Alex Tagliani is everywhere.
While the NASCAR Pinty’s Series includes no shortage of marquee personalities, the 46-year-old Quebecois stands out above the rest. Sure, his name recognition due to 15 years spent in IndyCar goes a long way, but Tagliani’s continued racing career depends on his continued availability.
Tagliani has never met a sponsorship appearance or media request that he didn’t like.
So naturally, Tagliani spent over eight hours speaking to every media outlet on Tuesday at the Salon International de l’Auto de Québec about a sponsorship package that welcomed Tristan Fleet Management and Andy Transport to Pfizer Viagra, RONA and St. Hubert.
The 2011 Indianapolis 500 pole winner will be equally busy from May to September — speaking to television stations from Quebec to Alberta to promote upcoming races.
So true to form for a racer accustomed to driving well over 230 mph, Tagliani doesn’t know how to slow down.
“In hindsight, I probably should have moved to the (Indy Racing League) during the split because I wasn’t able to build longevity with any team once Champ Car collapsed,” Tagliani told Short Track Scene on Tuesday afternoon. “So, I quickly learned that if I wanted to extend my career, I needed to do everything I can for my sponsors.
“That’s the only way to continue with my passions of driving a race car. I don’t want to have any regrets going to bed one night without a ride and wondering if I could have done more. I feel content and fulfilled. I feel like I can still get the job done behind the wheel. In 2017, I fully committed to NASCAR in Canada and finished second in the championship, I’m passionate about the sport. I love what I do.”
There were setbacks last year, however.
Tagliani and crew chief Tyler Case struggled on the short tracks, winning once on the Streets of Toronto, but posting a 6.3 average on the ovals — well below the 4.0 that is usually required to win the NASCAR Pinty’s Series championship.
And then a heart virus, myocarditis, prevented him from racing in the final three races of the season.
For those not familiar with the condition, the Myocarditis Foundation defines it as a disease “that causes inflammation of the heart muscle. This inflammation enlarges and weakens the heart, creates scar tissue and forces it to work harder to circulate blood and oxygen throughout the body.”
Tagliani has completely recovered from the health scare and expects no additional recurrences. He hopes to say the same of the oval challenges from last summer that kept him out of the championship conversation.
“That was a wake-up call for us,” Tagliani said. “When Scott (Steckly) and Alex (Guenette) jumped in the car, it validated a lot of things I was feeling. Did we do enough to overcome it? I don’t know. You never know until you take the green flag. I do know that everyone has worked hard over the off-season to figure it out.
“In 2016, we had a badass season on ovals … and it went away in 2017. Why? I can’t tell you. We know we have work to do and I have faith we have the best people to figure it out.”
Armed with a clean bill of health and an extensive list of sponsors, Tagliani is excited for May 17 and the start of the 2020 season at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Bowmanville, Ontario.
And while capturing that elusive first NASCAR championship is a motivation; it isn’t the primary driving force at this stage of his career. Tagliani doesn’t need any additional hardware to validate his existence. He already has a widely impressive resume and is beloved by his countrymen.
He is first and foremost a family man.
Everything else is lagniappe – something else in French.
“Of course, I want to win the championship,” Tagliani said. “Every week I want to win. I want to perform at the highest level. But I’m not going to jump off a bridge if I don’t win the championship.
“It is one of the things that motivates me. I want to win it for my team. But I have other motivations too. During the winter, when we’re not racing, I wake up every morning excited to sell sponsorships and do the things I need to keep racing.
“Last is the performance. I’ll keep doing this as long as I feel like I belong. I’m happy. I’m confident. Ovals and road courses. Last year, during that qualifying lap at Toronto, driving on the edge, I knew I belonged. Third place at Riverside with a car that wasn’t driving well, I felt like I belonged. I’m still not too shabby, you know?”