It was a common theme among IZOD IndyCar Series drivers that racing in Japan was more than just a race. They were there to provide entertainment, escape and support for the people of Japan, especially those from the region just north of the Twin Ring Motegi motorsports facility, who have endured much since the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March.
For Sam Schmidt Motorsports' Alex Tagliani, the "Indy Japan: The Final" was also an opportunity to provide a lift to all the team members and employees of Sam Schmidt Motorsports. The same day that the team's Firestone Indy Lights team manager Chris Griffis was buried in Akron, Ind., having passed away last week, Tagliani did his job in Japan.
After starting 15th, the oldest regular driver in the IZOD IndyCar Series drove an inspiring race to finish fourth. The result matched Tagliani's fourth-place finish in June at Texas, the highest for an SSM entry in the IndyCar series this year.
"It was a good race for the Sam Schmidt Bowers and Wilkins team and it was a great team effort," said Tagliani. "Chris was very close to Sam and ran the operation for Sam for everything before the IndyCar team was started. We know how close Sam and Chris were and how devastated Sam is, so it's great that we could give him a finish like this to be excited about."