According to a report by Racer, Alex Tagliani has been asked to sit out the remaining races of the season for Barracuda Racing while the team evaluates looks at putting young drivers in the #98 Barracude Networks Honda entry. The team currently sits 23rd in entrant standings and Tagliani is 21st in driver points.
The rumored drivers are 2011 GP2 runner up Luca Filippi, who had a ride lined up at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing last season but went south and former Panther Racing driver JR Hildebrand. Filippi will test for the team at the Mid-Ohio and will run the race for the team. JR Hildebrand was released from his ride at Panther Racing after crash early in this season’s Indianapolis 500.
Last season was very symbolic of what Tagliani’s career has always been- never giving up despite adversity. He started the season with the underpowered Lotus and made the switch to Honda at the Indianapolis 500 and after that he instantly become competitive. He made nearly every Firestone Fast Six in qualifying, won a pole at Texas and had a dominant car at Edmonton. At Fontana, Tag showed what he was made of and slithered his way thru the field starting in 16th and at the end of the race looked as if he would finally get a win, but his Honda powerplant failed on lap 229.
To elaborate on his challenges, when Champ Car was absorbed into IndyCar in 2008, Tagliani’s team (Rocketsports) did not make the transition over and Tagliani was unable to land a ride. “Drivers had long term contracts, long standing relationships with teams that they were with and you can’t take anyone’s ride away,” said Tagliani when I interviewed him for a spotlight story in October of last year. In order to save his career, Tagliani had to take a ride with whomever would hire him, and that team ended up being Conquest Racing and he did what he needed to do–run competitive and prove that he is a good driver. He had never ran the Dallara chassis before and with that it mind the results he ended up with at Conquest are impressive. He finished 4th in the non-championship race at Surfer’s Paradise and in 2009 he never finished out of the top 15, came from 33rd to 11th at Indianapolis and led 21 laps at Toronto and had it not been for an ill timed caution which forced him to change his strategy, he may have pulled off an upset win.
In the last few years, Tag has pulled off some impressive results driving for the FAZZT Race Team which was absorbed into Sam Schmidt Motorsports as well as Bryan Herta Autosport and has been able to contend with the giants of the sport. This season, Tagliani only has 2 top tens and has a string of finishes of 21th or worst from Indianapolis to Iowa, so the reason for Bryan Herta and Steve Newey to try something new is understandable, but that does not mean that Tagliani is untalented. It has come down to bad luck like at Long Beach where he collided with Charlie Kimball or at Detroit where he crashed after starting in 5th.
So what does lie ahead for Tag? He is confident, determined, personable and has the talent and his results sometimes do not match how well he has ran. The unfortunate truth is that with so few full time rides available, it may be hard for him to land something full time at the moment.