For Schmidt, first win as an IndyCar owner a long time coming

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Sam Schmidt has been a part of the IndyCar scene since the Indy Racing League iteration, back in 1997. He’s never won an IndyCar race as a team owner, until Sunday in Detroit with Simon Pagenaud’s No. 77 HP Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports Honda.

Asked how this compares to his more frequent winning in the Firestone Indy Lights Series, where the team has won the last three championships, Schmidt had a one-liner ready to go.

“This is better,” he laughed.

“I don’t know if I’d give up all those wins and championships for this, but this is really huge,” he said. “I know what Simon is feeling like right now because I had a chance to win one race as a driver (Las Vegas, 1999). It’s been a long road, a long journey these last 13, 14 years. Obviously, we wouldn’t be here today without Ric (Peterson) and Davey (Hamilton).”

Schmidt’s career path as a team owner is almost as circuitous as that of his lead driver and Detroit race two winner.

He didn’t choose the ownership path; a devastating testing accident at the Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando in 2000 left him paralyzed from the waist down. Come 2001, Sam Schmidt Motorsports, the team, was around in its first iteration.

Schmidt forged his path as an owner in Indy Lights, where between 2004 and 2012 he has won six championships and more than 50 races. He returned to IndyCar team ownership after the 2010 season, when he bought out the FAZZT Race Team co-owned by Alex Tagliani.

Tagliani drove for Schmidt into 2011, before a late-season driver change saw Tagliani replaced by that year’s Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon at Kentucky Speedway. Of course, tragedy struck at the Las Vegas season finale that year, when Wheldon was killed in a multicar accident.

It was undoubtedly the lowest point in Schmidt’s ownership career, but the team soldiered on into 2012 with Pagenaud as its new driver. The single-car team finished fifth in the championship, and Pagenaud won IndyCar Rookie-of-the-Year honors with four podium finishes.

Peterson has bought into the team this year, which now fields a second full-time car for rookie Tristan Vautier and also added a last minute third at the Indianapolis 500 for Katherine Legge.

Schmidt reflected on the recent grind of events leading to this victory on Sunday, and how the team has grown.

“We’ve grown substantially over the last couple years to I think 38 employees, partners there,” Schmidt said. “They’ve all meshed really well. I think we have a fantastic chemistry amongst all the guys. We’re all pushing the same direction. Nobody had their heads down. They knew what they had to do and they got it done.”

Malcolm Stewart sidelined by knee surgery for ‘extended duration’

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The knee injury that kept Malcolm Stewart from mounting up for Anaheim 2 will require surgery and he will be sidelined for “an extended duration” of the Monster Energy Supercross season, according to the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team.

“I just wanted to give you guys an update,” Stewart said on Instagram. “It’s not the news you guys want to hear, but I took a spill last week and hurt my knee pretty bad to the point that we’re going to have to get surgery done.

“I’m definitely bummed out about it; I felt we were riding pretty good and were just now starting to get the ball rolling, but it is what it is.”

Stewart’s season started with high expectations until accidents in the first two rounds left him 15th in the standings.

He ended 2022 on a high note, finishing a career high third in the Supercross standings. He then missed the start of the Pro Motocross season with another knee injury.

The 2023 season appeared to live up to his expectations. Despite back-to-back accidents, Stewart contended for podiums at both Anaheim 1 and San Diego. He won his heat at San Diego.

“It was very tough to receive the news that Malcolm will need to undergo knee surgery,” Nathan Ramsey, Team Manager for the Husqvarna team said in a press release. “He has worked so hard to be in a position to win races this year and I truly believe he was ready.

“The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing program will support him in every way that we can through his recovery and we can’t wait to get him back on track and back at the races.”

Stewart joins 250 rider Jalek Swoll on the sidelines after he broke an arm in a practice session. Swoll will be relieved by Talon Hawkins beginning this week at Houston, Texas.

A replacement rider has not been announced for Stewart, which means the focus shifts to his 450 teammate Christian Craig, who currently sits 12th in the standings with three top-15s in the opening rounds.