On Friday afternoon, I had the chance to interview Alex Tagliani, driver of the number 22 Discount Tires Mustang for Team Penske in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. In his first Nationwide Series start of the season at Road America, Tagliani started in the first position and dominated the race before running out of fuel with two laps remaining. Tagliani and the 22 team had the chance to pit and re-fuel and restarted from the 23rd position before making his way to second to finish on that step of the podium. Tagliani will also be making an appearance later this year in NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series for Brad Keselowski Racing at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. On Friday, Tagliani finished in fourth and seventh in Friday's two practices.
ISABELLE BEECY - You currently drive for Rocketsports Racing in the United SportsCar Championship. How did the opportunity arise for you to driver the 22 car?
ALEX TAGLIANI - I drove for Team Penske in 2011. I drove the 12 car in Montreal and I qualified second and finished second. So I had a relationship with them. Tim Cindric asked me last year if I wanted to drive but I wasn't available with my schedule so I was very sad to turn down the offer. I always wanted to do it. This year, he asked me again and I didn't know what my schedule was gonna look like but I said yes right away. I didn't want to miss it one more time. I'm really thankful for Discount Tires and Roger Penske, Tim, the whole Penske organization to put trust in me to drive their car and hopefully we'll have a good weekend.
IB - One of the most impressive drives we've seen all year and in recent racing memory was your climb from 23rd to 2nd at Road America. Could you take us through those last few laps and describe that moment?
AT - I think it was circumstances that made it all possible. We were in the lead at the time and we were going to be crossing the white flag. I ran out of fuel coming out of the last corner. I thought the race was over then but with the rule of green-white-checker, it was good because the yellow came out and the guy in P2 didn't really cross the start/finish line yet, so he didn't take the white flag. So they were going to have to do a green-white-checker. Jeremy asked me if the track was dry enough to put slicks on, I said yes. The track was drying and we did a green-white-checkers restart. So overall, I think it turned out we were on that last two and a half laps with stickers and two other cars with sticker. But we were able to make grounds and be at the right place at the right time and make moves. Guys were just trying to survive and we made it all the way up. We were just missing a little bit.
IB - As you've also done open wheel racing, what have been the biggest difference and similarity between those and stock cars?
AT - The car’s heavy, braking, driving it. We have a car that weighs so much and has very little tire. When you put all that together, the cars are not easy to drive.
IB - Going off of that, based off of what you've experienced in NASCAR, what's been your first impression and how have you enjoyed it?
AT - I’m enjoying it, I want to be here all the time! For a Canadian and for a guy like me that grew up the ranks in open wheel, it’s very difficult to step in this world and get a seat. If I only get a few rides a year and do it just a couple times, I’ll take it. I really like to be here, it’s a good team. I think if you drive well and you do your job correctly and if there’s other opportunities with this team for running road courses, I’ll do whatever I can. It allowed me to get a phone call from Keselowski’s racing team for the truck race in a few weeks in Mosport so you never know what the future could hold. You need to start somewhere and I think driving the 22 car here is not bad.
IB - What's been one of the greatest pieces of advice or insights anyone has shared with you for your racing career that still stands out to this day?
AT - I would say just be very appreciative. I think there are only a few guys doing this job. Rides in racing are not easy to get. Just really appreciate every moment that you’re out there driving a car. If you keep remembering that every time you’re behind the wheel of something, you’ll end up appreciating it. It gives you a good attitude and I think people end up liking what you portray as a person if you think that way.