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IndyCar - Tagliani Race Report

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Indianapolis, May 30, 2011: Alex Tagliani started on the pole for the historic 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500-Mile race, but a brush with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway wall ended a storybook month of May for the Canadian driver and his Sam Schmidt Motorsports (SSM) team, finishing a disappointing 28th.

While struggling with an ill-handling No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins Dallara/Honda/Firestone car, Tagliani drifted high while passing rookie J.R. Hildebrand in turn four on lap 147 and brushed the wall with the right side of his car. While he was able to continue to the pits, his crew determined the contact was strong enough to end Tagliani’s day 53 laps short of the finish.

It was a tough end to what had been a tremendous month for the Bowers & Wilkins driver. He was fast all month and became the first Canadian driver to start on the pole.

“The Bowers & Wilkins 77 car was fairly competitive early in the race,” said Tagliani, who led 20 of the first 34 laps. “I can’t thank enough my team. They did a fantastic job all month long. We had a really good, balanced car early on. It was nice to drive it. Then all of the sudden, it became very loose. I couldn’t really get it back on track, you know, with all the tools I had in the car. So we were struggling with a very nervous car. In one of our pit stops we thought we fixed it, but we didn’t.

“It’s a shame, because early on the car was so good I thought we had a shot at it all race long. But we kind of lost the car at some point; very curious. When the car became loose, I don’t think we were going to become a threat. It was a shame, because early on I think we had something for them. It’s something we’re going to have to look at. I don’t know why exactly the car became loose.”

Tagliani’s SSM teammate, Townsend Bell, finished 26th after being involved in an accident with Ryan Briscoe in turn one on lap 157.

“They dug all month,” Schmidt said. “The 77 (Tagliani) and 99 (Bell) worked really well together and had fast cars. Unfortunately, they both got a little out of sequence. We probably should’ve finished at least second or third when all was said and done. You can’t second guess what happens in the race, and that is what this place is all about.”

Dan Wheldon won the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500-Mile Race in an incredible finish that saw Hildebrand crash in turn four on the final lap while leading. Wheldon, who was six seconds behind, flew past Hildebrand’s wounded machine to score his second ‘500’ victory as he also won in 2005. Wheldon drove for Bryan Herta Autosport, which had a technical alliance with SSM throughout the month of May.

“At least we got a little piece of that car rolling up on victory circle right there,” Schmidt said. “It was Brian’s (Herta) turn, and that’s cool.”

Hildebrand finished second, while Graham Rahal, Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon rounded out the top-five. Oriol Servia, Bertrand Baguette, Tomas Scheckter, Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were seven caution periods for 40 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish.