It’s been eight years since “Talladega Nights” was released, and NASCAR has changed a lot since

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The Will Ferrell goofball comedy Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby premiered in theaters eight years ago today, and it’s been fascinating to see what’s happened to the world of NASCAR since August 4, 2006.

Here’s just a brief summation of the things and moments captured in Talladega Nights that are either still relevant today or have changed in that time frame:

  • NASCAR has been through two new generations of cars, as the Car of Tomorrow premiered in 2007, went through enhancements and then launched the new Generation-6 car in 2013.
  • NASCAR’s last season on NBC was in 2006… it will return in 2015. The booth crew changes, from Bill Weber, Wally Dallenbach Jr. and the late, great Benny Parsons to Rick Allen, Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte next year.
  • SPEED Channel is no more, as it chronicled Ricky Bobby’s return to the track at Rockingham (which no longer holds a Cup race) for a test after his accident at Charlotte that led to the whole “Help me Tom Cruise!” gag.
  • Nextel was still the series title sponsor; Cup did not become the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series until 2008.
  • Kurt Busch has followed a Ricky Bobby-like odyssey of his own, with a high-profile fall from grace from Team Penske at the end of 2011, to then actually driving a Ricky Bobby-inspired “ME” paint scheme with permission from all involved at Talladega the spring of 2012 with, fittingly, Phoenix Racing as the team. And that was to raise awareness for the Armed Forces Foundation. With Furniture Row Racing a year later, he drove a Wonder Bread-sponsored car. Now, Busch is back with a top team in Stewart-Haas Racing, and also been one of the stories of the 2014 racing season with his double attempt at Indianapolis and Charlotte Memorial Day weekend – the former event where he won the rookie-of-the-year honors after a sixth place finish.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. was in his eventual second-to-last season at Dale Earnhardt Inc. (2007) before his first at Hendrick Motorsports (2008). “Junior” switched from the 8 to 88 in ’08.
  • Jamie McMurray has gone from Chip Ganassi Racing to Roush Fenway Racing and then back to Ganassi.
  • Michael Waltrip called Talladega Nights great.
  • No “Jean Girard” type has entered NASCAR, but Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya entered NASCAR at the tail end of 2006 to provide the first consistent, full-time foreign driver from 2007 through 2013. JPM didn’t sip macchiatos; he did manage to hit a jet drier once, and that’s spawned an endless barrage of bad jokes since the 2012 Daytona 500. Of course now, JPM is back in IndyCar where he races against a guy who can pull off a wicked Jean Girard imitation – actual Frenchman Simon Pagenaud.
  • A litany of corporate sponsors – some of which were lampooned in the movie – have since left the sport.
  • One of the actors in the film got arrested for domestic violence… and that came only a month after he was arrested for reckless driving. Surprisingly, that actor wasn’t one of the two who played Ricky Bobby’s troublesome twosome of kids, Walker and Texas Ranger – it was the actor who played a young “RB” himself.
  • Talladega Nights-inspired restaurant was sued by Sony Pictures.

There’s undoubtedly more, but for now, we’ll simply leave you with those moments to chew on.

IndyCar’s 2018 full-field grid nearing completion

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Following Wednesday’s confirmation of the all-Canadian tandem at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, each of the eight full-time teams in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season have announced at least one driver for 2018, leaving very few remaining question marks.

What stands confirmed is below:

CONFIRMED

  • Team Penske (3, Chevrolet): Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power
  • Chip Ganassi Racing (1, Honda): Scott Dixon
  • Andretti Autosport (4, Honda): Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Marco Andretti, Zach Veach
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (2, Honda): Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato
  • Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (2, Honda): James Hinchcliffe, Robert Wickens
  • Ed Carpenter Racing (2, Chevrolet): Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter (ovals)
  • A.J. Foyt Enterprises (1, Chevrolet): Tony Kanaan
  • Dale Coyne Racing (1, Honda): Sebastien Bourdais
  • Harding Racing (1, Chevrolet): Gabby Chaves

There are four additional drivers confirmed for selected races or an month of May program:

  • Team Penske (1, Chevrolet): Helio Castroneves
  • Andretti Autosport (1, Honda): Stefan Wilson
  • Calmels Sport with SPM (1, Honda): Tristan Gommendy
  • Team TBD (1, TBD): Kyle Kaiser

All told that’s 17 full-season driver and team combinations confirmed and four additional part-time programs, at least, that are set. Several of those driver/team combinations will have engineering and strategist changes, as well.

In a minor note since our last update at Sonoma, Marco Andretti confirmed he won’t run No. 27 next year. Of note, Bryan Herta served as Andretti’s race strategist this year, although the car he was an entrant on was Alexander Rossi’s No. 98 car. Herta will continue his relationship with Andretti Autosport again next season.

WHAT’S LEFT TO SORT? NOT MUCH

Elsewhere, there’s only a handful of remaining question marks as the series hits mid-October, a rarity from past years and an illustration of the urgency to fill seats to get as much preparation time in testing with the new 2018 Dallara universal aero kit as possible.

NBC Sports expects 2016 Indy Lights champion and 2017 IndyCar rookie-of-the-year Ed Jones to be confirmed soon as second driver in Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 19 Honda alongside Sebastien Bourdais, with team personnel and Bourdais both having indicated a preference in keeping the Dubai-based Brit for a second year.

NBC Sports also expects Jones’ successor as Indy Lights champion, Kyle Kaiser, to have his future announced shortly in terms of which team he’ll step up to IndyCar with. It would not be a surprise if Kaiser does graduate along with Juncos Racing, although Kaiser is known to have talked to multiple teams. The Mazda Motorsports scholarship nets him $1 million for a three-race program, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500, with the driver then needing to secure additional funding for further races, as Jones and Pigot both have each of the last two years.

The status of Brendon Hartley has now been thrown up as a slight question mark dependent on how his Formula 1 debut with Scuderia Toro Rosso goes at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, and if Toro Rosso provides him a further race opportunity in one of the remaining three Grands Prix thereafter. Having been all-but-earmarked for Chip Ganassi Racing’s second seat in 2018, if an F1 offer comes, Hartley’s potential IndyCar bow could get delayed.

A McLaren-named entry competing either in the Indianapolis 500 or full-time seems further off than realistic for next year, McLaren’s Zak Brown told reporters on a teleconference this week. McLaren maintains an IndyCar technical presence though, via its McLaren Applied Technologies outfit.

What’s left then are the dominoes of whether Carlin’s IndyCar plans officially come to fruition as the team has gotten closer than it ever has to doing so, and who emerges in the second seats at A.J. Foyt Enterprises and Ed Carpenter Racing (road and street courses), respectively.

A number of young IndyCar veterans – Max Chilton, Charlie Kimball, Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly namely – are yet to land for 2018 and there’s no guarantee all four of them will be back in IndyCar next season.

There’s also a handful of young drivers, namely RC Enerson, Jack Harvey, Esteban Gutierrez, Santiago Urrutia, Zachary Claman DeMelo, Sage Karam and Matthew Brabham among others, who could well emerge in the frame for seats.

Gutierrez’s status seemed dependent on Mexico City being added to the 2018 calendar, and although the race still could be added, the fact neither is in place at this point doesn’t inspire as much confidence about his presence as a regular on the grid as it did earlier this summer.

All told, there’s not nearly that much to sort out as IndyCar’s grid for 2018 is looking very much close to set at this early stage of a long offseason.