- Schmidt, Penske partner for 500
- Tung first Chinese driver at Indy
Sam Schmidt and Jay Penske Partner for Historic Indy 500 Entry
Ho-Pin Tung Becomes First Chinese Driver To Enter Indianapolis 500
INDIANAPOLIS – Janet Guthrie. Willy T. Ribbs. Hiro Matsushita. Each has a special place in Indianapolis 500 history. Ho-Pin Tung is hoping to become another racecar driver to earn a special place in the Indy 500 record books.
... it’s a great honor to be the first Chinese driver ever to take part in this special race.
Guthrie became the first woman to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 in 1977. Ribbs became the first African-American to race at Indy in 1991. That same year, Matushista became the first Japanese driver to compete in the Indy 500.
Tung, driving the No. 8 Dallara/Honda/Firestone entry for Schmidt Dragon Racing, will become the first driver from the People’s Republic of China to attempt to qualify for the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” He tested an IZOD IndyCar Series car last fall in Sebring, Fla., with the former FAZZT racing team which is now Sam Schmidt Motorsports (SSM). The test was funded by Bowers & Wilkins, sponsor of SSM’s No. 77 IndyCar team.
Practice for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 begins May 14, with pole qualifying May 21 and Bump Day May 22. The 500-mile race will begin at noon EDT on May 29 with live coverage on ABC.
“I am very excited to take part in the Indy 500 with Schmidt Dragon Racing,” Tung said. “The support for me in China has always been tremendous, and it’s a great honor to be the first Chinese driver ever to take part in this special race, especially being the 100th edition. I realize it will be tough since it will be my IndyCar debut, but Sam Schmidt Motorsports has shown great results in the last few races at the Indy 500, and Jay Penske and the Dragon Racing team has proven they can deliver a highly competitive racecar, so I am confident to have a good chance to qualify for the race.”
Tung is currently in his second year as a Formula 1 test driver for the Lotus Renault GP team and has helped develop the team’s 2011 R31 car. He started his racing career in karts at age 14 and quickly moved up through the open-wheel ranks, doing most of his racing in Europe. In addition to winning the Asian Formula BMW championship in 2003, Tung won the German Formula 3 championship in 2006. He has more than 20 wins in various rear-engine formulas.
“We are extremely pleased to have the opportunity to compete at Indy with Ho-Pin,” Schmidt said. “He did a fantastic job at the Sebring test and I’m confident we’ll be able to get him up to speed. To be the first team involved with a Chinese driver is huge. Our future success lies in our ability to generate commercial interest in our program, and what better way than to have a direct connection to the world’s largest population? Also, having the ability to partner with Jay Penske and Dragon Racing ensures a quality effort both on and off the track. Hopefully, the No. 8 will bring us tremendous good fortune.”
This year is SSM’s 10th anniversary of fielding a car in the Indianapolis 500. SSM was formed in 2001 after Schmidt’s own driving career ended in 2000 after a testing accident at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla. The team’s best result was a sixth-place finish with Richie Hearn in 2002. Schmidt is no stranger to success at Indianapolis, having taken young drivers Thiago Medeiros, Wade Cunningham, Alex Lloyd and Jaime Camara to victory lane at Indy as part of his Firestone Indy Lights team’s record 39 victories.
Penske started his IZOD IndyCar Series team in 2007 under the Luczo Dragon Racing banner, with partner Steve Luczo – Chairman and CEO of SeaGate Technologies. Penske has fielded cars at Indianapolis for drivers including Ryan Briscoe, Tomas Scheckter, Raphael Matos and Davey Hamilton. Though entered by Schmidt Dragon Racing, Tung’s car will be prepared and staffed by Dragon Racing.
“Once again, I am thrilled to be part of the Indianapolis 500, especially for the 100 anniversary,” Penske said. “I have always had deep respect for Sam Schmidt Motorsports and couldn’t be happier in partnering with Sam. We look forward to an electrifying month as we work to get Ho-Pin qualified for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”