Top NASCAR stories of 2014: No. 17 — Bubba Wallace wins 4 races, finishes 3rd in Trucks, but has no ride for 2015

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MotorSportsTalk will be counting down the top 20 stories of the 2014 NASCAR season over the month of December. We kicked things off Thursday with No. 20, the announcement that the Nationwide Series will be renamed and rebranded the Xfinity Series starting in 2015. Friday, we looked at No. 19, the 2015 Induction Class for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Saturday, we brought you No. 18, the upset regular season wins from Aric Almirola and A.J. Allmendinger.

Today, we focus on No. 17, Bubba Wallace’s breakout season in the Camping World Truck Series.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. had a breakout season in 2014, winning four races in the Camping World Truck Series.

Not only that, he also had nine top-5 and 14 top-10 finishes, two poles and ultimately finished a very strong third in the final standings, just 34 points behind champ Matt Crafton.

After such a season, you’d think Wallace would be a cinch to either come back for a third season in the Trucks, or possibly be promoted to the Xfinity Series by either Joe Gibbs Racing or the affiliated Kyle Busch Racing.

If so, you’d have thought wrong.

Bubba won’t be back with either JGR or KBR. The latter could not find enough sponsorship to keep the 21-year-old driver in the Trucks. Likewise, JGR couldn’t find enough sponsorship to promote Wallace to the Xfinity Series in 2015.

How that happens is hard to understand.

Wallace is one of the most charismatic rising stars in the NASCAR world. He has immense talent, is already a big fan and media favorite, and would appear to have a very successful future ahead of him.

But as of this writing, Bubba is without a job.

With no ride likely for 2015, he recently requested and received his release from his contract with JGR, after KBR told him he was not in the team’s plans for 2015.

Where he winds up — if he winds up anywhere — is anyone’s guess.

Rumors have floated recently that Wallace may be heading to an Xfinity Series ride in 2015 with Roush Fenway Racing – to become teammates with Chris Buescher, Ryan Reed and veteran Elliott Sadler – although neither Wallace nor RFR have said much about a potential deal in the works.

Still, you would think sponsors would be flocking to back Wallace. He’s the first African-American driver since NASCAR Hall of Famer Wendell Scott to capture a NASCAR race in nearly 50 years (Fall 2013 at Martinsville), and then he won four races in 2014.

He’s a good looking kid, graduated from NASCAR’s vaunted Drive For Diversity driver development program for minorities and females, has developed great media skills already, and has a compelling back story on his rise through the racing ranks to get where he got to today.

Still, sponsorship is lacking for a guy who should be a slam dunk when it comes to attracting sponsors with fat wallets and money to burn.

I remember ESPN analyst Brad Daugherty telling me at lunch about seven years ago that no matter how good an upcoming African-American driver may be, he’s always going to have a tougher time getting sponsorship solely because of the color of his skin.

You would think, seven years later, that would not be the case. Yet other drivers, many with less talent, have rides for 2015 and Wallace does not.

And if the RFR rumors prove false, will Bubba be forced to sit along the sidelines for next season, maybe having only a few one-off, fill-in rides at best?

When Wallace won the 2014 season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, it was a bittersweet victory. He did it once again for KBM, but it would also be the last time he’d do so – at least for the foreseeable future (providing KBM would bring him back some time down the road).

“I’m not sure what the future brings for me, but this is one hell of a way to go out,” Wallace said after his Homestead win. “I came home with five wins (four this season) and a hell of a season.”

MORE: Bubba Wallace wins season finale at Homestead.

We can only hope Wallace truly does wind up at RFR in at least a part-time – if not a full-time – Xfinity Series ride in 2015.

Or, if he returns to the Truck Series with another team, that would be fine too. Maybe some major sponsor will come to its senses and take a chance on backing Wallace.

Because if such a sponsor does, I’m willing to bet Wallace will give him a great return on his investment and pay dividends that could potentially include a championship.

The kid is that good. And just like it was when he was breaking into NASCAR, he’s back to square one: he just needs a good break.

Let’s hope break No. 2 is right around the corner because Wallace, NASCAR and fans deserve it.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

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.

Follow @JerryBonkowski