Tagliani thrives when he starts last at Indy 500

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INDIANAPOLIS – For the second time in his Indianapolis 500 career, Alex Tagliani started Sunday’s 100th running at the rear of the 33-car field. And for the second time starting last, the Canadian veteran made up more spots than anyone in the race.

Driving the No. 35 Alfe Heat Treating Special Honda for AJ Foyt Racing, Tagliani improved his position 16 spots from start to finish to wind up 17th. Not quite as good as when he went from 33rd to 11th as an Indy 500 rookie in 2009, but still impressive in the ultra-competitive race that hundreds of on-track passes throughout the field.

After Carb Day (final practice), our car was quite good,” Tagliani said. “I had a really solid car that my AJ Foyt Racing team gave me today. Thanks to all of the guys for their hard work the whole month. I think it was a really fun car to drive today and we got some awesome restarts.”

The start of the race was Tagliani’s best, as he picked up nine spots on the first lap. Going off strategy from the leaders, he led 10 laps midway through the race – the sixth straight year he has led the Indy 500. Tagliani was running eighth – two spots behind eventual winner Alexander Rossi – when he had to make a final stop for fuel on Lap 188, relegating him to the 17-place finish.

“We just never had track position, with a bit of luck on fuel, that we could’ve showcased,” Tagliani said. “When we were up front, we needed to save fuel so we could push, and when we were in the back, we were pushing but we were too trim.

This year was Tagliani’s eighth consecutive Indy 500, including his pole-winning year in 2011. It was his second straight driving for Foyt with sponsorship from Indiana-based Alfe.

“Again, I’m still really happy with the car,” he said. “Thanks to Alfe. I’m really honored to represent the Fort Wayne company here. Given the right circumstances, we could’ve fought for a win today.”

Honda happy with Indy 500 pole and win sweep

Tagliani didn’t come away with the win in the historic race, but Honda officials walked away from Indianapolis 500 competition smiling. With rookie Alexander Rossi winning the epic race after James Hinchcliffe captured the pole position, it marked the first time in five years of Indy 500 manufacturer competition that Honda has claimed both honors in the same year.

Rossi’s win was the third in five tries against its bowtie rival and the 11th for Honda since it first competed at Indy in 1994.

“After dominating the first half of the race, it was gratifying to know that we had enough depth to cover both the fuel economy strategy and the max power strategy (at the finish),” said Art St. Cyr, president of Honda Performance Development. “It makes all the incredibly hard work performed by HPD over the past year worthwhile. Congratulations to Alexander for an incredible performance in his 500 debut.”

Chevrolet did win the first five events of the season and maintains the advantage in the 2016 manufacturers’ championship, with 858 points to 607 points for Honda. Each manufacturer earns points toward the championship from its top three race finishers, plus an additional point for winning the pole position and two points for the manufacturer leading the most laps in a race. Hinchcliffe’s pole at Indy was the first for Honda in 16 races, dating to the first Belle Isle race of 2015.

Manufacturers also earn 10 durability points for each engine that reaches its 10,000-mile life cycle. Chevrolet has had 10 engines “max out” this season, while Honda has had seven. Manufacturers face 20-point deductions for engines that are changed out before achieving their life cycle or undergo a non-minor repair as determined by INDYCAR. At the Indianapolis 500 event, one Chevrolet (No. 9 of Scott Dixon) and three Hondas (No. 7 Mikhail Aleshin, No. 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay and No. 41 Jack Hawksworth) all were changed before reaching the life cycle, resulting in a 20-point deduction for Chevrolet and 60-point deduction for Honda.

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