IRL CEO Randy Bernard has been telling anyone who will listen that his main priority is to turn the drivers of the IZOD IndyCar series into superstars, and aside from bikini pictorials or dance contests one of the better ways to make drivers more interesting is to have them form a solid, blood-thirsty rivalry. Think of Castroneves and Kanaan banging wheels, or Milka and Danica exchanging pleasantries, or Moraes and Marco having first-lap carbon fiber shredding festivals.
A rivalry doesn't necessarily matter if drivers are equal in skill or stature in the league. It requires that someone be mad, and that they go public with their anger so we know that we should be looking for something interesting in subsequent races. And friends, Alex Tagliani is mad.
As you might recall, Tagliani was tangled up with Tony Kanaan on Sunday as the two battled near the front of the pack, ending Alex's day and sending Kanaan to the back of the field. Replays though showed that the accident was caused when Dan Wheldon give Tags the chrome horn, which worked out for Dan since he finished in 5th. Perhaps because he inadvertently took out his longtime buddy Kanaan, Dan was rather apologetic for the whole incident.
“It’s really great for all of us at Panther Racing to start the season with a Top Five, but first I have to apologize for taking Tag (Alex Tagliani) and TK (Tony Kanaan) out of the race,” Wheldon said. “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.”Wheldon even apologized to Tagliani in person after the race, which seemed to be the end of it all until...
Wheldon immediately claimed responsibility for the accident on the radio, and adamantly apologized to the crews of both drivers after the race.
"He comes to me at the airport, apologizes and says, 'Oh, I'm sorry. I hit a bump and locked up and slid into you,’” Tagliani said in a phone interview with the CP. "And I said 'OK. No problem. You're OK. Thank you.' And I shake his hand. Everything's good. And then I come to Indy and I watch the replay and it's [Baloney Sandwich]. I'm not happy."But wait, there's more. Act now and you'll also receive this special "you lie to my face" quote.
"I watched the replay. I'm not stupid. You bump me off the road. You hit me. You crash my car and then you lie to my face?" said Tagliani in a phone interview Tuesday from Indianapolis. "He (Wheldon) created a massive incident early in the race.As the kids today like to say, it's on like Donkey Kong. For the forensically inclined members of the viewing audience you can skip to around the 4:20 mark of the video below and review it as you would the Zapruder film.
"I appreciate the fact he went to see our (crew) guys (to apologize), but the reasoning behind his excuse is total crap."
And while you try to determine Dan's actual braking point - which does appear to be after he gives Alex the heave ho - remember that once upon a time Alex had an epic throwdown with Paul Tracy (meaning Alex got thrown down by Tracy) over a similar incident on a street course.
I figure the odds of two well-coiffed drivers like Alex and Dan ever actually getting into a fight are roughly equivalent to Milka Duno winning an IndyCar race, but if they do surprise us and break into fisticuffs hopefully they both act like
(Thanks to Chris Estrada for bringing this to our attention.)