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Schmidt, Andretti announce semi-autonomous race at INDYCAR GP

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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.

Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew ready for IndyCar ride

Road to Indy
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Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew has done nothing but dominate the 2019 season, winning seven of the 16 races run so far and finishing on the podium in all but two of those events.

Now all the 22-year-old Floridian needs to do to formally clinch the 2019 title is simply start the final two races of the season, both of which will be held this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

For Askew, his maiden Indy Lights season will likely be one he’ll never forget. 

“It’s been a dream come true,” Askew told NBC Sports. “Being with the championship-winning team from last year, we had a really good shot at winning it again for Andretti Autosport. It’s very rare that we show up to a track and struggle to find speed. 

“That’s a fantastic feeling, especially as a driver. That gave me a lot of confidence and hopes of holding the million dollar check at the end of the year. That was the goal going into it.”

This weekend, Askew will accomplish said goal. The championship will not only bring him a sense of pride, but also the opportunity of a lifetime. 

As an award for being crowned the Indy Lights champion, Askew will be awarded a scholarship that guarantees him entry into a minimum of three NTT IndyCar Series events next year – including the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. 

Time will only tell which team Askew will race for in IndyCar next season, and whether or not Askew’s rookie campaign will be a full-time or part-time affair, but Askew’s performance during the last few seasons in the Road to Indy system has certainly drawn attention of IndyCar’s top team owners.

In August, Askew had the chance to drive an Indy car for the first time in his career during a test session at Portland International Raceway, driving the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda usually piloted by Scott Dixon.

“It was an opportunity with Chip Ganassi Racing that I was very fortunate to have,” Askew said. “I think with my experience in the past couple of years with Cape Motorsports and this year with Andretti Autosport, going into that test was very helpful.

“Going into the test, it was more of trying to treat it as just another day at the racetrack, when it really wasn’t. It was a fantastic opportunity for me – a great experience – and I hope I can take that into my rookie season next year in IndyCar.” 

The final two races of the 2019 Indy Lights season will take place this weekend on Saturday, September 21 at 6 p.m. ET and Sunday, September 22 at 12:05 p.m. ET. Both races will air live on NBC Sports Gold.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter