Dan Wheldon apologized for the error that ended Alex Tagliani and the new FAZZT team's excellent IndyCar debut in Sao Paulo yesterday, and also disrupted Tony Kanaan's race.
Tagliani had qualified on the front row for his new squad and was fighting for a top three place when Wheldon slid into the back of him at the end of the long back straight – pushing the FAZZT Dallara into Kanaan's Andretti Autosport car. Tagliani had to retire on the spot, while Kanaan fought back to 10th after repairs. Wheldon went on to finish fifth.
"I have to apologize for taking Tag and TK out of the race," said Wheldon. "Tag had a bit of a bobble coming onto the straight and I got a really good run; he defended a little bit and I was going to look to the inside, but decided to pull in just a touch, and when I braked I hit a really big bump and it just lifted my front wheels off the ground. When that happens you can't stop."
Tagliani remained upbeat despite the incident, and was delighted with the form his team had displayed in Brazil. "We definitely came here and showed what we can do but it's always a shame to finish like this especially when it's out of your control and it's a race incident that could have been avoided," he said. "I'm a little bit bummed out but I'm also relieved that we came here to our first race and we were on the front row. That is a huge accomplishment for everyone and a good tribute to all the work everybody has done.
"We are anxious to go back and race again because we know we can do it and I think we will be pretty strong on the road and street courses like St. Petersburg, Barber, and Long Beach."
Kanaan was also frustrated but accepted Wheldon's apology. "Unfortunately, we had to pay for the mistakes of others," said the Brazilian. "It happens. I don't think it was on purpose and I believe I've made mistakes like that before. It's a shame it had to happen here in Brazil, in my hometown."
While contrite over the tangle, Wheldon was also thrilled that he had been able to start the 2010 season with a strong result for his Panther team.
"If we keep coming in the top five we're going to break into Victory Lane," he said. "We were really strong today – the car was really nice to drive and I was able to dive down inside people."