Sam Schmidt is a former racing driver and current team owner whose team participates in the IndyCar Series. As a driver, he scored one victory and four podiums in the American premier open-wheel competition. As a team owner, he captured seven Indy Lights titles and six IndyCar race victories.
Sam Schmidt spent three seasons in the Indy Racing League from 1996 to 1999 before he suffered life-threatening injuries in an accident during a test at the Walt Disney World Speedway in January 2000. The accident rendered him a quadriplegic.
In 2001, he announced a formation of the Sam Schmidt Motorsports. The team changed its name to Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports in 2011 and then to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in 2013.
Late start of racing career
Samuel 'Sam' Schmidt was born on August 15, 1964, in Lincoln, Nebraska. After graduating from Pepperdine University, he became a businessman. He started to race on an amateur level, entering the first professional competition in 1995, when he debuted in the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series. He won Rookie of the Year honors and then switched to the USF2000 National Championship.
Indy Racing League debut in 1997
In March 1997, Sam Schmidt made his Indy Racing League debut in the fourth round of the 1996/1997 IRL season at Phoenix International Raceway. He was driving the #16 car for Blueprint Racing, finishing in the 10th place. His next race was the Indianapolis 500, in which he retired before the green flag due to broken engine.
After three races for Blueprint Racing, Schmidt moved to the #99 Dallara-Oldsmobile for LP Racing, participating in three more races. He was 27th in the points standings.
Celebrating victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Las Vegas Motor Speedway was a lucky place for Schmidt
In 1998, Schmidt spent a full season with LP Racing, driving the #99 Dallara to his first IRL podium in the season's finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He finished second behind Arie Luyendyk. After eleven races, Schmidt was 14th in the points.
Next year, he joined Treadway Racing to drive the #99 G-Force. The successful season ended with his maiden IRL victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In the final championship classification, he was in the fifth place.
Sam Schmidt after an accident
Violent accident stopped Sam's career
Both the team and Sam had high hopes for 2000 season but the accident happened at the Walt Disney World Speedway on January 6, 2000, which stopped Sam's career. After five months on a respirator, Sam survived but became a quadriplegic.
After leaving the hospital, Schmidt realized that he needs to find a new passion. Inspired by meeting tetraplegic Formula One team owner Sir Frank Williams, he founded his own racing team Sam Schmidt Motorsports.
The most successful Indy Lights team
The team entered the full season in the IndyCar Series, staying there for one more season. From 2003 to 2010, the team participated just at Indianapolis 500, returning full time in 2011. Since then, the team scored six IndyCar wins, four with Simon Pagenaud and two with James Hinchcliffe.