Ganassi confirms Tagliani in Franchitti’s car at Fontana

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Alex Tagliani will fill Dario Franchitti’s seat in the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Tagliani takes over the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, one of the prime seats in IndyCar.

Tagliani was the likeliest candidate from the outset, and a veteran of four prior starts in Fontana (2000-2002, and 2012). He nearly won last year’s race before an engine failure.

Tagliani has already written on Twitter that he has “mixed feelings” about sharing Franchitti’s seat, and that the opportunity is “surreal,” but make no mistake, this is one of the best opportunities he will have in IndyCar.

Tagliani’s opening three seasons in what was then CART came with the Player’s/Forsythe Racing squad from 2000 to 2002, where his potential was obvious but luck more often than not plagued his victory chances.

Two seasons with Paul Gentilozzi’s Rocketsports team followed, including his first career win at Road America in 2004. Tagliani spent 2005 and 2006 with Derrick Walker’s Team Australia squad, and went back to Gentilozzi’s team for the final Champ Car season in 2007.

In 2008, Tagliani starred in qualifying at Long Beach, back in Walker’s entry for the Champ Car series finale. He deputized at the tail end of the year for Conquest Racing, which led to further part-time opportunities there in 2009.

Starting his own FAZZT team in 2010, Tagliani was often a thorn in the sides of the bigger teams’ drivers. He scored a popular pole for the 2011 Indianapolis 500 but once again was the victim of poor luck when he lost his seat before the end of the year at the renamed Sam Schmidt Motorsports.

Tagliani drove better than ever in 2012 – I would have rated him sixth or seventh in a season-long top 10 after his qualifying prowess – with Bryan Herta and Barracuda Racing. But a mixed bag of luck has occurred again in 2013 and he and Herta went their separate ways after Toronto.

Now, Tagliani is back in IndyCar after a three-race trial run in sports cars with Ferrari, and with his best opportunity in years. Winning would be great, but mainly his goal is to help Scott Dixon secure the championship.

Josef Newgarden dominates from pole to win KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America

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There’s a reason why Josef Newgarden calls Road America his favorite racetrack – and he showed why Sunday, dominating to victory in the KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisc.

Newgarden led all but two laps from the pole and was in a class of his own throughout the 55-lap caution-free race on the 4.048-mile, 14-turn road course in central Wisconsin, defeating runner-up Ryan Hunter-Reay by 3.3759 seconds.

“(I wanted this one) really bad,” Newgarden told NBCSN in victory lane. “I wanted to win here since last year. This car has been a rocket all weekend. It wasn’t easy. Ryan was very quick and I knew Dixon was right behind him, so we were working for it the entire race.

“I kind of knew what I had to do, but it was a lot of work. Ryan was really pushing me. It’s good to get a win. It doesn’t matter what car, as long as it’s Team Penske.”

It was Newgarden’s series-leading third win of the season in the first 10 races (also won at ISM Raceway in Phoenix and Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama), pushing him past Team Penske teammate and Indy 500 winner Will Power and Scott Dixon, who both have two wins in the 2018 campaign.

“I was hoping to make it more interesting for the fans here at Road American and on TV,” Hunter-Reay said. “The last two stints, when he put on used red and I had blacks, he was really hooked up. … I was pushing 110 percent, that’s for sure.

“Unfortunately, I just couldn’t catch up to Josef. I was able to close up the gap a little bit here and there, but not like I was early in the race. He found his own way for sure. Definitely, the clean air out front helps, but hats off to him: he had a great race and deserves the win.”

Dixon finished third, followed by Takuma Sato, Robert Wickens, Graham Rahal, Simon Pagenaud, Spencer Pigot (his best finish of the season), Ed Jones and James Hinchcliffe.

Dixon (393 points) maintains the Verizon IndyCar Series points lead, Hunter-Reay (348) moved up two spots to second place, Alexander Rossi (tied with Hunter-Reay for second at 348) dropped one spot to third, Newgarden (343) climbed one spot to fourth and Will Power (328) dropped two spots to fifth in the standings.

“It’s so tight … so tough,” Dixon said. “The Verizon IndyCar Series, right now, the competition is through the roof. To get a podium these days is tough enough, yet to get a win. But we’ll keep pushing and see what we get.”

There was action right from the opening lap, including misfortune for Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power, who suffered engine issues that sent him to the pits after the opening lap.

After trying to work on his car in the pits, Power’s team pushed it back to the paddock to attempt further repairs, but those efforts failed and the car was retired.

Power was third in the IndyCar points standings coming into the race, 36 points behind series leader Scott Dixon. He finished last (23rd) in Sunday’s race and will likely drop to fifth in the standings.

“They replaced the exhaust, and it just blew straight back out,” Power told NBCSN’s Marty Snider. “So, there’s obviously something going on in there that’s gone wrong.

“I feel bad for all the guys. It’s just one of those things, you know – you’ll get that every now and then at some point. No good, but we’ll move on to the next one.”

Also, 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi had an issue with what appeared to be brakes- or suspension-related that resulted in a lengthy pit stop after 38 laps. Rossi finished 16th in the 23-car field.

“Hugely disappointing,” Rossi told NBCSN. “It was good enough for fourth … but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”

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