INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 13, 2011) – Chris Griffis, team manager for Sam Schmidt Motorsports’ (SSM) Indy Lights program, passed away unexpectedly the evening of Monday, Sept. 12 in Indianapolis.
Griffis, a native of Akron, Ind., was hired by SSM in January 2004 and led the team to 46 Indy Lights race wins and four series titles (Thiago Medeiros in 2004, Jay Howard in 2006, Alex Lloyd in 2007 and J.K. Vernay in 2010). He also served as team manager for SSM’s Indianapolis 500-Mile Race efforts most recently for Townsend Bell (2010, 2011) and Lloyd (2009).
Prior to working for SSM, Griffis was crew chief for Panther Racing’s Mark Taylor in the Indy Lights Series and helped the driver win seven races and four poles en route to the 2003 series championship.
Griffis began his IndyCar career with Patrick Racing in the 1980s working with legendary drivers Gordon Johncock and Emerson Fittipaldi. In 1989, Griffis was a crew member when Fittipaldi won five races, including the Indianapolis 500, en route to the series championship. Chip Ganassi then purchased the team and Griffis was crew chief for Eddie Cheever Jr., from 1990 to 1992.
From 1993 to 2002, he worked for Bernstein Racing and PacWest Racing as a crew chief, winning races with Scott Goodyear, Mark Blundell, Mauricio Gugelmin and Scott Dixon before moving to Panther Racing in 2003.
Griffis is survived by his wife, Mari, and two daughters.
The following is a statement from SSM owner Sam Schmidt:
“Chris was a great individual with a tremendous amount of integrity and a hard work ethic. I didn’t hire him for what he said in the interview because he never said much. I hired him because of the massive amount of respect and admiration people had for him in the paddock. One thing for sure is, we wouldn’t have any trophies in the case at the shop without him. My thoughts and prayers have been with Mari and his two girls since I got the news. I feel like I lost the brother I never had. He will be greatly missed.”