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.”

Here’s who were picking to win the Indy 500 — who are YOU picking?

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Several members of the NBC Sports motorsports staff have made their predictions on who will win Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Of the six voters, two are going with 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden, while two others are going with Helio Castroneves to win a fourth 500, which would tie him with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

Here’s our picks. Who are YOU picking?

Leigh Diffey: Helio Castroneves — He drives the place better than anyone else. For me (for what its worth) he deserves a fourth 500 ring for the frustration he went through never getting the IndyCar title!

Townsend Bell: Josef Newgarden

Nate Ryan: Simon Pagenaud — All of his 2018 misfortune on the track has disappeared in May, and it culminates in the biggest victory of his career.

Jerry Bonkowski: Helio Castroneves – There’s no pressure as he pursues his fourth Indy 500 win. All Helio has to do, as late NFL owner Al Davis would say, is “Just win, baby!” (But if Helio falls short, watch for Marco Andretti)

Kyle Lavigne: Josef Newgarden — I think he has everything he needs to get it done this year.

Dan Beaver: Robert Wickens – Has driven like anything except a rookie and his second-place finish at Phoenix proves he’s just as good on an oval as the road courses.

Follow: Jerry Bonkowski