Schmidt Lands Newgarden for Firestone Indy Lights Seat
Tennessean Is Only American To Win Prestigious Formula Ford Festival
INDIANAPOLIS (March 9, 2011) – Up-and-coming American open-wheel driver Josef Newgarden officially signed Tuesday to drive a Sam Schmidt Motorsports (SSM) entry in the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights Championship.
Newgarden, from Nashville, Tenn., has spent the last three years racing in Europe. Now, at age 20, he is moving back to the United States and is looking to match his European success on the racetracks in America.
“I am thrilled to be joining Sam Schmidt Motorsports at this important stage of my career,” said Newgarden, who started racing in karting at age 13. “I felt that Sam’s organization would give me the best chance to be competitive this season, hopefully scoring race wins and competing for the championship. Sam has made me feel very welcome to his team and I really appreciate that. Now, I just can’t wait for (the season opener in) St. Pete to get started.”
In 2008, Newgarden was the first American to win the Kent class of the prestigious BRSCC Formula Ford Festival in the 36-year history of the event. He moved to the British Formula Ford Championship in 2009 and was runner-up in the final standings with nine wins. That same year, he won two of three races he contested in the Formula Palmer Audi Series. In 2010, Newgarden moved to the GP3 Series, where he scored five top-10s, three front-row starts and one pole position in 16 rookie-season races.
“I have been watching Josef’s career closely for the last four seasons, and I thought we had lost another great American prospect to the European system,” Schmidt said. “However, I believe the level of competition in those series will only strengthen his ability to perform in the U.S. going forward. We are very much looking forward to the opportunity of developing and promoting this young star in the INDYCAR series.”
The signing of Newgarden is the final piece of the 2011 Indy Lights puzzle for Indianapolis-based Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Teammates to Newgarden will be Brazilian Victor Carbone, Americans Bryan Clauson and Conor Daly of Noblesville, Ind., and Argentinian Esteban Guerrieri. Clauson and Daly will split driving duties in one of SSM’s entries with Clauson piloting on the ovals and Daly racing on the road courses.
“This now completes what will be a very strong four-car entry list for SSM in the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights Championship,” Schmidt said.
SSM will also enter the No. 77 Dallara/Honda/Firestone Bowers & Wilkins car for Alex Tagliani in the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2011. This year is SSM’s 10th anniversary. Schmidt formed the team in 2001 after his own driving career ended in 2000 after a testing accident at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla., left him paralyzed.
The 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights Series kick off March 27 with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
About Sam Schmidt Motorsports:
Sam Schmidt Motorsports (SSM) was established in 2001 and is owned by former driver Sam Schmidt, who was paralyzed (quad) in 2000 after a testing accident at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla. As a car owner, Schmidt fields cars in the Firestone Indy Lights Series and the IZOD IndyCar Series, including the Indianapolis 500. SSM is the most successful team in Firestone Indy Lights with 37 race wins and four championships. In addition, SSM has qualified 10 cars in the Indianapolis 500 since 2001.
The Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation (SSPF) was started in 2000. SSPF is leading the charge to cure paralysis by funding scientific research, medical treatment, rehabilitation and technological advances, benefiting stroke victims and people diagnosed with ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. For more information, visit www.samschmidt.org.