Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Drivers James Hinchcliffe, Alex Tagliani Carry Flag at Indy 500: Two Strong Canadians to Race at Indy 500

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Drivers James Hinchcliffe, Alex Tagliani Carry Flag at Indy 500: Two Strong Canadians to Race at Indy 500

Article excerpt

It's been 17 years since a Canadian won the Indy 500, but James Hinchcliffe and Alex Tagliani have a shot at ending the drought Sunday.

Hinchcliffe, from Oakville, Ont., qualified in the No. 2 position for Andretti Autosport after missing the pole by a miniscule 0.0023 seconds.

Tagliani, from Lachenaie, Que., had pole position last year and will start 11th this year for Team Barracuda-Bryan Herta Autosports.

Both men are looking for better races than last year.

Hinchcliffe, who only joined Andretti in January after being named rookie of the year for 2011, joked that last year he ran the Indy 250. He tagged the wall midway through the 200-lap race.

But driving the car Danica Patrick made famous has injected a lot more success into his sophomore season, although the 25-year-old said questions remain about the car since it was rebuilt.

"It's the first time anybody will have run this car for a full race on an oval," he said in a conference call Wednesday.

"With the heat we're expecting Sunday, I think that throws a question mark in the mix."

The car has been renumbered No. 27, the same number that adorned the car Jacques Villeneuve drove in 1995 when he became the first and only Canadian ever to win at Indianapolis.

In a twist of fate the number had been intended for Dan Wheldon, last year's Indy 500 winner who was killed last Oct. 16 at the IZOD IndyCar World Championship at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

And Tagliani, Wheldon's teammate last year at Indy, said his car is adorned with the same No. 98 that adorned Wheldon's car last year -- part tribute, part superstition perhaps.

"I don't know why but I'm definitely looking at No. 98 as a number that brought a lot of luck to the team and also did a lot at the speedway," said the 39-year-old.

He finished only one position ahead of Hinchcliffe in 2011, after making contact with the wall a little more than 50 laps from the end of the race.

But high engine oil temperature issues with his Lotus engine had already moved him well back in the pack. …

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