Printer Friendly

CHANGING GEARS AFTER TRAGEDY SCHMIDT NOW OWNER AFTER ACCIDENT ENDED DRIVING DAYS.

Byline: Tim Haddock Staff Writer

Sam Schmidt spent his first three seasons in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series without a victory. That's, of course, not counting the little victories he records every day running his two-car developmental race team from his wheelchair.

Schmidt, one of the pioneers of the Indy Racing League, had his racing career cut short when he was left a quadriplegic after he was involved in a practice accident in January 2000 in Orlando, Fla.

Instead of leaving racing altogether after his career-ending accident, Schmidt switched roles. He became a team owner and four years later is on the verge of capturing his first series championship for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. In the process, he has become a source of inspiration for those who struggle with paralysis.

``I just couldn't check out after this happened,'' said Schmidt, who has a master's degree in international finance from Pepperdine. ``I mean, I had to find a way to fix it. That's really what we're trying to do. If we can take several hundred thousand people with us, that's great.''

Schmidt has run his own team since 2001. But until this season, he was 0 for 38 in the Infiniti Pro Series as an owner. When his driver, Thiago Medeiros, starts Saturday's race at California Speedway, Schmidt will capture this season's Infiniti Pro Series championship in record fashion.

``We made some good changes,'' Schmidt said. ``Thiago is a heck of a driver. To me, the program has finally been what it needs to be, with the proper level of testing, just the right people in place. Everything's gone remarkably smooth.''

Medeiros, a driver from Sao Paolo, Brazil, already has set the Infiniti Pro Series record for most poles in a season with six. With two races remaining, he has five wins and is closing in on the series record for victories. Mark Taylor holds the record with seven.

``We still have two races left,'' Medeiros said. ``We'll see what's going to happen. I mean, still two races to go. Our plan is to keep winning, keep leading the most number of laps that we can, then we can get a championship pretty soon.''

Schmidt made his Indy Racing League debut as a driver in 1996 and started 27 races in his career. He won the IRL race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in September 1999, the only win of his IRL career.

Three months later, he was involved in a career-ending crash while practicing for the IRL race at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla.

He spends 35 hours a week in physical therapy recovering from the injuries he suffered on top of overseeing the daily operations of his team.

``I think race car drivers generally are pretty motivated people, are the type that get out there and keep themselves in shape, etc.,'' Schmidt said. ``So my brain hasn't changed. I've still got to keep busy and keep focused and have something to do.''

In addition to running his team, he also manages the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation, which raises money for paralysis research.

``We have a Day at the Races program where we bring out people from local rehab centers to the track after they've been injured to show them they don't have to go home and be a couch potato or a burden on society for the rest of their life,'' Schmidt said.

``Unless you're on a ventilator, you're no worse off than me. It can be done.''

Tim Haddock, (818) 713-3715

timothy.haddock(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

2 photos, box

Photo:

(1) Sam Schmidt became the owner of his own team after an accident ended his driving career and left him confined to a wheelchair. He is closing in on his first series championship.

Photo provided

(2) - Sam Schmidt

former IRL driver who had his career cut short when he was paralyzed in an accident, then became owner of his own racing team.

Box:

RACE DAY
COPYRIGHT 2004 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 29, 2004
Words:660
Previous Article:KANAAN HOPES TO TAKE THE 5TH TOP-FIVE FINISH IN FONTANA WOULD BRING 1ST IRL TITLE.
Next Article:TROTTING INTO ACTION OAK TREE OPENING WITH FIRST-EVER $1 PICK 5.


Related Articles
Clipped wings.
No easy rider: Sharon Cancel burns rubber. (Personal Passions).
SCHMIDT'S ALL BUSINESS AT FIRST INDY 500.
SUCCESS TURNS TO TRAGEDY : ACCIDENT LEADS TO FINANCIAL RUIN.
NEW HELMET LAW FOR SKATEBOARDERS HAS KIDS COVERED.
HORNADAY GETS CHANCE TO WIN AGAIN.
FOR SAUGUS DRIVER, SCHMIDTS HAPPENED.
HARVICK STAYS WITH RCR TEAM.
German philosophy and the ethical life.
SAM'S CLUB UNDAUNTED AFTER A CRASH LEFT HIM A QUADRIPLEGIC, SCHMIDT STILL GETS A CHANCE TO WIN THE INDIANAPOLIS 500 - AS AN IRL TEAM OWNER.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters