Conquest picks up Tagliani for St. Pete & LB UPDATE Alex Tagliani isn’t thinking about any podium finish this weekend; he’s just happy he’ll even be racing in the opening event of the IndyCar Series. He’ll be driving Conquest Racing’s No. 34 car thanks to the sponsorship agreement reached with Northlands and the Rexall Edmonton Indy.
The agreement, formally announced on Wednesday, will see Tagliani drive in the first races of the series — this weekend in St. Petersburg, Fla., and the following weekend in Long Beach, Calif. Any races after that — other than the Rexall Edmonton Indy July 24-26 — will be dependent on his ability to perform in the first two events and to attract enough additional sponsorship to get a ride for the rest of the 17-race IndyCar schedule.
The 36-year-old Tagliani said there are additional sponsors who are close to signing up and that racing the next two weekends “is to give us the extra time we need to close some upcoming deals for the rest of the season.”
Drivers normally need between $4 million and $5 million in sponsorship to secure a ride in IndyCar although Tagliani said there are some programs, like IndyCar’s Winners Circle, that reduce the costs so that “with three to four million you’re definitely in a car for the whole season.”
Neither he nor Northlands officials would talk figures when it came to their agreement.
“I can’t talk about specific investments,” said Mike Burton, director of major events for Northlands that last year sponsored Toronto driver Paul Tracy (at a reported cost of $250,000) for the Edmonton event. “We did a lot of due diligence to ensure this was something that was going to be a wise investment for us. We really believe we’re going to get excellent return on our investment.
“We are projecting we will probably still have a $1.5 million deficit after this year and we think that’s pretty good when you consider the economic impact (to the area) is in the $80-million range.”
Tagliani, who had one victory and 14 podium finishes in his seven-year Champ Car career, said it’s “difficult to explain the ins and out of the program . . . mostly what we want is to make Alberta and the Edmonton race benefit from this package.”
Burton said Northlands sees a huge upside in having Tagliani race in Edmonton and other IndyCar events, noting the Indy Racing League suggests there’s a worldwide audience of some 350 million homes in more than 180 countries for their events.
Tagliani will go into this weekend’s qualifying with no testing time in the car, but he did drive it twice last year for Conquest.
“I wish I could be thinking about finishing on the podium, but the last time I was in that car was October in Australia (he finished fourth) so jumping cold into that car Friday will be discovering everything all over again,” Tagliani said via satellite from his home in Las Vegas.
“Now I have to get back into driver mode but it’s a great feeling to know all the hard work we did in the winter is now playing off and slowly I’m going to put on my race suit and my race shoes and just think about driving.’’
“It’s not the perfect scenario, to jump into a car cold without testing, but we overcame some pretty difficult times last year . . . so we feel there are so many more things to come in 2009 that it’s a small sacrifice to start the season with being a little late,” Tagliani added.
Tagliani said his biggest immediate challenge was to get come down off the day’s high and get some sleep, absorb all that’s happened in the last couple of weeks as he negotiated this agreement and then do what’s necessary to “get the Edmonton race to be the second-biggest race on the IndyCar schedule.” Edmonton Journal04/01/09 Conquest Racing announced today that it has signed a partnership agreement with Northlands that will see the Edmonton-based organization and one of its signature events, the Rexall Edmonton Indy, become the primary sponsor of the #34 Conquest Racing car for this weekend’s season opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The team also confirmed that Canadian fan favorite Alex Tagliani, will be back behind the wheel of the Conquest car for the first race of the 2009 season.
“Northlands is thrilled to be riding in the passenger seat beside Alex Tagliani as we kick off the 2009 IndyCar Series,” said Ken Knowles, Northlands President. “As one of Canada’s most successful open wheel drivers, we know that Alex and Conquest Racing will be a force to be reckoned with and an exciting addition to the Rexall Edmonton Indy from July 24-26.”
Conquest Racing Team Owner Eric Bachelart added: “We’re extremely pleased with the partnership that we have formed with Northlands and the Rexall Edmonton Indy. Northlands has done an amazing job with all their events in Edmonton, and we’re proud to be able to help them promote their race and to have them on board as we start the season.
“We’re also very excited to have Alex back in the car this weekend. He helped us demonstrate our potential at the end of last season, and we look to build on that this week. He’s a pleasure to work with and everyone on the team is happy to have him back. Alex is not only good with the racing side of the business, but he is also a great ambassador for any sponsor, and being the only Canadian in the Series, he is a perfect fit for an organization such as Northlands.”
While coming in at the last minute is not the ideal scenario, Alex Tagliani proved last season, when he joined Conquest Racing, that he was up to the task. In his first race aboard a Dallara Indy car at Detroit, he registered one of the fastest race laps and he followed that up by giving the team its best finish of the season with a fourth place at the non-points paying race at Surfers Paradise, Australia. Despite not having accumulated any testing miles during the off-season, the affable Canadian couldn’t be happier to find himself behind the wheel of the Conquest car again.
“It’s great to be going to the first race of the season,” said Tagliani. “I’d like to thank Eric for giving me the opportunity to come back with the team, and Ian McGillivray at Oomph! Events who has been helping the team and me with our sponsorship hunt. Of course, a big thank you goes out to Northlands for believing in and supporting our program which once finalized with other players will reinforce Edmonton, Alberta’s ties with racing. Northlands has put together a very successful race in Edmonton, and as a Canadian I’m honored to be able to help them promote their event and city, and what better way to do it than using the perfect plateau that is the IndyCar Series.
“It’s been a pretty crazy winter and I’m happy to be getting back behind the wheel of a race car this weekend. I had an excellent experience with the team last year and I’m looking forward to continue what we started last season.”
Conquest Racing will be on track Friday morning with the first practice session of the season at 10:45 a.m. Qualifications for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg take place Saturday at 10:50 a.m. with the race going green Sunday, April 6 at 2:45 p.m. (all times eastern). The race will be broadcast live on Versus starting at 2:00 p.m. eastern time.