Does Alex Tagliani strike you as someone who looks particularly interested in retirement?
Pas du tout
It’s officially the off-season north of the border. The first snowfall of the season has already started to fall and accumulate, and the Canadian racing scene has mostly shut down for the year.
And yet, here is the 48-year-old Indianapolis 500 pole winner still turning laps and running at full-speed in his newly opened TAG Indoor E-Karting & Amusement Center. Wide open and barely in control is the only setting 'Tag' has ever known.
He wants you to have that experience at his new enterprise in Sainte-Thérèse, Quebec too.
"This is one of the most sophisticated karting platforms in the world," Tagliani told Racing America. "The system, the AI, knows where every kart is on the circuit at all times. So, if someone spins, and you’re on the opposite side of the track, it will let you stay at full speed, but it stops if you’re near the accident. It’s very safe."
The facility features three tracks on three levels -- one each for children, adults and a combined super circuit at 0.310 miles or a half-kilometer in Canadian Metric. The three levels features six different layout options that can be completed clockwise or counterclockwise.
The karts have been imported from Italy and are 100 percent electric, silent, non-polluting and zero emission. The karts are outfitted with bumper sensors, which allow for the various safety mechanisms, and an overtake assist button right out of the IndyCar Series.
The complex also features a restaurant, laser tag, axe throwing, bowling and a theater.
Maintaining his various business endeavors will take up much of his time whenever his NASCAR Pinty’s Series career comes to a close, but that’s not happening anytime soon. Tagliani fell just short of winning his first Pinty’s Series championship this summer and it’s definitely a goal he wants to accomplish, but not for the reasons you might think.
"When we won Trois-Rivières, the team ran about a mile down pit road to reach me and that was very special," Tagliani said. "I want to win but I don’t need to win. I feel very satisfied with my career. I have been able to do some really special things.
"But my team works really hard and I want to give them moments like Trois-Rivières. I want to win the championship for them."
Tagliani took the championship lead after winning the Grand Prix of Trois-Rivières in August. He was the championship leader entering the season-ending tripleheader at Delaware Speedway in Ontario, but three finishes of 14th or worse doomed him in the final standings.
He feels as competitive as ever and doesn’t feel like this could have been his last chance to deliver that championship to his 22 Racing crew. In fact, now that TAG E-Karting is up and running, Tagliani feels like he will have even more time to devote to the NASCAR operation.
So no, this isn’t a guy that’s thinking about retirement.
"To me, it comes down to competitiveness," Tagliani said. "It’s all about performance. I feel like I can win races and fight for the championship. I’m fit and I don’t feel worn out. The passion for racing there. So, in this moment, thinking about how much longer I’m going to race doesn’t even cross my mind."
That GP3R victory in August specifically reinforced how competitive he still feels at this juncture.
"I remember calling my wife because I was so excited how that race played out," Tagliani explained. "I was the only guy on old tires, and I defended against everyone who just took their tires. I told her, ‘hey, I’m not that bad.’
"I have always felt that maybe there would be a sign of when its time to stop racing in NASCAR, but I didn’t get it in 2021, and I don’t think it’s coming in 2022, but you never know."
Tagliani remains one of the most beloved racers in Canada due to a combination of his accessibility on race weekends, charitable contributions across Eastern Canada and an international career that spans Champ Car, the IndyCar Series and NASCAR.
His legion of fans know retirement is coming at some point in the relative future, but old Tagliani feels more like the Tagliani of old these days.
"It will happen someday," Tagliani said. "I won't feel like I'm not as competitive as I want to be. I say this with no disrespect to anyone that still races when they're past their prime, but they haven't had my experiences either.
"But I still feel like I can race at the highest levels. In fact, I feel this way now having just started an 18 million business during a pandemic. I haven't swam in my pool in two years. I race and I go to work.
"So, I think I could be even better next year, fully dedicated to NASCAR. But it's inevitable, a day will come when I'm slow, and that's when I'll walk away."
He just hopes you'll come race with him at TAG E-Karting instead of watching him race at Bowmanville, Trois-Rivières and Delaware.