By Ken de la Bastide
— The start of silly season for 2014 has started in the Izod IndyCar Series with just a handful of races remaining.
The series will be in action this weekend on the road course at Sonoma, followed by a street race in Baltimore, the doubleheader weekend in Houston and the season-ending race at the Auto City oval.
Alex Tagliani has been released from his ride with Barracuda Racing. The team came to everyone’s attention when Dan Wheldon won the Indianapolis 500 a few years ago.
J.R. Hildebrand, a former Panther Racing driver who crashed while leading the Indy 500 on the final lap in 2012 and then crashed on the first lap of the 2013 race, has been named to drive for the team this weekend and in the season-ending event.
Rookie Luca Fillippi will be driving for Barracuda Racing at Baltimore and Houston, no doubt a try out for the 2014 season if the team decides to field two cars.
Ryan Briscoe, who lost his ride with Penske Racing this year, tested the Panther Racing car. Briscoe is looking for a full-time ride next year.
With Helio Castroneves leading the chase for the championship, the four street and road courses could be just what he needs to capture a first title. He is chased by Scott Dixon and defending champion Ryan Hunter-Reay.
If Castroneves enters the final race weekend with the points lead, I don’t envision him melting down on the oval as his teammate Will Power has done the past two years.
IN OTHER RACING NEWS
I’m always amazed at the amount of statistics that people compile for NASCAR drivers, most of them the average fan would have little or no interest in.
Someone has decided to pay Joyce Julius, the company that tracks sponsor mentions and air time, to determine which Sprint Car drivers have been mentioned the most this year.
Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch have been mentioned 16.6 percent of the time with Johnson having his name dropped 3,451 times and Kyle’s moniker having been uttered 3,022 times.
The rest of the top 10 consists of Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Carl Edwards.
Tony Stewart was ranked 12th and Danica Patrick 19th.
Makes one wonder where Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick, second and third in the points race, ranked on the list.
• Austin Dillon has been named as the replacement driver for recovering Tony Stewart in the Sprint Cup race at Michigan. Expect Dillon to continue to substitute for Stewart until Smoke returns to action since I suspect Stewart will miss several other races while he recovers from a broken leg.
Dillon, a regular in the Nationwide Series for his grandfather Richard Childress, is expected to be competing for rookie of the year honors in 2014 in the Sprint Cup Series.
• Brian Vickers has been named as the full-time driver of the 55 Toyota of Michael Waltrip Racing for 2014. Vickers has been sharing the ride with Mark Martin. With Vickers in full-time, it appears that Martin, 54 years of age, will be searching for a ride next year.
• The Red Bull Indianapolis Moto GP is set for this weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There is something special about watching the riders sweep into the corners with their knees inches from the pavement.
• This weekend the Must See Racing Extreme Winged Sprints will be in action on Saturday at Anderson Speedway and Sunday at Winchester Speedway. The winged sprints will be joined by the Champion Racing Association Street Stocks at Anderson and the CRA Late Model Sportsman at Winchester.