were testing frequently." Alex also gives credit to his relationship with engineer Tom Malloy as part of his success. "He respects my talent behind the wheel of the car and my ability to tell him what the car needs."

As far as next season goes, things are looking up for Tagliani and BHA. For one thing, they were able to make it into the Leaders Circle program this year, so they will have a more money at their disposal. Also they will have the data from last season to look back on as a reference which is vital for a one car team. This season, the team was new as well as the cars so they did not have that." His relationship with engineer Tom Malloy and the rest of his team is at a zenith and how he ran this season proves that he has the talent behind the wheel to contend for race wins and championships as well.