Save Me a Seat

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Over this past weekend, I shared with you the exciting news of a Cleveland-based company, Collection Auto Group, entering into the world of IndyCar with a sponsorship of Bryan Herta Autosport’s #98 car for the 2014 season. The only lingering question we were left with at that point was who the driver of that twin-turbo Honda would be. Well, wonder no more!

It was announced yesterday that Jack Hawksworth will be the full-season driver for BHA in 2014. Hawksworth enters the IndyCar Series as a graduate of the ladder system, most recently finishing his 2013 season with Indy Lights with a fourth place standing overall. He found himself on the podium for half the races last season, with three of those podium appearances as the race victor. His consistency is evidenced by his impressive driving in the Lights Series and his first place finish in the Star Mazda Championship the year prior. The British-born driver hopes to keep the momentum going, translating his raw ability, undeniable speed and steadfast determination to prove himself, into results. He, like most rookies, aims to show that he can be taken seriously as a contender in a field of veteran talent and fellow young faces looking to make their mark in IndyCar history.

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Having rookies in the field is always exciting and certainly adds an unknown element into the races. Driving a track you know, behind the wheel of a car you’re familiar with, alongside a handful of drivers equivalent to your racing experience is one thing… but how does that carry over to the premiere open-wheel racing series in North America? There’s only one way to find out…

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Bryan Herta Autosport wasn’t the only team breaking information about a new driver yesterday – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing also joined in on the fun. With Graham Rahal driving the #15 National Guard car for the full season, there has been some conversation about whether a second full-time driver would be placed in the #16 car since James Jakes is not returning to the series in 2014. These questions were answered with the announcement of Oriol Servia signing on to drive (I assume, the #16) for a select portion of the season.While RLL will not have him in the car and ready to race at the season kick off in St. Petersburg, Florida later this month, he will test at Barber in Mid-March as well as race there in April. He is also confirmed to race at Long Beach, the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis, and the legendary Indianapolis 500. The team hopes to add more races on to his season, but I suspect that decision will be made based on what he does at the first four tracks he competes at this Spring.

Servia and RLL are not strangers to one another – they competed in the 2009 Indianapolis 500 together – maintaining position in the top 10 until mechanical failure forced them to retire prior to the checkered flag. Servia, a native of Spain, has also raced as a teammate of Graham’s in the past. They were both at Newman Haas for a short period of time & actually discovered good team chemistry between them. As we all know, that meeting of the minds and mutual respect is a key aspect to working well together, on and off the track – having that history could prove beneficial for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team in 2014.

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Unlike Hawksworth, Servia comes into the 2014 season as anything but a rookie. His resume in the series is impressive, having consistently raced with them since 2000. He was active in Champ Car up until 2007 and then into the unified and current series from 2008 until present. While his sponsors, teams, teammates and liveries have changed over his career, his knack to put up results has not. In the news report released by IndyCar.com, they explain that resume in more detail:

Servia, a native of Pals, Spain, has made 191 starts in Indy car racing since 2000. His Indy car highlights include one win (Montreal 2005) and one pole (Surfers Paradise, Australia, 2005) as well as a total of 19 top-three, 51 top-five and 100 top-10 finishes.

Numbers simply don’t lie… especially when we’re talking about results figures in motorsports. Expect to see Servia out on the track the next few months, proving that he still has the will to win and the ambition to take on another season, in this, his 15th one with the series.

The only seats we have left without a nametag, as it were, would be the possible second entry for Dale Coyne Racing alongside Justin Wilson, and the driver of the Panther Racing team, if they even end up running a car the full season. Admittedly, I haven’t had the opportunity to really dive in to the nitty-gritty of the lawsuit battle between Panther and RLL (re: National Guard sponsorship) but their testing with Carlos Huertas in February was the last I heard about them. I mean, in regards to actual news about them racing in 2014.

Regardless, I am sure all the legal issues will work themselves out in the long run – preferably, prior to the season opener. I hope the 2014 IndyCar season can start off on a positive note in Florida. I mean, shouldn’t the fact that we’re all back at the track for another incredible year of athleticism, auto racing and countless memories with friends & family, be enough of a reason to make everyone smile and drop their differences? Granted, I understand that it’s slightly more complicated than everyone joining hands and singing a Bobby McFerrin song in unison, but hey… a girl can dream, right?