18 May 2009

Seize the Day, or Seized by the Day?

I was driving in to work this morning when the news update said that Alex Tagliani, who was the last man eliminated on Indianapolis 500 Bump Day, would be replacing Bruno Junquiera, who qualified 30th in the second Conquest Racing car.

I have mixed feelings on this, as I think Conquest put themselves in a position in which they did not need to be. On Conquest's side, it's understandable that their primary sponsor, the Rexall Edmonton Indy race, would want Tagliani, a Canadian, in the Indianapolis 500 to promote the race in Alberta (on Sunday, July 26).

Junquiera, who had secured sponsorship from All Sport (who sponsored a NASCAR ride, but wanted IndyCar sponsorship when their NASCAR driver failed a drug test) apparently knew that this was a possibility, saying to the Indianapolis Star:
"I knew coming into this that Alex is Conquest's primary driver and that if something happened to the first car that I would likely give him my place."
It was tough to watch the end of Bump Day, with Tagliani in line with a car that would likely be able to bump Ryan Hunter-Reay, as the gun fired to mark the end of the day and tears welling up in the 36-year old Canadian's eyes. Despite being a veteran driver, Tagliani has never participated in the Indianapolis 500, and this decision will allow him to realize a dream.

On Junqueira's side, it's tough to watch a man who has never gotten the right "break" at Indianapolis. After qualifying on the pole in 2002, he broke his back in an accident with A.J. Foyt IV in 2005, costing himself a shot at the 500 and a probable ChampCar series title.

Moving into the Conquest stable on Friday, Junqueira qualified easily on Sunday on his first run. And while numerous drivers pulled their car out of the field and requalified at higher speeds (due to better track conditions on Sunday than on Saturday), the Conquest team felt confident enough to not do so with Tagliani.

In fact, the team pulled Tagliani out of line twice in the final moments of Bump Day - directly going against what everyone else was doing on the day. Had Tagliani and Conquest pulled out of the field and requalified at a higher speed, say at, 5:45 p.m., they would have eliminated all doubt about being bumped. As Clive Davis once said:
You've got to seize the opportunity if it is presented to you.
Conquest Racing did not seize an opportunity; rather they were seized up by the opportunity, and by doing so, they cost themselves the monetary rewards of having two cars in "The Show." And while Tagliani was guaranteed $300,000 despite not qualifying, the team, with a respectable showing in the 500, would have boosted their overall profile and kept all of their sponsors happy. By removing Junqueira in place of Tagliani, hopefully Conquest has a plan to get All Sport some publicity on Tagliani's King Tut/Rexall car.

And next time they have two cars capable of making the 500, hopefully Conquest Racing takes advantage of it to make sure they're both in the race, rather than kicking a perfectly good driver to the curb because of their failures to act decisively.

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