Tagliani to replace Bernoldi? UPDATE #4 There's a very real possibility that Paul Tracy won't be the only "new" Canadian in the field when they throw the green flag at Saturday's Indy IRL race in Edmonton.
Alex Tagliani is ready, willing and able to take over the second seat at Conquest Racing from ex-F1 pilot Enrique Bernoldi. All he needs is the nod from Conquest owner Eric Bachelart.
"You have not been hearing rumors," Tagliani said in a telephone interview from his Las Vegas home last Thursday.
"There have been inquiries" about his availability and what's really interesting is that Tagliani could wind up doing double duty in Edmonton: as well as an Indy car assignment, he would still take his regular turn as a driver for the Dave Jacombs team in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race that will precede the main event.
Tagliani is one of several Champ Car drivers who weren't able to land a ride when the unification deal with the Indy Racing League went down last winter.
"I don't know if it will be the next race, or the one after that," Tagliani said of his chances at Conquest. "I've had some calls and I would definitely love to get back in an open-wheel car. But it's up to Bachelart."
Tagliani said the merger came together so quickly that some teams had deals with drivers who weren't able to adapt to the IRL.
"There are a lot of ovals as well as road courses," he said, "and teams need drivers who can do both. A lot of them can't, but I can. I've proved that many times in the past. When I was in Long Beach, I thought: `Hey, I'm quick — I belong here.'
"I've paid my dues. I helped all the teams I was with. I was on the podium 14 times, I had four poles and I won a race. I have a good record. I have the intensity and the passion to continue and I just have to get the chance."
Meantime, Tagliani says he's having a ball in NASCAR.
"I'm quite surprised that I'm having as good a time as I'm having," he said. "It's very different but very challenging. The biggest difference is the weight of the car and that means you have longer braking distances. And you have to apply yourself 100 per cent. You always have to be alert."
"I can tell you this: this is not like going from the NHL to some minor league somewhere," Tagliani said. "NASCAR is totally different from open wheel and the challenge is every bit as great.
"In fact, if I got back in open wheel and there was no conflict in the schedule, I would still like to continue to do the big races in NASCAR — at Montreal and Trois Rivières and Mosport. I would still like to keep a foot in the door (in NASCAR). Toronto Star07/18/08 This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' today. There has been talk of Alex Tagliani replacing Enrique Bernoldi on Conquest Racing's Indy Car team, but team owner Eric Bachelart said talk is all it has been.
"I have a contract with my drivers," said Bachelart, who will field Bernoldi and rookie Jaime Camara this weekend. "Alex has obviously been speaking to the press (about driving for the team) because I haven't spoken with him. All he's done is leave me a voice mail."
Bachelart acknowledged this season has been difficult for the Indianapolis-based organization blindsided by unification. Before the Feb. 22 announcement, the team had purchased new cars and was prepping for the Champ Car season.
The transition has been made more difficult by an Australian sponsor that has financial problems and two drivers new to the series. Camara was in the Firestone Indy Lights the past three seasons.
"We're a new team to start with and we have two drivers who right now aren't able to give us the feedback we need," Bachelart said. Indy Star 07/15/08 Today's announcement will be for the Paul Tracy deal at Vision Racing, not Tagliani replacing Bernoldi.
07/14/08 The IRL has announced that a current IndyCar Series team is preparing to make a notable announcement Tuesday regarding the addition of a driver and sponsor in anticipation of the Rexall Edmonton Indy on July 26, 2008. There will be an IndyCar Series team driver, sponsor and partnership announcement. Present will be a IndyCar Series team owner, a notable IndyCar driver, and Mark Bamford Rexall Edmonton Indy /Northlands Vice President of Finance. Could this be the Alex Tagliani announcement or the rumored Paul Tracy announcement?
07/14/08 Former Formula One driver Enrique Bernoldi might not be long for IndyCar racing after he packed his bags and nearly quit Conquest Racing following the July 6 race at Watkins Glen.
Bernoldi said he "needed to get his laundry done," but he's tired of struggling with a team making the transition to the series from Champ Car.
"I'm not 20 years old anymore," he said at Nashville. "I've been to Formula One. I'm not here to be a number."
Team owner Eric Bachelart wasn't happy with the way Bernoldi reacted in the aftermath of contact at Watkins Glen with teammate Jaime Camara, a rookie at this level. Bernoldi said he hurt his back in the impact that registered 58 gs when he hit the ground after getting airborne.
Speculation centers on Bernoldi, who is 20th in points, being replaced by Alex Tagliani. AutoWeek