Though the final IZOD IndyCar Series box score for the Iowa Corn Indy 250 will show Alex Tagliani finishing in 16th place and one lap behind the leaders, there were smiles in the Sam Schmidt Motorsports pit box at the end of Saturday night’s race at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa.
After three consecutive oval races that saw Tagliani battling handling problems with his No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins Dallara/Honda/Firestone car, the Canadian driver was excited about the performance of his car and its ability to be competitive.
After starting 15th, the Canadian had raced his way up to sixth place and had just recorded the fastest lap of the race (18.0958 seconds at 177.853 mph), when he came to the pits for a routine pit stop on lap 181 of the 250-lap race. Even with a small wing adjustment, he was quickly back in the race.
As other teams began making green flag pit stops, the team expected Tagliani to recycle back into sixth place. However, a yellow flag came out on lap 184 when pole-sitter Takuma Sato crashed hard exiting turn two. Because Tagliani pitted under a green flag, he was one lap down to a majority of the field that were allowed to pit under the caution flag for Sato’s crash.
Once the race turned green again, Tagliani’s car soon developed a fuel pressure problem that resulted in a sporadic misfire. He was able to pass a few cars in the final 40 laps, but he had to settle for a 16th-place finish.
“I’m very proud of the team and the engineering group,” said Tagliani in his pit stall after the race. “The Bowers & Wilkins group gave me a great car. It was unfortunate that the yellow flag killed us. The car was very, very fast. I think I had one of the fastest laps in the race. It’s unfortunate because also later on in the race we developed a fuel pickup problem. I couldn’t believe how fast we were even with the misfire. This result tonight doesn’t really do justice to how fast this car was tonight.”
Team leaders attributed changes made to the car this weekend to Tagliani’s strong performance in the race. Despite crashing in the final practice session Friday night with KV Racing’s Takuma Sato, the Canadian still had a fast car in the race.
“A couple of the changes we made in last night’s practice session were really good changes, and Alex was really happy with it before he and Sato had their snafu,” said SSM team manager Rob Edwards after the race. “It’s a credit to all the guys that we got the car rebuilt and it was right where it was the night before.”
The fans at Iowa Speedway were treated to an exciting race Saturday night that featured a duel between Andretti Autosports’ Marco Andretti and KV Racing’s Tony Kanaan over the final 50 laps. The former teammates swapped the lead several times before Andretti took the lead for good on lap 236 of the 250-lap race.
The win was Andretti’s first since winning at Infineon Raceway in 2006 nearly 80 races ago. It is his only oval win. The victory also gave Andretti Autoport its 38th win in IndyCar competition.
Kanaan held off a charging Scott Dixon for second place. Dixon, Panther Racing’s rookie JR Hildebrand and Dixon’s Ganassi Racing teammate Dario Franchitti rounded out the top-five.
With eight of the 17 races complete, Tagliani is 10th in the championship standings with 161 points.
Team Penske driver Will Power, who entered the race tied with Franchitti in the IZOD IndyCar Series point championship, crashed hard in turn two in a single-car incident. He was checked and released from the infield care center. With Power’s crash and Franchitti’s top-five finish, Franchitti takes control of the points race with 303 to Power’s 283.
The next IZOD IndyCar Series event is the Honda Indy Toronto on the Streets of Toronto on Sunday, July 10. The race starts at 2 p.m. ET with TV coverage provided by Versus.
Date: June 25, 2011
Event: Iowa Corn Indy 250 (Round 8 of 17)
Series: IZOD IndyCar Series
Location: Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa (.875-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 15th/16th (Running, completed 249 of 250 laps)
Winner: Marco Andretti of Andretti Autosport