NHRA veterans Clay Millican, David Grubnic, Lance Larson to campaign new NHRA Top Fuel team in 2015

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There will be a new team in the NHRA Top Fuel class in 2015 with some very familiar names.

Veteran Top Fuel driver Clay Millican, along with fellow veteran driver-turned-crew-chief David Grubnic and co-crew chief and general manager Lance Larson will campaign a new car in 2015 for Stringer Performance.

The announcement was made Friday at the Performance Racing Industry in Indianapolis.

The team will be owned by Doug Stringer, with sponsorship from Parts Plus, WELD and Great Clips.

Stringer, who has built a very successful company that manages marketing programs and sponsorship for a number of companies, is returning to drag racing, where he formerly was team general manager for Jim Epler’s Rug Doctor Funny Car in 1996.

After that, Stringer worked as GM for Akins Motorsports, a team on the former NASCAR Nationwide Series (now Xfinity Series). Stringer lured Great Clips hair salons to become primary sponsor on a team that featured NASCAR Sprint Cup star Kasey Kahne.

“Returning to drag racing is something I have always wanted to do, so this is really a special time for me,” Stringer said in an NHRA media release. “I am very proud of the team we have put together.

“Clay and I go back many years and he is someone I have a huge respect for. I also have all the confidence in the world in David and Lance to not only lead this team but to build Stringer Performance into a championship-caliber organization.”

Millican is looking forward to his return to the Top Fuel ranks.

“Doug and I have talked for many years about going racing together so to finally see that dream come true is just awesome,” he said. “We have assembled a great team with everyone putting their heart and soul into making sure that we are competitive from the moment we show up for the first race (2015 season opener in early February in Pomona, California).

“None of us will be happy with mediocre performance – we plan on showing up to win and by end of the season be in contention for a championship. I’m extremely excited to have the continued support of Parts Plus who has stood with me for the last four years.”

Grubnic will be making his crew chief debut after a successful career behind the wheel as a driver.

“Building a team from scratch is obviously quite a challenge but Doug is ensuring that we have all the resources necessary to do it and do it right,” says Grubnic. “Doug, Lance, Clay and I are all fierce competitors so turning Stringer Performance into a championship-caliber team is the end goal.

“We’re all putting our blood, sweat and tears into this. We want to win races and championships and I don’t think any of us will be satisfied with anything less.”

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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.”