Enrique Contreras III, nephew of Carlos Contreras, to make first NASCAR truck race start at Martinsville

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You’ve heard of like father, like son?

Well, in Saturday’s Kroger 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway, it’ll be like uncle, like nephew.

Enrique Contreras III, nephew of veteran Mexican racer Carlos Contreras, will make his NASCAR trucks debut – with the hope that it may lead to a NCWTS part- or full-time ride in 2015.

“I’m very humbled by the opportunity to make my NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut this weekend,” Contreras said in a media release. “Typically, the fall Martinsville race has been one of the most competitive short track races on the schedule, but we’re hoping to find ourselves in that mix with a lot of hard work and some luck.”

The younger Contreras, 22, will drive the No. 07 RaceTrac Chevrolet Silverado in a partnership between SS Green Light Racing and Rick Ware Racing.

Contreras recently completed his second full season in the Mexico-based NASCAR Toyota Series, finishing a career-best 18th in the final standings, with four top-10 finishes in 14 starts.

A native of Mexico City, the younger Contreras is carrying on a family tradition:

* Father Enrique II previously raced in the Indy Lights Series between 1992 and 1995, making nine total starts.

* Then there’s Uncle Carlos, who has made a career-high 12 starts thus far in the NASCAR Nationwide Series this season, and also finished 27th this season in the Toyota Series in his homeland.

Enrique III’s debut is just another illustration of NASCAR’s continuing efforts to increase diversity across all of its racing series.

And the younger Contreras is taking his first start ultra-seriously.

“Our goal is to finish the race on Saturday,” Contreras said. “You have to be prepared for anything. Sometimes, the races at Martinsville can by physical or calmer than normal. However, if we keep our initial goals in check, we should be able to give RaceTrac and everyone who supports us, something to be proud of when the checkered flag waves.”

Enrique has seven prior starts in NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series East spread across the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

“Some will argue that the K&N Series has some of the stoutest competition in racing throughout the year,” Contreras said. “And even though it may have been a little bit since I’ve run on the tour, I remember the races like yesterday.

“I’m used to competing on short tracks for most of my life, so I’m hoping what I’ve learned over the year will (hopefully) pay off in a truck. Most of all, I’m looking forward to learning a lot.”

Ware has a good feeling about putting the younger Contreras in his race truck.

“Enrique knows the challenges that competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series brings, but he’s a talented young-man with a lot of passion and motivation,” Ware said. “Collectively, we felt Martinsville was a good opportunity to turn some laps in a truck and learn from some of the best.

“If we can take the green flag and see the checkered flag in relatively good shape, we’ll consider the weekend a success.”

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

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
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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.”