It’s officially one or the other time for Mike Conway in 2015, with WEC calendar out


Today’s FIA World Endurance Championship calendar release will have an impact into the Verizon IndyCar Series in terms of any of its drivers participating in WEC races next season.

Particularly Mike Conway, who’s been IndyCar’s part-time badass de jour the last two seasons and is attempting to figure out his future.

Conway has served as Toyota Racing’s reserve driver for 2014 and made his WEC debut at Austin last month. He may get the opportunity for one more WEC start this season, but surprisingly was not nominated to fill in for Nicolas Lapierre in his absence this weekend in Fuji.

In looking ahead to the 2015 WEC calendar just released, there are at least three and potentially up to five direct head-to-head conflicts between WEC and IndyCar.

The confirmed ones first:

  • March 27-28: WEC Prologue Paul Ricard; IndyCar St. Petersburg
  • April 12: WEC Silverstone; IndyCar NOLA
  • May 31: WEC Le Mans Test Day; IndyCar Detroit

Granted, two of those three are official tests. But while Conway could afford to miss the test days as a reserve driver this year, it’s unlikely he’d be able to miss them as one of Toyota’s six regular full-season drivers.

The other two come if 2014 dates change weekends once they’re officially confirmed by IndyCar, and those would be at Toronto and Sonoma.

Toronto is expected to land a June date given the Pan-Am Games forcing a move from its usual July slot, and there’s only has two weekends it could realistically slot in – June 13-14 or 20-21.

If IndyCar moves its Iowa race to June 20 as is possible given a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Friday, June 19, then there’s only one option.

That would pose another direct conflict, with Le Mans, June 13-14.

Of course that wouldn’t affect just Conway, but any IndyCar drivers who would want to run the midsummer endurance classic and would be able to if their contracts and schedules allow.

The potential last conflict would occur in August. Sonoma’s date was tentatively listed on the preliminary Pirelli World Challenge schedule as August 22-23 but is now likely to be the last weekend in August, per ticket renewal forms. That would run head-to-head with WEC at the Nurburgring on August 30.

So here’s what this means for Conway: he’s either in or out for one or the other. He can’t do both in terms of IndyCar and WEC, unless he only runs selected IndyCar rounds on non-conflicting WEC weekends.

And if he’s out in IndyCar, there’s a 2014 race-winning No. 20 CFH Racing Chevrolet seat that will need a driver for road and street course races. It would be a perfect landing spot for an American like JR Hildebrand or Conor Daly, for instance.

The ball is still in Conway’s court, but he’s now at the point where he’ll need to clone himself if he wants to keep the same schedule.

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images

Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”