After collecting just two Top-10s in the first 13 races of this year’s IZOD IndyCar Series championship, Alex Tagliani has stepped out of the No. 98 Barracuda Racing Honda to allow the team to consider its options for the 2014 campaign – which, according to a team release, could include an expansion to a two-car program.
The French-Canadian driver will remain under contract with Barracuda through the end of the 2013 season.
“It’s never fun for a driver to not be in the car,” Tagliani said in a team release. “But I see the benefit in racing in a team with a team-mate as opposed to being a single car team. In this sport, things can turn around quickly.”
With “Tag” out of the car for now, Italy’s Luca Filippi will take the controls of the No. 98 for a test session this coming Wednesday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, which will host the Honda 200 on Aug. 4 (3 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network).
“We’re taking this opportunity to evaluate our program as we look toward the future,” team owner Bryan Herta added. “It makes sense at this point to look at the available pool of drivers that may fit into our future plans.
“We want to thank Alex for being a team player during the process and we look forward to seeing what Luca can do during the test in Mid-Ohio.”
Filippi, who finished runner-up in the 2011 GP2 championship with three victories to his credit that year, was slated to drive for Rahal Letterman Lanigan going into 2012. However, a lack of sponsorship kept him from hitting the track.
“I’ve been working and waiting for a chance like this my whole life,” Filippi said. “I can’t wait to test the No. 98 Barracuda Racing car and hopefully make the most of this opportunity to learn firsthand about IndyCar racing.”
MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the Verizon IndyCar Series field in 2015 with Marco Andretti, who finished ninth after another top-10 season in points.
Marco Andretti, No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda
- 2014: 9th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 5th, 2 Podiums, 2 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 23 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 12.2 Avg. Finish
- 2015: 9th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 3rd, 2 Podiums, 4 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 60 Laps Led, 11.5 Avg. Start, 9.1 Avg. Finish
It was a dependable, quiet but usually consistent season from Marco Andretti, who up until the final quarter of the season had actually been his father’s most reliable finisher.
Andretti didn’t necessarily have a ton of standout drives but he was usually there or thereabouts, and by the end of the day he was often at the low ends of the top-10, which earlier this year given the at-times troublesome Honda aero kit package on road and street courses was more of an accomplishment than you’d think. Three top-10 results in the first four races was proof positive of that.
As ever Andretti excelled most on the big ovals. Sixth at the Indianapolis 500 was as good as was possible given the lack of top-end speed; similarly, he probably could have emerged at the head of the field at Fontana, ending third when all was said and done.
His best result was second in the rain at Detroit race one, although coming second to teammate Carlos Munoz had to sting a little bit. Andretti had driven well that race, and was unfortunate not to be rewarded with his first win in four years.
The thing that would have been his standout stat of the year, finishing every lap, game unglued with an odd accident on home soil in Pocono. It was a shame to see because Andretti was typically good, if not great, for yet another season.
MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver lineup in the Verizon IndyCar Series, after the 2015 season, with eighth-placed Tony Kanaan.
Tony Kanaan, No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
- 2014: 7th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 2nd, 6 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 12 Top-10, 407 Laps Led, 9.2 Avg. Start, 9.3 Avg. Finish
- 2015: 8th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 2nd, 3 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 213 Laps Led, 7.6 Avg Start, 9.9 Avg. Finish
You have to give TK credit. Armed with one of the best cars on the grid, Kanaan has certainly raised his game the last two years, and probably hasn’t received enough credit or enough results for some of his drives he’s put in since joining Chip Ganassi Racing after the 2013 season.
The 2015 season was no exception. All 10 of his top-10 finishes were between second and seventh, so there were plenty of times he was in win and podium contention. The other area where he improved was his qualifying. Kanaan only had two starts outside the top-12 all season, one of which occurred at Detroit race two, where the grid was set by points following a rain cancellation. Detroit was pretty much the only weekend where Kanaan didn’t figure into qualifying or the race. Blame the Taylor Swift-inspired Big Machine Records livery for that one if you want.
Accidents at the Indianapolis 500 and Pocono were costly retirements as Kanaan definitely had a shot to win both those races. But realistically you couldn’t find many other faults. Losing a sure win at Iowa due to a mechanical issue was a gutting blow. He was also unlucky to come up just shy at Fontana, and may have prevailed in a last-lap shootout.
More often that not however, Kanaan was firmly on top of his game, and reliably on par with his championship-winning teammate Scott Dixon, which was all you could ask for. It’s fitting the two of them opened the year as part of the winning lineup in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, with Kanaan then helping out matters by finishing ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya at Sonoma, to ensure Dixon had enough points to win the title on countback.