Tagliani took his future into his own hands
Finding a full-time ride on the Champ Car series and then the IndyCar circuit was an almost annual struggle for driver Alex Tagliani so the 37-year-old Lachenaie, Que., native changed his role so he now has one foot on the gas pedal and one foot in the corporate room.
When Tagliani takes to the downtown airport track for the 2010 Honda Indy Edmonton in July he will do so for the first time as both IndyCar driver and owner after joining with racing veterans Jim Freudenberg, Andre Azzi, Rob Edwards and actor Jason Priestley to form FAZZT racing.
"It's a dream come true and it's not as hard as it sounds because we have an amazing group of people ... so you can just focus on driving," Tagliani said Thursday at a news conference to promote the July 25 Edmonton race.
"It's kind of back to what racing was all about and I'm enjoying it more than ever."
The team was formed last July and after four races on this year's IndyCar schedule Tagliani has two top-10 finishes, one less than he had last year when he had a ride for only six of the 17 races.
"What a difference a year makes," he said. "I'm very fortunate and very happy I didn't give up. It's a tough sport, but when you love it so much you have to keep working at it. We're fortunate now we're investing a lot of our time and our energy into making a pretty good commercial team with some innovative ways of bringing in sponsorship for our team.
"So far it's been working a lot better than we expected."
Coming up with a name for the new team was the easy part. Azzi said he wanted something fast for a name so they combined Freudenberg, Azzi and Tagliani to produce FAZZT. Three of the main partners are Canadians -- Tagliani, Azzi and Priestly.
The hard part, said Tagliani, was getting the team organized, the garage set up and the cars ready to race. They purchased most of their equipment from Roth Racing and spent the first few months in their 25,000-square-foot race shop on the north side of Indianapolis doing inventory, checking parts, setting up the shop and preparing the trailer and equipment.
"We really didn't spend one minute on making the car fast. I was worried we would never be ready for the first race. The guys were all working on material, rebuilding all their air guns and everything you need to go racing. That was the biggest challenge.
"We didn't spend time working on the car until we started testing in January."
By the time they got the opening race in Sao Paulo, Brazil, they were obviously ready as Tagliani qualified in second position. But contact during the race left them finishing 19th. Tagliani was sixth in St. Petersburg, Fla., and 10th in Alabama before more contact left him 21st at Long Beach on April 18.
"I think we have opened a lot of eyes (with their early results)," said Tagliani, who also opened a few eyes on his own last May when he came from back of the pack to finish 11th in the Indianapolis 500 and earn Indy rookie-of-the-year honors. It's a result that likely helped him with the search for sponsors, something he anticipates will be easier now that he's both driver and part owner.
"Winning is not everything. You need performance, but you need a really good setup to attract sponsors. You're not trying to sell a 200-mile-an-hour billboard. You're trying to get business to the people, a lot of programs so they can get value for their investment. It's more work for the team and the drivers.
"You can't think they'll be happy just seeing their name on your car. It's much more complex program and I'm happy I'm involved in the team this year because that's the power we have, we can give to the sponsor a lot more. When you're (just) a driver you're trying to sell yourself and bring money to a team, you're just the passenger and you don't have the freedom to give them the proper package. With what we have it's different, that's why it's working so well." Edmonton Journal