Tagliani finds happy place, speed in NASCAR

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 25, 2014 at 4:06 pm •  Published: June 25, 2014
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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (AP) — An accomplished veteran in open-wheel racing, Alex Tagliani probably could find a full-time ride in the IndyCar series if he wanted it badly enough.

So what's he doing driving stock cars?

Having the time of his life, apparently.

"You need to throw some challenges into your life, into your career," Tagliani said. "If not, it gets boring. For me, when I drive a stock car, it doesn't come natural. It takes a lot of control. So when I get out of the car, I feel like I want more. Maybe that's what keeps the spark in you to be in love with what you do."

Tagliani, a 40-year-old native of Montreal who made his name in Indy-style racing -- he won the pole position for the 2011 Indianapolis 500 -- is driving two road courses for Team Penske in the NASCAR Nationwide series this season.

He dominated much of a rain-soaked race at Road America last weekend, only to run out of gas near the end; he refueled and made a mad charge to a second-place finish in a green-white-checker overtime. He'll drive again for Penske at Mid-Ohio in August.

Beyond that, Tagliani is racing in the relative obscurity of the Canadian Tire series, NASCAR's humble attempt to establish a foothold for stock car racing north of the border. He's also doing some sports car racing.

He did drive in the Indianapolis 500 in May, finishing 13th, but he has very little desire to pursue a full-time IndyCar ride at this point in his career. Backing away from IndyCar has largely freed him from the money-fueled politics that frustrated him.

"The Indianapolis 500 is a huge event," Tagliani said. "But running an Indy car for a full season, there's a price to pay, and I was not willing to continue to pay that price this year."

When Tagliani says there's a price to pay, he's being literal; unlike other sports, where teams draft and sign the best players they can, talent is only one factor in determining who gets hired by a particular team in auto racing.

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