SCHMIDT NAMES HEARN INDY 500 DRIVER; MEIJER STORES & COCA-COLA SPONSOR OF CHEVY-POWERED PANOZ INDIANAPOLIS -- Sam Schmidt Motorsports Monday named veteran Richie Hearn to drive the No. 70 Meijer/Coca-Cola Special in this May's 89th Indianapolis...
SCHMIDT NAMES HEARN INDY 500 DRIVER; MEIJER STORES & COCA-COLA SPONSOR OF CHEVY-POWERED PANOZ
INDIANAPOLIS -- Sam Schmidt Motorsports Monday named veteran Richie Hearn to drive the No. 70 Meijer/Coca-Cola Special in this May's 89th Indianapolis 500. Schmidt's entry will be a Chevrolet-powered Panoz chassis, with major sponsorship from traditional Indy team sponsor Meijer stores and Coca-Cola.
Schmidt's team is the defending champion of the Indy Racing League's development Menards Infiniti Pro Series, having won six races and nine pole positions in the 12-race 2004 season. The team also won this year's opening event. Hearn, 34, finished third in the 1996 Indianapolis 500 and was sixth in 2002 in a Schmidt car. This will be his sixth Indy start.
Although this will be the fourth consecutive year Schmidt and Hearn have teamed for the 500, Schmidt emphasized an important difference. "In the past our program has come together very late, with limited practice time and sponsorship," the owner said. "Now, we have strong support from Meijer and Coca-Cola, and that has allowed us to put together a very solid effort. We have the funding to be on the track all month and we'll work hard to qualify and race competitively.
"I think it's fair to say our team has shown in the Pro Series, and also at Indy, that we can get the job done. Richie has done the same. The Meijer/Coca-Cola sponsorship gives us our best opportunity so far to do well at Indy."
Hearn, who like Schmidt resides in Henderson, Nev., has a victory and two poles in the IRL. "It gives me a lot of confidence to know that, thanks to Meijer and Coca-Cola, we'll be ready to go on the first day of practice," he said. "That's even more important this year because the new schedule has only four days of practice before pole qualifying. I have to thank Sam, because he's put together the strongest combination of sponsor-chassis-engine we've ever had."
A veteran Indy 500 sponsor, this will be the first year Meijer has sponsored Schmidt. Meijer is a family owned and operated grocery and general merchandise supercenter operating 163 stores in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio. Meijer is a supercenter with over 200,000 items all under one roof, from car oil to vegetable oil.
Associate sponsors include: Kleenex/Viva, Palmolive, Cheez-It, Sara Lee and McCormicks.
Michael Crawford is general manager for Schmidt Motorsports. Chris Griffis will be Hearn's chief mechanic and Tim Neff will be his engineer.