LONG BEACH, Calif. – Sam Schmidt and Mario Andretti never raced each other in their driving careers. Andretti retired from IndyCar after 1994 while Schmidt’s driving career was cut short due to a devastating accident in 2000 (he’s paralyzed from the neck down) before carving out a successful career as a team owner.
But, they’ll have their first chance to race each other in a warm-up act for this year’s INDYCAR Grand Prix from Indianapolis on May 13.
Ahead of the race on the 2.439-mile road course, Schmidt and Andretti will race head-to-head in a pair of Arrow semi-autonomous Corvettes around the track. Details, lap counts and charity information will follow at a later date – proceeds will go toward Conquer Paralysis Now.
Schmidt has raced the Corvette at the track before on the oval, and topped out at more than 150mph during a demonstration on qualifying day last year for the Indianapolis 500.
Schmidt and Andretti had some solid banter during the announcement today. Here’s the back-and-forth between these two, with Indianapolis Motor Speedway president J. Douglas Boles offering his input:
Schmidt: “The company (Arrow Electronics) is so special on so many levels. There are so many positive benefits. We never had the opportunity to race against Mario in my own driving career.
Andretti: “So you’ll do it under unfair circumstances? (laughter)
Schmidt: “Just like you at Daytona back in the day. (laughter)
“But it’s a huge honor. Everyone looks up to Mario in the paddock, on and off the track.
“It’s nice to not be a team owner in this situation. It’s been a great ride. I’m honored to be a part of the program. We’ll do a couple more things this year.”
Andretti: “If I beat you, do I get a ride in your team for the 500?
Schmidt: “Yeah he would race a cardboard box if you gave him the opportunity to race. You didn’t learn your lesson when you flipped?
Boles: “I’m fully supportive of that.
Schmidt: “If you beat me, in 2018, you’ve got a ride in the Indy 500… we’ll go kick your son’s (Michael) ass.”
Further details will come later today, but it adds an extra degree of interest to the first of two IndyCar races at the Speedway in May.