Alex Tagliani And Hedeki Mutoh May Contend For Pole

SPEEDWAY,IN: A couple of surprising things happened Wednesday at Indy during practice for the 2010 Race; Surprising Thing #1: Alex Tagliani; Surprising Thing #2: Hedeki Mutoh!

The Speedway opened promptly at noon for business and, within the first hour of running, the unlikely pair were safely second and third on the speed chart behind the very hooked-up Scott Dixon; Tagliani turning a lap of 226.002 MPH, with Mutoh hot on his heels, with a speed of 225.926 MPH. Was it possible that the mighty Target Chip Ganassi and Team Penske entries were going to get a serious challenge for the Pole Position on Saturday?

I doesn’t seem that many experts were counting on much of a presence from CART refugee Alex Tagliani and his brand new Canada-based FAZZT Race Team. The talented Tagliani began his open-wheel career in the CART series at Homestead in 2000, remaining in CART/Champ Car until the group ran their final event at Long Beach in 2008. Also that year, just before he ran his first Indy Car race at Belle Isle in Detroit, Alex managed to win a NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race in Edmonton.

The real tip off to what Alex might be able to do may have happened in his rookie race here last year, as he charged from dead last starting position into contention, before scoring an 11th place finish. Along the way, Tagliani showed those paying attention that he truly had the right stuff for Indy.

Unless funding is found…quickly…to run Bruno Junqueira in a team car, Tagliani will be a single car entry. Running with the Big Boys SHOULD be a tough assignment. We’ll see…

Hedeki Mutoh, preparing for his third Race, is also running with the handicap of being a one car team…at least, so far. His once mighty Newman-Haas group also hopes to field a second car for veteran Oriel Servia, but time is running out to put a deal together.

But, no matter: popular Hedeki Mutoh seems to have finally found the short way around. The 27 year old was first noticed when he placed third in the 2001 European Formula Ford Championship; finally he landed in the Indy Lites Series, where he finished second in the 2007 standings. This showing led to a Indy Car ride with Andretti-Green, beginning at Homestead in 2008.

Hedeki has shown flashes of genius, especially on ovals, but after today it appears that the always smiling little racer is ready to join the Indy Car front runners. Again, we’ll see…

E.J. Viso talked about his crash May 18 in an impromptu press conference in the KV Racing Technology garage today.

E.J. VISO: “Well, it was pretty late in the day, and I think it was a lot of factors put together. The track was a lot cooler, and we were also running light on rubber and coming through Turn 1. I just lost the rear, and that’s all I remember. I need to thank everybody at the IMS Medical Center. They gave me some big support, and they were very efficient through the whole situation.” (On being cleared to drive and getting back on track): “I’m completely clear, and we’re planning to be on track this evening. We’re going to put some laps in the backup car, and hopefully everything will be good for qualifying this weekend.” (On the state of the car): “We’re focusing on the backup car. I think we’re going to run the backup at least for this month. Everybody on the crew is trying to get the car ready in a couple of hours so that we can get back on track.” (On back pain and how he’s feeling now): “As soon as I hit the wall, I had huge back pain. They took me to the hospital, and they did all sorts of scans and x-rays, and luckily everything was in place. So here I am. Ready to go. I’m a little bit sore but, you know, it’s part of the job.” (On how the effects of the accident): “You think about what happened, and as soon as you know the reason, you learn from it. You just try to take (accident) out of your mind as soon as possible and be on track. It’s a long month, and you don’t want something like this to affect you or your team.”

For the first time in 2010, the teams were able to enjoy a full day of practice. When the gun went off a 6PM, the final speed chart looked loke this:

1 9 Scott Dixon- 226.971 mph
2 6 Ryan Briscoe – 226.633 mph
3 77 Alex Tagliani – 226.002 mph
4 6 Hideki Mutoh – 225.926 mph
5 10 Dario Franchitti – 225.85 mph
6 12 Will Power – 225.703 mph
7 11 Tony Kanaan – 225.66 mph
8 3 Helio Castroneves – 225.563 mph
9 99 Townsend Bell – 224.743 mph
10 32 Mario Moraes – 224.74 mph
11 30 Graham Rahal- 224.65 mph
12 26 Marco Andretti- 224.615 mph
13 20 Ed Carpenter – 224.537 mph
14 21 Davey Hamilton – 224.46 mph
14 Vitor Meira 0.0026 – 224.446 mph
16 22 Justin Wilson- 224.302 mph
17 25 Ana Beatriz – 224.263 mph
18 5 Takuma Sato – 224.255 mph
19 2 Raphael Matos – 224.043 mph
20 43 John Andretti – 223.969 mph
21 7 Danica Patrick – 223.954 mph
22 19 Alex Lloyd – 223.795 mph
23 24 Mike Conway – 223.719 mph
24 78 Simona de Silvestro – 223.657 mph
25 36 Bertrand Baguette – 223.606 mph
26 23 Tomas Scheckter – 223.433 mph
27 29 Sebastian Saavedra – 223.423 mph
28 37 Ryan Hunter-Reay – 223.327 mph
29 66 Jay Howard – 223.3 mph
30 34 Mario Romancini – 222.821 mph
31 4 Dan Wheldon – 222.79 mph
32 41 AJ Foyt IV – 222.029 mph
33 67 Sarah Fisher – 221.874 mph
34 15 Paul Tracy – 221.518 mph
35 18 Milka Duno- 220.548 mph

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