Yesterday, BHA-Team Barracuda finally revealed the two drivers that will be manning the wheel of the #98 car for the rest of the season. Luca Filippi has already run Mid-Ohio for Bryan Herta’s team, and will do the same for Baltimore and Houston. Meanwhile former Panther Racing driver JR Hildebrand will jump in for Sonoma and the season finale at Fontana.
The entire situation leaves me torn. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Alex Tagliani, consider him one of the best ambassadors of IndyCar, and know quite well that his passion for this sport is rarely equaled and never surpassed. But on the other hand, it was obvious this team was floundering all-around, and some very brutal decisions were made. That’s nothing new in this sport, even as we still wince every time it happens.
So enter Filippi and Hildebrand. One is a GP2 ace who was fated to be perpetually denied his shot at Formula 1. The other is Mazda Road to Indy All-American, who nearly won the 500 as a rookie, and has endured about as mixed a career as one can imagine since then. Both have skill, and I’d love to see both firmly in the series for 2014. But that’s not really at the heart of the question here.
What can fix a small, one-car team that has this year looked very much like a well, small, one-car, struggling team?
Honestly, it’s probably too much to expect either driver to suddenly lift BHA to glory in what remains of 2013. This is a team in survival mode as much as anything, and some adequate, safe results and regular Top 10s would feel pretty good. JR Hildebrand finished in the Top 10 at Sonoma last season, so it isn’t as if this team will necessarily struggle every week through Fontana. They’ve picked two drivers that can do well by them, and I hope that they’re able to be as discerning for their choice or choices for 2014.
It’s a year to forget for Herta’s group, and with all my heart, I hope they endure past it. They are fan-friendly and fun, and the warm spot I have for them goes back at least to Dan Wheldon getting that chance at Indianapolis two years ago. I’ll be hopefully looking for any sort of spark at Sonoma, Baltimore, Houston, and Fontana, while hoping that Alex Tagliani finds a spark of own.