Sam Schmidt Motorsports
Firestone Indy Lights
|Race drivers||IndyCar Series Simon Pagenaud
Firestone Indy Lights
Lucas Oil (Indy Lights)
|Manufacturer||Honda in IndyCar Series|
|Drivers' Championships||6: Firestone Indy Lights|
Sam Schmidt Motorsports is an auto racing team in the IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights owned by quadriplegic former driver Sam Schmidt. Ex-driver Davey Hamilton late joined with Schmidt in 2011 to form Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports. For 2013, Oculus Transport CEO Ric Peterson joined Hamilton and Schmidt, renaming it Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
Schmidt's injury and team origins
On January 6, 2000, Sam Schmidt was in Orlando, Florida practicing at the Walt Disney World Speedway. As his car exited turn two, it hit the wall with a tremendous impact. Sam was airlifted to a nearby hospital in extremely critical condition. He was diagnosed as a quadriplegic, the result of a severe injury to his spinal cord at the C-3/C-4 levels and was on a respirator for 5 weeks. In 2001, just 14 months after his accident and at the urging of his wife and parents, Sam announced the formation of Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Undeterred by his injury, Sam travels over 120 days a year on behalf of the team.
For 2011, SSM purchased the assets of FAZZT Race Team, retaining some the personnel and all sponsors, including Alex Tagliani. Townsend Bell, Jay Howard, and Wade Cunningham will also drive for SSM in the 2011 IndyCar Series season.
Davey Hamilton began 2001 in the car and drove 5 races, including the team's first Indianapolis 500, ending with an injury at Texas Motor Speedway. He was replaced by Jaques Lazier who drove four races and 3 other drivers who drove a few races each. Richie Hearn made 9 starts for the team in 2002 as he switched between the team's 2 cars, the #99 and #20. Anthony Lazzaro drove in the first three races of the year in the #99, but handed over Indy 500 driving duties to Mark Dismore, who made his only start for the team in that year's '500'. Also, in 2002, the Indy Pro Series was founded and Schmidt eventually refocused its efforts on that series, running only the Indy 500 as its sole IndyCar series race with a car driven from 2003 to 2005 by Hearn and in 2006 by Airton Daré. In 2007 the team fielded a car in the Indy 500 for Buddy Lazier. In 2008, while the team did not field a car of its own, it prepared and engineered Rubicon Race Team's entry for Max Papis that failed to qualify after suffering numerous gearbox problems during qualifying. The team made a joint entry with Chip Ganassi Racing for the 2009 Indianapolis 500, piloted by Alex Lloyd. The arrangement with Chip Ganassi continued in 2010 for the Indy 500 with Townsend Bell driving. In 2012 SSM fielded a car for Frenchman Simon Pagenaud. Davey Hamilton joined Schmidt to field the number 77 car. Pagenaud went on to win the IZOD IndyCar Rookie of the Year Award.
Schmidt's Indy Pro Series (later Firestone Indy Lights) program has been one of the most successful in the series' recent history, winning the 2004 championship with Thiago Medeiros, the 2006 title with Jay Howard, and the 2007 title with Alex Lloyd. After two less successful seasons, it captured its third championship in 2010 with J. K. Vernay. Once again on top the team took home a 2012 Lights championship title with Tristan Vautier. For 2013 the team's Indy Lights drivers are Jack Hawksworth, Gabby Chaves, and Sage Karam. Karam won the championship in 2013, becoming the eighth rookie to become series champion.
Chris Griffis, the team manager for Sam Schmidt Motorsports' Indy Lights team, died on September 12, 2011. He was 46. Just over a month later, at the 2011 season finale, Dan Wheldon died after he was involved in a 15-car wreck at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
2013 brought a new driver and co-owner for the team, former Toyota Atlantic Championship driver Ric Peterson, with the team being renamed Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. 2012 Firestone Indy Lights champion Tristan Vautier was moved up to race for the team in the IndyCar Series.
Past IZOD IndyCar Series drivers
- Mikhail Aleshin (2014)
- Alex Barron (2001)
- Townsend Bell (2010–2012)
- Wade Cunningham (2011)
- Airton Daré (2006)
- Mark Dismore (2002)
- Davey Hamilton (2001)
- Richie Hearn (2001–2005)
- Buddy Lazier (2007)
- Jaques Lazier (2001)
- Anthony Lazzaro (2001–2002)
- Katherine Legge (2013)
- Alex Lloyd (2009)
- Hideki Mutoh (2011)1
- Simon Pagenaud (2012–present)
- Martin Plowman (2011)1
- Greg Ray (2002)
- Alex Tagliani (2011)
- Tristan Vautier (2013)
- Dan Wheldon (2011)
1Run in association with AFS Racing