Alex Tagliani steps out of No. 98 Barracuda Honda; Filippi to test next week

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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.”

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”