If you’re keeping track of the full-time seats that are open in the IndyCar Series, we’re down to single entries from Barracuda Racing and Panther Racing, and second cars from Dale Coyne Racing, KV Racing, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
Across those five rides, there’s a decent chance James Jakes will rejoin Coyne and partner with Justin Wilson, who appears set to stay with the team and complete the final year of his contract. Pippa Mann is also said to be in the frame for some level of involvement with the team.
Sebastian Saavedra is also said to be in the running for a seat alongside his former Dragon Racing teammate Sebastien Bourdais at KV, RLLR has a few candidates in its sights and it’s possible Panther will nominate a driver after it holds a driver shootout in the coming weeks.
That leaves Barracuda Racing, and after finding themselves pleased with the effort produced by Italian Luca Filippi, team owners Bryan Herta and Steve Newey could be close to naming the driver of the No. 98 Honda.
A few drivers that carry funding have been mentioned in conjunction with the 2011 Indy 500 winners, but Herta says the team intends to make its choice based on driving merit rather than the amount of money being offered.
“We’re still working towards funding the car ourselves so we can make the driver decision ourselves,” Herta told RACER. “We’ve been able to hire the driver of our choice and that’s not something we plan on changing.”
Asked when he expected to move forward with a driver and begin preparations for the new season, Herta pointed to early February.
“We’re working with Honda right now on the twin-turbo conversion and need to get one of our chassis in for the updates, so the earliest we could do anything is February,” he said. “We’re wanting to get out early next month to start testing, so I’d say that timeline falls right in with what we’re aiming for on driver announcements and such.”
Without naming names, Herta also confirmed he has a driver ready to go once the team’s sponsorship portfolio is completed.
“We haven’t really branched out or widened the search; we like the options we have, we know where they’re at, they know where we’re at,” he remarked. “We know who we want. It’s just a case of buttoning things up at this point to pull the trigger.”
Acquiring the volume of sponsorship needed to field an IndyCar entry in 2014 has been a daunting task for even the biggest teams, but as Herta explains, there are encouraging signs – at least within Barracuda Racing’s search – that things are slowly improving.
“I continue to be pleasantly surprised that people have an interest in IndyCar and want to be involved, he noted. “It’s just a case of building the business model out and providing what they need individually. I can’t say how hard it is for the other teams, but for us, we know it’s our job to go out and find the money and the interest has been solid, good.
“It hasn’t been easy, but it’s never easy. If anything, it just takes longer to develop programs and get the commitments we need to finalize the sponsorship programs. That’s a much better situation than not being able to find sponsors. And we’ve had help too; it isn’t just me. We have the guys from Bowen & Bowers Motorsports out there too, and I’m really happy with where we’re at.”