Scott Dixon is the latest in the Target Chip Ganassi Racing camp who acknowledge while it’s not the best of circumstances for Alex Tagliani to be joining the fold, he’s as good as an addition as possible in a last-minute injury replacement scenario for Dario Franchitti.
“As Tag has put out there before, it’s a tough situation, and we would have liked Dario to be here this weekend and in fighting spirits,” Dixon said Thursday in a teleconference. “Dario’s doing OK. He’ll mend well, but obviously can’t race at the moment.”
Tagliani and Dixon – veterans of the IZOD IndyCar Series since 2000 and 2001, respectively, in the CART/Champ Car days – have actually never worked as teammates before. After having seven different teammates in the Target camp from 2002 through 2005, Dixon has had just two – Franchitti and the late Dan Wheldon – since 2006 (this does not count the satellite Ganassi team which Charlie Kimball and others have driven for).
“Tag was a solid choice,” Dixon said. “We don’t have much control in situation like this, but Chip, Mike (Hull) and the rest of the team picked the best guy. I’m great friends with Tag, we hang out a fair bit, so it makes an easy transition.
“Last year Alex was very fast at Fontana until he had a mechanical issue,” he added. “He ran first or second most of the night. “He’s a good friend, hell of a competitor, and will be tough to beat.”
Dixon and Tagliani were teammates in an unofficial capacity earlier this year. The two had a wager who to see who could raise more money for charity, and the loser had to pay off a bet. Dixon out-raised Tagliani, and the Canadian had to wear a beaver suit at the Indiana State Fair as his penalty.
We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.
And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.
After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.
In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.
Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.
“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.
“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.
“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”
Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.
“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”
Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.