Alex Tagliani claimed his first win in the Champ Car World Series by leading home the field at the Grand Prix of Road America.
Starting from a lowly thirteenth on the grid, the Rocketsports Racing driver used shrewd pit strategy, a strong race car and a bit of luck, to finally claim victory in his 85th race.
“I feel good,” a delighted Tagliani said afterwards. “I mean, this is a race that I really led in 2000. It was not easy. The last six laps after the restart, I was kind of worried a little bit. And I was not going to just think that it was going to be easy until I saw the white flag. Maybe, you know, today honestly we got a little bit lucky with the way the yellow turned out in the race. But many races this year we were unlucky. I think today all the ingredients were there.”
The Canadian finished ahead of Rodolfo Lavin with series leader Sebastien Bourdais completing the podium to extend his lead at the top of the standings.
The action started as soon as the green flag dropped, with the first seven drivers on the starting grid using the push-to-pass going into the first turn. Everyone got through the first turn cleanly but two of the pre-race favorites failed to complete the entire lap as Jimmy Vasser and Ryan Hunter-Reay tangled in turn twelve, knocking them both out of contention.
Series points leader Sebastien Bourdais led the field back to the restart where his Newman/Haas Racing teammate Bruno Junqueira joined him in building a two-second lead on the field. However that lead vanished when Roberto Gonzalez spun, on lap eleven.
At that point, Tagliani led a group of five cars that made the first of their three mandatory green-flag pit stops on lap 15, gambling that a yellow flag would bunch the field back up and leave them one fuel stop ahead of the rest of the field.
The gamble paid off just two laps later when Junqueira spun while trying to wrest third place from Junqueira, as the duo had been passed by a pair of cars on the restart.
Tagliani in took the lead for the first time on lap 23 as the rest of the field made their first stops, but gave it back to Paul Tracy when he took his second stop on lap 30. He retook the lead again on lap 37 when the remainder of the field made their second stops, then made his final fuel run three laps later.