Alex Tagliani capped a stressful month at Indianapolis by emerging from the 93rd running of the 500 with rookie of the year honours and an eleventh place finish.
The Canadian wasn't even in the race after qualifying had concluded with Bump Day, but repaid Conquest racing boss Eric Bachelart's decision to place him the sister car qualified by Bruno Junqueira by coming through the field and claiming the title of best newcomer to the 500.
Whether Tagliani technically qualifies as a true 'rookie', given his extensive open-wheel experience, or deserved the newcomer's honours after Raphael Matos strong run ended in the barriers with Vitor Meira will provide talking points for the rest of the season, but the Canadian was delighted to leave the Brickyard with something to show for his efforts and those of the Conquest crew.
His eleventh place was Conquest's best result at Indianapolis, and the culmination of a rise from 33rd and last as the field rolled off. Undoubtedly aided by the number of retirements - including Matos, who appeared to be on course for a possible top six finish at one point - Tagliani succeeded in keeping the #36 off the walls as he claimed no fewer than 22 scalps on track and in the pits.
“Our day was pretty simple, we just tried to make no mistakes and stay out of trouble and continue to make up ground toward the front," he admitted, "We also tried not to make any mistakes in the pits and that's exactly what we did - the team did a fantastic job and they did really great on the pit-stops.
"Slowly but surely we made our way to the front, and kept leap-frogging other drivers so we got ourselves into P11. It was a really great job and a team effort. I'm very happy for All Sport, Big Red, Rexall Edmonton Indy, King Tut and everybody that helped us this month. To finish this month in front of all of these people is what it's all about.
"I'm very, very happy that I had a chance to participate in this race, but it was unfortunate that we started so far back and had to put quite a bit of downforce on the car because, in the last stint, I felt like maybe a degree less on the rear wing and we would have been able to compete inside the top ten. The car was really, really good, so I guess the consolation was to just win that rookie of the year trophy and show that the team is not only good on road courses, but is also pretty good on ovals now too."