With aero kits homologated and Rolex 24 this weekend, IndyCar could be poised for flurry of news

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You might remember back on November 25 (OK, you may not, but that works as a convenient setup to link back to this post), that with a couple GP2 veterans announcing they’d be testing in December, I examined just how many free agents there were vying for the roughly seven or eight remaining Verizon IndyCar Series seats for the 2015 season.

In short, there’s an overload. And there will be way more drivers left without a seat when the music stops.

However, there has been zero official movement on new full-time seats since late October, when Jack Hawksworth was confirmed in a second car for A.J. Foyt Enterprises, and for any seat overall early November, when Jay Howard was confirmed in a second Indianapolis 500 entry for Bryan Herta Autosport.

With James Hinchcliffe confirmed at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports back in early October, we have to go back to September to find the last driver without “JH” initials confirmed in IndyCar – and that was Simon Pagenaud to Team Penske.

Technically, yes, the first three drivers at Chip Ganassi Racing (Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball) were all confirmed over a series of days in December. But those were more formalities than surprises, and none of them involved team movement.

The month of February is now setting up to cram nearly an entire offseason worth of news – or close – in the span of three-four weeks.

Here’s what still needs to come down the pipeline for IndyCar before the March 8 season opener in Brasilia, Brazil:

AERO KITS, AERO KITS, AERO KITS

You probably wouldn’t have realized this otherwise because it was NFL Championship Sunday, but Sunday marked the homologation date deadline for Chevrolet and Honda. INDYCAR is yet to confirm an official launch date for the kits, but figure news on when that launch date is could be imminent within the next week or two.

INDYCAR’s Will Phillips posted about aero kits on Twitter on Sunday.

INDYCAR DRIVERS/TEAM OWNERS IN OTHER DISCIPLINES

Sarah Fisher made her competitive racing return this past week at the Chili Bowl. And now, a boatload of drivers from the 2014 IndyCar season will be in action at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

More than a third of the starters from the 2014 Indianapolis 500 are on the grid, and a handful more were pounding the pavement during the week seeing if they could get anything done. It didn’t seem to happen.

THE REST OF THE GRID

Back in November, the available seats still outstanding were: Chip Ganassi Racing #4, Andretti Autosport #4, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports #2, CFH Racing’s road/street course #2, Dale Coyne Racing’s #1 and 2, and Bryan Herta Autosport’s #1.

Two months later, exactly all of those seats are still yet to be filled. There is literally no point to writing another silly season update beyond the one I penned in November because almost nothing has changed.

With IndyCar’s media day set for Feb. 17 in Indianapolis, the next month figures to be prime signing time to ensure each driver/team gets at least one or two days of testing in before the season opener.

So, basically, if you cover IndyCar, get a template ready that reads “Driver signs with team for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season,” and go from there depending on each driver’s respective resumes over the years.

TRACK, AND CAR, PREP

As noted in the last week, Brazil’s track construction in Brasilia is finally underway. Between finishing that up, then bolting on the aero kits, testing them at Barber and heading to St. Petersburg, IndyCar will have its own version of “March Madness” awaiting it.

The long and short of the above: after an offseason with little to no news, really, over the extended gap since last August’s season finale, IndyCar is finally set for a flurry of it that should occur – that really has to occur – between now and the March 8 season opener.

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

Alex Laughlin official Instagram page
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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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