As ever, there’s more talent in wings than available IndyCar seats

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We got an early run on driver announcements in the Verizon IndyCar Series offseason with Simon Pagenaud going to Team Penske, James Hinchcliffe replacing him at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Jack Hawksworth switching to A.J. Foyt Enterprises.

But come the holidays, things have slowed, and as always the glut of available talent will be larger than the number of available seats.

With news Davide Valsecchi will be testing for SPM next month, it got me thinking a bit about all the potential drivers in play that could fill the remainder of the grid.

While this isn’t a silly season breakdown per se, here’s the list of seats we expect to be announced before the season opener in Brazil in March 8:

  • Chip Ganassi Racing, fourth car (along with a formal confirmation of the full lineup)
  • Andretti Autosport, fourth car (plus a possible fifth)
  • Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, second car
  • KV Racing Technology, second car
  • CFH Racing, No. 20 road and street course driver alongside Ed Carpenter (ovals)
  • Dale Coyne Racing, both cars
  • Bryan Herta Autosport, first car

So that leaves eight seats, as many as seven of them full-time, remaining to be filled. And here’s who is currently on the outside looking in:

2014 DRIVERS WITHOUT CONFIRMED PLANS

  • Ryan Briscoe, Justin Wilson, Mikhail Aleshin, Carlos Huertas, Sebastian Saavedra, Mike Conway, Oriol Servia, JR Hildebrand, Sage Karam, Luca Filippi, plus additional month of May drivers.

As we’ve already chronicled this offseason on MST, either Briscoe or Karam is potentially in a no-win situation when it comes to how CGR puts its fourth car together, Wilson is unsure of his plans even though many want him to move up, Conway is weighing a move to Toyota full-time in the WEC and Hildebrand or Filippi would be good to see in full-time efforts. It’s hard to see more than three or four from this batch making their way into full-time rides, and Aleshin’s seat should be one to watch if he either chooses not to return or his funding falls through.

2013 DRIVERS WHO FELL THROUGH THE CRACKS

  • Simona de Silvestro, E.J. Viso, James Jakes, Tristan Vautier, plus additional month of May drivers.

Out of sight, out of mind, right? De Silvestro is starting to make the media rounds wanting to make a comeback after her F1 dreams have ended; Viso at least kept his face present with good fill-in work for an injured James Hinchcliffe during Indianapolis 500 practice; Vautier, the 2013 rookie-of-the-year, drove several sports car races for Mazda’s LMP2 program and became a TV star for Road to Indy TV; and Jakes may have reverted to actually being The Stig. While it would be nice for any of these drivers to return, they’re mostly lacking for full-time seat time in the last 12 months and would need to shake off the cobwebs upon a return.

YOUNG GUNS IN WAITING WHO HAVEN’T HAD A FULL-TIME CRACK

  • Conor Daly, James Davison, Stefan Wilson, Sam Bird, Davide Valsecchi, Daniel Abt, Gabby Chaves, Peter Dempsey, Jack Harvey, Zach Veach, Matthew Brabham, Ryan Phinny, Rodolfo Gonzalez, etc.

You could also add Karam and Filippi from the 2014 group to this list. This group is essentially a paella of drivers from around the world, some who’ve had an IndyCar test and/or some starts, some who are Indy Lights drivers waiting in the wings, and some who would be coming over from Europe. And this likely leaves out several drivers who would be interested but their names haven’t come up yet.

The problem, as always, is that there’s at least 20-30 drivers listed above in either of these three segments, and nowhere near enough seats to provide for the opportunity. In most cases, the drivers listed above will need to provide for themselves in the form of budget to make that chance happen.

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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