Only a few days after contacting Ryan Hunter-Reay, Barrcuda Racing's Alex Tagliani remains remorseful and regrets the accident – saying Wednesday it was never his intent for the passing attempt into Turn 7 at Sonoma to hit Hunter-Reay's right-rear wheel guard and pitch Andretti Autosport's championship contender into a spin.
“I spoke with him after the race, as I stopped to see him and the guys in the pit lane,” Tagliani said. “I apologized to him again about the incident. I wanted him to take a few minutes to hear my side, because I heard his side first. He had the right to be upset.
“We, as Barracuda Racing and myself, do earn the rights to race against everyone. And our race right now is that we need to be in the Leaders Circle, so try to grab as many points as possible. I don't think it would be fair to the team if I could pass Dario and hold back. I don't think Bryan would be happy. But sometimes, you expose yourself to a mistake.”
Tagliani explained the nature of what happened once he made the move on Franchitti, before the corner.
“I was side by side with Dario, I missed my apex by a foot, and hit his bumper,” he admitted. “In my defense, it's not the first time it happened in the race. It happened to him and other people. It's the first drive-through penalty I've got in a long time. He may have a short memory. He hit Scotty D in Toronto, and Briscoe in Barber last year. Everyone makes a mistake once in a while.
“I will apologize every day I see him until you know that you can move on and understand. That's the only thing I can do. I'm not going to hide behind my mistake. Other than that, I can't do anything else.”
With the new Dallara DW12 this year, while there haven't been too many heavy accidents, there have been several instances where contact between front wings and the rear wheel guards have resulted in scattered debris. Sometimes the front wings have been damaged and in other instances, like at Turn 7, the front wing to rear wheel guard contact has caused spins.
For veterans like Tagliani who've been in a variety of open-wheel cars, the adjustment and perception change has, at times, led to the incidents. There's a smaller margin where in past, some moves could be completed but now the reduced distance with the guards have hindered them.
“Yeah, I mean, like you're saying, you hit it right on the head,” Tagliani admitted. “It must be something to get used to it because I've seen like Dario kind of clip the rear bumper of someone I think in Detroit, broke his front wing by trying to make a pass not on the straightaway without even going down on the braking.
“Yeah, I mean, I can tell you for myself, when I got into Turn 7 in Sonoma, I made it. I thought the corner was good. Then Ryan turned right in front of me. I'm like, (expletive)! I thought it was like a foot. I felt so bad right there. I felt sorry for him. How come did I clip that car?
“Yeah, one of the many things I got surprised with the fact that my nose just clipped his rear bumper. I mean, it's what it is. We have to race with that car. I think it's a safety device that is on the car and is very important for the safety of the driver and everything.
“But it can take you by surprise sometimes. I got caught by it. I paid the price. Same for Ryan.”
Tagliani added he is in the process of renegotiating his contract with the team for next year, and while two cars would always be considered, the team is more likely to stay with one to continue growth after an otherwise impressive second half of the season since switching to Honda engines.