INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – The dream of driving around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway behind the wheel of a car has been realized twice over by former Indy Racing League driver Sam Schmidt.
An off-season crash in 2000 rendered the three-time Indianapolis 500 competitor quadriplegic. On Sunday, Schmidt drove for four laps around the iconic speedway using only head movements in a semi-autonomous motorcar (SAM) modified by Arrow Electronics, Inc.
It was announced at the track that Schmidt took the specially fitted Corvette up to 97 mph as current drivers gathered around the Brickyard to cheer.
Afterward, Schmidt used the words “exhilarating” and “unbelievable” to describe the feeling he said came after a nine month planning process.
“It’s amazingly normal; that’s the big thing,” Schmidt said. “[For] 15 years, I haven’t been in control of anything, so it was just an amazingly normal feeling to be out there driving and it was fun.”
Schmidt, who chairs the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation, said the experience gave him hope that the technology utilized can be transferred to other applications to help many who are disabled.
“They’ve done more in the last five years than they have in the previous 25 years and so I’m inspired by this project. It has kind of reenergized me that we can find a cure for paralysis in my lifetime because we just have to get the right minds in the right place with the right amount of resources working on it and we can fix it,” Schmidt said.
Watch for 24-Hour News 8’s Drew Blair’s story on Schmidt’s drive around IMS and his message about paralysis Sunday at 6 p.m.