Indy Lights 2015 Silly Season Update, Round 1

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The level of intrigue surrounding Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires is higher this year than ever.

Here’s a quick look at where things stand regarding the grid for 2015, as teams will run the new Dallara IL-15 chassis. There’s plenty of time for this to change, and we’ll produce another update closer to the start of the 2015 season when more things come into place.

CONFIRMED DRIVERS

Juncos Racing: The Pro Mazda championship-winning team makes a full-season Indy Lights commitment and return to the series for the first time since 2012. Pro Mazda champ Spencer Pigot moves up along with his 2014 teammate, Kyle Kaiser.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports: Ethan Ringel has been announced as the team’s first of multiple expected drivers. The timing was right for Ringel to return, given the new car should put the entire grid on a level playing field.

Belardi Auto Racing: The 2014 championship-winning Indy Lights team had the first driver signing of the offseason, with Puerto Rico’s Felix Serralles making a return to North America after several years in Europe.

REGISTERED TEAMS

Besides the above, these teams are all listed via the official Indy Lights website. Drivers are yet to be officially confirmed for any of the following squads.

8Star Motorsports: A star team in sports car racing the last two years across both Prototype and GT ranks led by Enzo Potolicchio, 8Star Motorsports has several open-wheel veterans on its staff, and it would make perfect sense for American rising star Sean Rayhall to drive here.

Bryan Herta Autosport: A longtime Indy Lights participant has scaled back to a partial-season effort the last few years. You’d figure BHA would want its IndyCar program sorted before announcing its Lights program, but it would be huge to have Herta involved full-time once more.

Conquest Racing: Eric Bachelart’s team may have an initial leg up on the new chassis, having run the car’s test program this fall. Bachelart hasn’t had a full-time open-wheel program since 2011, so his return would be welcomed.

Dragon Motor Racing: Not affiliated with Jay Penske and Dragon Racing, this is a new team founded by an investment group looking to see Australian talent progress, and is based out of Las Vegas.

Fan Force United: Has pressed on in Indy Lights since 2008, having started as Alliance Motorsports, and featuring a variety of drivers. Ran this past season with Scott Anderson.

McCormack Racing: Run by Jack and Michael McCormack, the pair have more than 40 years of racing experience, combined.

Team Moore Racing: Another Indy Lights veteran squad, Mark Moore’s team has always been good for one and oftentimes a second car in recent years.

EXPECTED TEAMS

Andretti Autosport: The team is yet to officially confirm its participation, but Michael Andretti told MotorSportsTalk the team expects to have a two-car Indy Lights program set for 2015, and continue Andretti Autosport’s longtime commitment to the Mazda Road to Indy.

CAR COUNT

The 10 official teams and one additional expected team would, if all 11 teams ran two cars, produce a car count of 22. At this point, a 22-car field would still be an optimistic projection.

But figure that with those 10 or 11 teams (11 if all show up, 10 if any one of the above fails to materialize), you can still safely figure anywhere from 16 to 18 cars could be the field, which would surpass our initial projections of 14 to 16 cars. Even an eight team grid could produce a number as high as 16 to 18.

A field of 14 to 16 would be a significant gain over the 8 to 12 cars witnessed this year, and 16 to 18 would be huge. Pushing 20, if not exceeding 20, would be spectacular.

Schmidt figures to run more than two cars; the team has traditionally run three or four full-time cars. Extra cars from SPM would help offset any single-car efforts. Jack Harvey would like to return to the team for a second season, and would be a title favorite if he returns.

Andretti’s team would seem to be a landing spot for Matthew Brabham for a second season, and Shelby Blackstock for a move up after two years with Andretti in Pro Mazda. Zach Veach, who has run the last two years in Indy Lights, is seeking an opportunity at the IndyCar level.

The other teams are wild cards on the driver front, at this early stage of the offseason. It remains to be seen whether Indy Lights driver holdovers – a Luiz Razia, Juan Piedrahita or Ryan Phinny for example – will be joined by any Pro Mazda and/or USF2000 graduates, or whether we’ll get an influx of talent from overseas to join the shores.

Figure a likely combination of both, and once testing occurs December 16-17 at Palm Beach International Raceway, we’re more likely to have further clues on who’ll be driving where in 2015.

After eating just one chip, NHRA drag racer says: ‘I seriously thought I was going to die’

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Editor’s note: Due to rain, Sunday’s final eliminations of the NHRA Carolina Nationals have been postponed to Monday morning at 10 a.m. ET. In the meantime, check out this rather unusual tale:

Remember the old Lays Potato Chips commercial from back in the 1980s that bragged “No one can eat just one”?

Well, ask NHRA Pro Stock driver Alex Laughlin and a few members of his team, and they’ll tell you they learned a very valuable lesson that there indeed IS a chip that you can only eat one of.

According to NHRA’s National Dragster, Laughlin and Elite Motorsports crew members Chase Freeman, Kelly Murphy and Brian Cunningham took part Friday night in the Paqui One Chip Challenge.

If you haven’t heard of the Challenge, Paqui Chips has produced a tortilla chip that the company boldly claims is the hottest chip ever made anywhere in the world. The secret is the “Carolina Reaper” pepper, considered the hottest chili pepper in the world, with a rating of 1.9 million Scoville units, according to PuckerButt Pepper Company.

How hot is 1.9 million Scoville units? Let’s put it this way: the Devil might even have a hard time taking this kind of heat. By comparison, a Jalapeno pepper only reaches 10,000 units on the Scoville rating. 

So while they were enjoying some downtime Friday night after the first two rounds of qualifying for the NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina (suburban Charlotte), Laughlin and Co. paid $30 for one chip – you read that right, $30 for one chip, it’s THAT hot – and thought they could take the heat.

They thought wrong.

“This is the hottest chip in the world,” Laughlin said on an Instagram post that documented the entire experience, adding a warning, “What to expect: Mouth on fire, short-term loss of speech, impaired vision from tears, extreme profanity — or death.”

View this post on Instagram

Never. Ever. Again.

A post shared by Alex Laughlin (@alexlaughlin40) on

 

Laughlin’s post also includes several reader comments that Laughlin and his crew should have had milk on hand instead of water to try and cool things down because milk has a natural antidote to cool your mouth down after eating hot food.

Sunday morning, with his mouth and throat still a bit sore, Laughlin recalled the red-hot episode to National Dragster’s Kevin McKenna:

Never again. Never. Ever. Ever,” Laughlin told McKenna. “It was definitely not the smartest thing I’ve ever done.

One of our guys showed me a You Tube video and it looked like it wasn’t going to be too bad. I like spicy food and it’s usually never a problem. I’ve been to those places with hot wings where you have to sign a waiver before you eat them and that’s never been a problem.

But this? This is on a whole different level. I thought it might last ten minutes. Fourteen hours later, I was still in bad shape. I woke up at 3 a.m. and Googled “internal bleeding.” I seriously thought I was going to die. We all did.”

So if the heat from the chip was off the hotness Richter scale, where did the stunt rank on Laughlin’s own personal Richter scale?

I’ve done some dumb things, but this is right up there.

Well, I really didn’t think it would be that bad,” Laughlin told McKenna with a shrug. “I mean, it’s just one tortilla chip. Like I said, I can usually eat stuff that other people won’t eat, but I had no idea what I was in for.

“I’ve done some dumb things, but this is right up there.”

If you’re up for another challenge in the future that involves eating hot food, Alex, here’s a suggestion: Even though it’s a few years old now, maybe you should try the Ice Bucket Challenge (but fill it with milk) to cool down quick. Just a thought.

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