By The Associated Press
There might come a day when Ryan Hunter-Reay forgives Alex Tagliani for running into him at Sonoma.
It probably won't come before this weekend's race at Baltimore.
Hunter-Reay is still seething over an incident with Tagliani on Sunday at Sonoma that drastically hurt his chances to win his first IndyCar championship. The American was likely headed to a third-place finish when he was hit by Tagliani, who isn't involved in the title race.
"I know in years past, when I was racing with guys racing for the championship, you absolutely have to have that in mind," Hunter-Reay said Wednesday. "You must be thinking to yourself, `I am not going to be a factor in this because I am not in the championship race."'
"Unfortunately, Tagliani became a factor in this championship."
Hunter-Reay wound up 18th, a 23-point swing in the standings. He goes into Sunday's race trailing leader Will Power by 36 points with two events remaining to decide the champion.
Tagliani tried to apologize to Hunter-Reay after the race, but Hunter-Reay admits he was "infuriated with him" and didn't want to hear what Tagliani had to say. Tagliani vowed Wednesday to keep trying.
"I will apologize every day I see him until you know that you can move on and understand," he said. "That's the only thing I can do. I'm not going to hide behind my mistake. Other than that, I can't do anything else."
But, Tagliani wasn't apologizing for racing hard.
His Bryan Herta Autosport team was handcuffed at the start of the season with an underperforming Lotus engine, and Tagliani has had to dig out of that hole all season. His team has shown flashes and he's trying to position BHA for critical monetary bonuses the team could be eligible for next season.
"We earned the right to race against anybody out there," Tagliani said. "We need to be in the Leaders Circle (program) next year, so it's very important we grab as many points as possible."
He also said it was his first drive-through penalty in some time, and other drivers have had issues in that same place on the track.
And, Tagliani said, Hunter-Reay has made his share of mistakes as a driver.
"If he has a short memory, it's not fair because he's been called for (a penalty) by hitting Scotty (Dixon) in Toronto and Ryan Briscoe (at Barber) as well," Tagliani said. "Everybody is exposed to make a mistake once in a while when you're fighting for the same piece of real estate in IndyCar. Unfortunately, that day it was him."
It's little consolation to Hunter-Reay, who won three consecutive races this summer to move into the IndyCar points lead. But he's had nothing but bad luck since. His Andretti Autosport team made a pro-active engine change at Edmonton - where he won the pole, but started 11th after the engine change - and finished seventh.
The next race, at Mid-Ohio, the new engine failed and Power re-gained the points lead. Then came Sonoma and the late incident with Tagliani.
"I can't dwell on Sonoma, I can't dwell on this last month," Hunter-Reay said. "I want to use my energy toward winning the last two races and winning the championship. I know our team is strong enough to win this championship. The tools are there, the talent is there. We can win, but if that comes to reality remains to be seen."
Hunter-Reay doesn't believe Power has the championship locked up and points to last year's race at Kentucky as an example. Power had the dominant car in that race until an incident on pit road cost him the win, and opened the door for Dario Franchitti's third consecutive season title.
"Absolutely, I've seen some crazy things happen," Hunter-Reay said.