A pair of lesser-publicized teams in the IndyCar Series paddock appears close to finalizing its 2014 plans as Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and Barracuda Racing are both on target to return next season. This is according to a pair of stories that appeared in RACER on Wednesday afternoon.
With IndyCar parity at an all-time high, both teams are coming off their most competitive seasons to date. Josef Newgarden, the 22-year-old from Tennessee anchored the Fisher-Hartman effort this season and finished 14th in the final standings in a season in which he scored the team's first podium on a road and street course -- at Baltimore.
Newgarden is expected to return to next season but the team will have to find him a new engineer as Nathan O'Rourke left to spearhead James Hinchcliffe's Andretti Autosport operation. Newgarden will also have to nurse a sports hernia before the team heads off to Sebring International Raceway for a test on Dec. 18.
"Nathan, as you know, went to Andretti to engineer James Hinchcliffe, and that's a great opportunity for him, so we're evaluating what's best for us and what direction to take moving forward," Fisher told RACER. "We're looking to see who's out there, if there's someone ready to fill that spot, but we don't want to rush into anything there. We'll have a decision by the time we go testing in December."
Fisher also said that "there hasn't been any movement" on the front to add a second entry for next season.
Meanwhile, Bryan Herta's Barracuda Racing expects to have its single seat's plan announced for next season by January. Herta told RACER that he expects his organization to look very similar to how it did last season but acknowledges that he may have a decision to make on the driver front.
Three pilots competed for Barracuda last season as Alex Tagliani, Luca Filippi and JR Hildebrand all swapped the ride in order to provide the team various perspectives. Herta made an analogy to explain how he will ultimately choose a driver for the No. 98 next season.
"On the drivers, it's a chicken-and-egg thing, and we're waiting for the chicken to hatch," Herta told RACER. "It's just down to me to get our sponsorship done. Historically, we get our sponsorship completed, then we go sign our driver. There are a great number of drivers that are available.
"I think Luca and JR both did great jobs for us in different ways this year, so I'd say they have to be at the top of our list, but they are not the only names."
Herta also wanted to expand to a two-team operation but admitted that it was looking less likely.
With that said, it's a healthy sign that teams are able to remain in the paddock after several seasons where teams like DRR and Newman-Hass have had to downgrade with rising costs and a the upkeep of a new car.