Wheldon to replace Tagliani? UPDATE To prepare for his high-stakes race on Oct. 16, Dan Wheldon will compete in the Kentucky Indy 300 on Oct. 2.
Some might call it a rehearsal or a refresher, but the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion sees it as another opportunity to beat the best on the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway oval. He's receiving an assist from team owner Sam Schmidt and IZOD IndyCar Series driver Alex Tagliani.
Wheldon will drive the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins at Magnolia entry for Sam Schmidt Motorsports -- the car that Tagliani has driven in 15 events this season, including earning the pole for the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500.
"I can't thank Alex enough for letting me drive his car in Kentucky and to work with the team in preparation for Las Vegas," Wheldon said. "I know when I step into the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins at Magnolia Honda, I'll be stepping into a fast race car that's capable of winning. As a driver, that's all you can ask for. I'm really excited about this opportunity and look forward to working with everyone at Sam's team. They were a large part of our winning effort in May, and I'll do my best to get back to Victory Lane."
Wheldon will compete in the $5 million Go Daddy INDYCAR Challenge -- a race within the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships Presented by Honda race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 16. Win from the rear of the field in a car jointly entered by Sam Schmidt Motorsports and Bryan Herta Auutosport and he'll split the prize fund with a sweepstakes winner.
He has five top-five finishes in eight starts at Kentucky Speedway, starting and finishing third in 2010.
"I am incredibly excited to have Dan Wheldon driving the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins at Magnolia car at Kentucky," Schmidt said. "Clearly, this is an amazing opportunity for our team and sponsors. We are putting as much energy and resources into winning the Go Daddy INDYCAR Challenge as we did for the Indy 500 with the intent of making one lucky fan an instant millionaire and capping off a great rookie season for SSM.
"I also appreciate Tag's support of this program. Being a race car driver myself, it would be extremely difficult to step out of a car I helped develop, but Alex is a true professional and team player in our pursuit to win this prize."
Tagliani has three top-five and six top-10 finishes to go along with two PEAK Performance Pole Awards.
"I'm obviously not happy about sitting out Kentucky, but this is a very exciting opportunity," Tagliani said. "Dan and I are good friends, and I'm very jealous that he gets to run for the $5 million. But I fully support what INDYCAR has done to generate fan interest and will do everything I can to help the SSM team run Dan in Kentucky and prepare for the Go Daddy Challenge.
"I'm out to win the Vegas race, as well, and won't back off one bit, so Dan will be on his own when the green flag drops."
09/25/11 Rumor has it that Sam Schmidt Motorsports will put Dan Wheldon in the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins car for the upcoming Kentucky. Not sure what this means for Alex Tagliani if true,