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 schedule has Josef Newgarden seeing double (points) again in 2020

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Two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden of Team Penske believes the latest revised schedule for 2020 will change his approach to the season.

The new schedule has the defending IndyCar champion looking at ways to double the possibilities for a second consecutive championship.

“When I look at the whole schedule they released now, I look at it as double-points as a whole in all of them,” Newgarden told NBCSports.com Monday. “Iowa is double points on a short oval. There are double points at the Indy GP because there are two races and a road course. Then double points at Laguna, which is a different road course than IMS. And there is double points in the Indianapolis 500.”

IndyCar announced to team owners two weeks ago that the season finale (once scheduled for Laguna Seca and now at St. Petersburg) will no longer be a double-points event. But Monday’s schedule revision essentially adds three double points-style races to the Indy 500’s double-points format, Newgarden said.

“Those are four events where you have to be quite strong,” Newgarden said. “They are all very different from each other. Each one is critical to get right. Iowa has a chance to be the most difficult. From a physical standpoint, it’s already a physical track for one race. To double it up on one weekend will be quite the toll for the drivers.

“It will be a very big test physically to see who will get that weekend right. You can bag a lot of points because of it.”

Just 12 days after the first schedule revision, IndyCar officials announced another revised schedule Monday because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The new schedule features doubleheader weekends at Iowa Speedway in July and Laguna Seca in September. There is an additional race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course Oct. 3.

That race will be known as the IndyCar Harvest Grand Prix. It will be the second time in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history that an IndyCar race is held in the fall. The only other time was the Harvest Auto Racing Classic, a series of three races won by Johnny Aitken on Sept. 9, 1916.

The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix scheduled for May 30-31 will be dropped from the 2020 schedule. Michigan has a “Stay at Home” order that won’t be lifted in time to start construction of the Belle Isle street course.

Penske Entertainment CEO Mark Miles said the Detroit event will return in 2021.

The IMS road course essentially will have a doubleheader spaced out by nearly three months. The first race will be the GMR IndyCar Grand Prix on July 4, and the second will be Oct. 3 in the Harvest Grand Prix.

The extra doubleheaders combined with the loss of Detroit gives IndyCar a 15-race schedule for 2020. It started out as a 17-race campaign, but April’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, the Acura Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the AutoNation IndyCar Classic at Circuit of The Americas (COTA) have been canceled. The season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is being revived as the season finale on a TBA weekend in October.

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Newgarden also is excited about the chance to run at Indianapolis for three major races in one season. Of course, that all depends on how soon IndyCar can return to action because of the global pandemic.

“I’m continually excited about the thought of getting back to the race track,” Newgarden said. “We would love to be there now, but we can’t. With the current situation, everyone is trying to do the best they can to pitch in and do their part so we can get back to the track as quickly as possible.

“I’m excited to get back to racing at some point in the future. To see that is planned to start at Texas is still great. IndyCar has done a great job staying active and fluid with the ever-changing dynamics and current situation.

“We have three opportunities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There are a lot of chances to get it right at the Mecca of our sport.

“I have a lot of trust and faith in IndyCar and Roger, and they are doing their best to stay on top of the situation.”

The one downer to the revised schedule is the loss of the Detroit doubleheader, a very important weekend to Team Penske because Roger Penske also owns the Detroit race. It’s a chance to showcase the series in front of as “Motor City” crowd, which is also the home to the Penske Corp.

“It’s a shame that we miss any event this year,” Newgarden said. “As a racer, you look forward to each one of them. If any of them drop off, it’s a tough pill. Detroit is more so because it is such an important race for us at Team Penske. It’s in our backyard for Penske Corp. Also, our relationship with Chevrolet, how much they put I that event and try to get it right for everybody involved. It’s tough to not have a go at that this year.

“I think of the volunteers. The Detroit weekend is so well run and executed with such a positive momentum behind it for the last eight years that I’ve gone there. I’ve always enjoyed that weekend off the back of the Indy 500.

“It’s a shame we will miss that this year, but I look forward to getting back there in 2021 and getting it started again.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500