After years focusing on Indy cars, Tagliani is ready to try something new. (LAT photo)
It's too early to say where veteran Indy car driver Alex Tagliani will be racing on a full-time basis next year, but if you're a fan of the French-Canadian ace and want to see him drive in-person, it's worth keeping an eye on the upcoming United SportsCar Championship schedule.
With the better part of two decades invested in open-wheel racing – from his early days in junior formula cars to his most recent stint in the IndyCar Series – the 39-year old has become a fixture in the open-wheel paddock; but after an unexpected split with the Barracuda Racing IndyCar team prior to the Mid-Ohio round in early August, Tagliani has found a new lease on life in sports car racing.
After being drafted into the R. Ferri/Aim Autosport Ferrari Grand-Am Rolex GT team (ABOVE) at Kansas on Aug. 17, Tagliani was brought back for the recent round at Monterey and will complete the season at Lime Rock later this month. The short sports car off-season could see Tagliani shifting his attention toward a complete career reboot – one with a roof over his head – in the new United SportsCar Championship, and if that comes to pass, the 2011 Indy 500 polesitter would be at peace with the decision.
“The IndyCar possibilities for next year are with the usual suspects; those rides are out there for anyone to grab for people who have the money to bring,” he said in a RACER exclusive. “What became very interesting for me, once I started doing sports car racing, is that a lot of doors opened up. I had three, four calls come in right away and more over the past couple of weeks to do sports cars and I'm really liking that. There's a good effort going on there in the [USCC], and you know how it is in IndyCar.
“Drivers today need to find money to race, a lot of money, and you have to be a driver, a sponsor hunter, out trying to promote yourself to find more money and all of these things just to keep yourself in IndyCar. That's what the last few years have been like for me, and I'll be really honest when I say that what happened with [Barracuda Racing], in terms of my career, was probably a blessing in disguise. As that door closed, a whole bunch of them have opened up for me and that wouldn't have been the case if I was still running [in IndyCar] today.”
Tagliani has forged deep ties with Ferrari North America in a short time period, and it's believed he could be in the Prancing Horse's plans for 2014, but there could be other opportunities to consider.
“I think showing up and putting the Ferrari on the pole for my first race at Kansas demonstrated that I haven't lost a step and that I can adapt very quickly to new cars; it has done nothing but help me,” he continued. “I love driving the Ferrari and the team is excellent – a championship team, but I've also had some other interesting developments come my way in sports cars – one that might shock people – that could dictate where I end up racing next year. I can't say anything about it, but if it happens, it would be a huge thing for me personally and for my career.”
As a professional driver without a long-term contract, Tagliani is ready to shift his attention to sports car racing, but if those options fall through, a return to IndyCar and possibly taking in select NASCAR Nationwide series events could happen.
“Open-wheel is where I'm from, but when curveballs like this come that I've had this year, sometimes it's smarter to look at what's the best way to keep going,” he said. “I never want to turn by back on IndyCar; I'd like to do the Indy 500 each year because I know I can do a good job for a good team, and I still have some options to drive there full time, but if I can make it happen, I think sports cars is the way to go. That would be my choice. Right now, I don't control all of these things so it's a little bit of wait-and-see.
“The best thing I can say is that I'm in a really good place in my life right now. I'm loving driving sports cars, it's a lot of fun for me, and I'm really trying to concentrate on doing what's best for me for the next five or 10 years. I'm trying to be a ‘big picture' guy and it has changed how I view things. I'd rather go after the best opportunities that will let me have real success than just go after whatever the best [IndyCar] seat is left, you know? I'm committed to sticking to this, and I'm truly excited about where things could be heading for me.”