Sam Schmidt Motorsports Indy Lights Team Manager Chris Griffis Dies

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Chris Griffis at the Indianapolis 500. Photo courtesy Sam Schmidt Motorsports

The Indy car community lost another hero on Monday, September 12 when Chris Griffis, 45, collapsed and died after playing a basketball pick-up game at the Boys and Girls Club in Noblesville, IN.

Griffis was instrumental in the incredible success of Sam Schmidt Motorsports' Firestone Indy Lights championships, serving as team manager for a squad that achieved 46 victories and four championships since 2004.  The team has all but locked up a fifth title in this year's championship chase with drivers Josef Newgarden and Esteban Guerrieri lying first and second, respectively.  Griffis also worked with Schmidt's Indianapolis 500 efforts during the past three seasons, working with drivers Townsend Bell and Alex Lloyd.

Chris Griffis began his career at the top reaches of American open wheel racing in the 1980s, where he worked with Patrick Racing and legendary drivers Gordon Johncock and Emerson Fittipaldi.  He worked with the latter driver for five victories, including a remarkable 1989 Indianapolis 500 win for the two-time Formula 1 champion.  

In 1990 Griffis joined Chip Ganassi Racing, moving to [Kenny] Bernstein Racing in 1993, where he stayed until joining Panther Racing in 2002.  There he was crew chief for Mark Taylor, who won the 2003 Firestone Indy Lights title.

Griffis is a Lincoln Tech graduate with a business degree in mechanics administration.  In addition to his love of racing, he enjoyed jet ski, playing basketball and boating with his family, wife Mari and two daughters, Clair and Sophia.  

Services are being held this Saturday in Akron, IN while a Celebration of Life event for the racing community will take place Saturday, September 24 at the SSM shop in Indianapolis.

© 2011 Anne Proffit

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