INDIANAPOLIS – Alex Tagliani has started 203 races in his Indy car career that dates to 2000. Not one of those starts has come on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
That’s why it was so important for Tagliani and Mike Colliver, the engineer on Tagliani’s No. 35 Alfe Heat Treating Special Honda, to walk the 2.439-mile IMS road course Wednesday in preparation for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
Practice begins today for the third annual event that kicks of May action at the Brickyard. Verizon P1 Award qualifying takes place Friday with the race 82-lap race set for Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).
Tagliani isn’t the only driver who will be making his IMS road course debut this weekend, but the other five are all Verizon IndyCar Series rookies. Someone with the Canadian’s Indy car seasoning isn’t usually facing a circuit for the first time.
So the 42-year-old absorbed as much information as he could from Colliver, AJ Foyt Racing teammate Jack Hawksworth, team technical director Don Halliday and Hawksworth’s engineer Daniele Cucchiaroni on the walk. Among other things, they discussed braking points, how much curbing to use, surface changes and what turns are best to sacrifice time in order to make it up in succeeding turns.
“It’s really an interesting track,” said Tagliani, whose lone Indy car win came on the Road America road course in 2004. “It has some really technical bits and other places are pretty straight-forward. The biggest challenge for me is to get back into feeling what an Indy car is and just try to extract every tenth of a second of time that’s in the car.”
Colliver, who has been Tagliani’s engineer in two past Indianapolis 500s, said it is pivotal to get an up-close look at a circuit to learn its nuances.
“On a smooth track like this, you’re looking to see how much curb you can use, whether that’s going to affect car ride height,” Colliver said. “You’re looking for any camber in the track that’s not obvious when you’re just looking on a map. There was a lot more camber in Turn 1 than I would have realized.
“So you figure out when you’re looking at the data and briefing the driver, is that something that could be affecting the balance (of the car). … It just helps you get in tune more with what the driver is describing the car doing.”
Tagliani hasn’t driven an Indy car since the 2015 Indianapolis 500, when he was again a third Foyt entry. He and his crew are using the grand prix as a dress rehearsal for the historic 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil later in the month.
“If we’re competitive, it would be great, but I don’t want to put too much pressure on the whole thing,” he said. “As long as we put ourselves in a good position to do well in the race, we’ll be good.
“The 100th running is the race that we’ve put a lot of effort into. It’s important for everyone to have a chance to practice and work as a team and get chemistry going (during the grand prix weekend). What better than to do it on a race weekend when it counts.”
Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud, who has won the last two Verizon IndyCar Series race this season and was victorious in the first Angie’s List Grand Prix in 2014, takes a 48-point championship lead into the race weekend. Reigning series champion Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing is second in the standings. Team Penske’s Will Power won the Angie’s List Grand Prix from the pole last year. A season-high 25 cars are entered this weekend.
Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis fast facts:
• Race 5 of 16 in the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season. This is the third Verizon IndyCar Series race on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn permanent road course.
• Race distance: 82 laps/200 miles.
• Track record: Will Power in Firestone Fast Six qualifying, May 8, 2015 (1 minute, 9.4886 seconds/126.357 mph).
• Tickets and event information: www.ims.com/tickets
• Twitter: @IMS, #GpofIndy; @IndyCar, #IndyCar
• TV: ABC will televise the race live Saturday, beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET. Allen Bestwick is the play-by-play announcer alongside analysts Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear. Pit reporters are Rick DeBruhl, Dr. Jerry Punch and Jon Beekhuis.
• Radio: The Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network is led by chief announcer Mark Jaynes, with booth analyst Davey Hamilton. All Verizon IndyCar Series races are broadcast live on network affiliates, Sirius 212, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app. Qualifying broadcasts are available on Sirius 212, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app. Practice sessions are on IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.
• Video streaming: All practice sessions and qualifying will stream live at RaceControl.IndyCar.com. Live timing and scoring for all weekend sessions is available at the same site.
• Fantasy league: The #INDYRIVALS Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone allows fans to become a team manager by fielding a four-driver lineup for each Verizon IndyCar Series race, with a stockpile of prizes on the line each week. Sign up today at fantasy.indycar.com.