IPS: Sam Schmidt TMS teleconference transcript

Sam Schmidt Media Teleconference Transcript Texas Motor Speedway Monday, June 6, 2005 Sam Schmidt Motorsports is fielding four cars in Saturday's Menard's Infiniti Pro Series race at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway -- three of the top five in...

Sam Schmidt Media Teleconference Transcript
Texas Motor Speedway
Monday, June 6, 2005

Sam Schmidt Motorsports is fielding four cars in Saturday's Menard's Infiniti Pro Series race at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway -- three of the top five in the points standings and a car for P.J. Abbott, who lives in Grand Prairie, Tex.

Sam Schmidt Motorsports is also a means of promoting and publicizing The Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation. The Foundation (www.samschmidt.org) helps individuals overcome spinal cord injuries and other neurological disorders by fundting scientific research, medical treatment, rehabilitation and technological advances. This research also benefits stroke victorys and people diagnosed with ALS, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. The Foundation also addresses quality of life issues benefitting people with paralysis and other disabilities through its National Day at The Races programs and works tirelessly promoting advocacy concerns.

Q: TALK ABOUT THE SEASON FOR FAR.

SAM SCHMIDT: "Things are going great. We started off on high note, qualifying one-two at Homestead and finishing one-two. Honestly, we didn't quite have our act together at Homestead (testing) on the road course but, hopefully, when we go back to Indy we will. We've been trying to work with three rookies, so there is a little bit of a learning curve. They have admittedly made some mistakes but have put them behind them. Hopefully, we can go on and win some more races."

Q: COMING OFF THE INDY WIN, HOW DOES TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY COMPARE?

SCHMIDT: "First of all, Indianapolis Motor Speedway kind of crosses all sanctioning bodies. For every team in Nextel Cup, it's hard to win that race, the Brickyard 400. For the IRL, it's the ultimate race of the year. For us, our team puts a lot of effort into everything we do to make the cars go fast at the Speedway. Certainly, that's a huge accomplishment to win there two years in a row."

Texas is similar and I'm glad we're going there right after Indy. It's a flat-out track for our cars. You have got to work really hard to just get the drag out of them. Comparing them to the Trucks (Chex 400) or Nextel Cup, it would be like Daytona. You want to make the cars go as fast as you can in a straight line and not have a whole bunch of downforce. Fortunately, at Indy we didn't tear up any cars. Hopefully, we go down to Texas and repeat what we did at Indy."

Q: THE DAY AT THE RACES PROGRAM (Friday, June 10 at Texas Motor Speedway). CAN YOU GIVE US A SYNOPSIS OF THAT?

SCHMIDT: "Basically, when I was in the hospital (after his injury in 2000), I saw a lot of patients who didn't have good insurance, who didn't have supportive families there every day. Really, the appearance of things if you have a spinal cord injury or disability and are put in the hospital, (the appearance is) there really is not a whole lot you can do when you go back home or out in the community. We started the Day At The Races program for patients and their families around the rehab facilities around the markets we race, and we drive home the fact they can do anything they put their minds to if they want to get out of the hospital and get back into the community. There are plenty of programs out there, and we try to get the resources and information, and supply that stuff."

Q: "DANICA-MANIA." IS THAT GOOD IN THE LONG RUN FOR OPEN-WHEEL RACING? CAN IT DO SOME POSITIVE THINGS?

SCHMIDT: "Every since I drove in the IRL in 1997, I've had people come up to me in the garage area and say, 'I've only seen this on TV and never seen it in person, and TV just doesn't do it justice and it's just fantastic racing.' As that pertains to Danica, I think if we can get anybody out to the race track, that's a positive. We've had a lot of good female drivers come to the series but the unfortunate thing for them is they haven't come in with a good team and good engine combination that's got a good long-term sponsorship package. Obviously, she has the package with the looks and the PR side of things. The bottom line is she put in all 200 laps a week and half ago, and she did a heck of a job. She has the whole package. I think it's great for the series, great for ratings. I'm a fan of whatever puts butts in the seats, and that will do it."

Q: THE RACES AT TEXAS . . . YOU CAN'T GET MUCH MORE EXCITING THAN THAT.

SCHMIDT: "When I raced in 1997, Texas was my third race. I vividly remember coming out the pits and the engineer told you, 'You have to go flat into turn three.' Going down the back straightaway at 200 plus miles per hour and looking at turn three, it looked like I was driving into a wall. Once you get past the 10th lap, you just got to pucker up and take it flat. Once you get past that sense of intimidation, it is really a track very accommodating for IRL cars. There are at least two lanes you can run flat out. As we've seen in the past, sometimes they make it three (lanes), which is sometimes kind of scary with open wheels but I think that's what fans like. It's good, close racing. It's been like that since 1997. It's nice going to a place where you have at least 75,000 fans in the stands. It's not a place where you just ride around for 150 laps and kind of race at the end. From the time the green flag drops you see racing every lap."

Q: TEXAS IS ONE OF THE FASTEST TRACKS FOR THE IRL TOO.

SCHMIDT: "It's just shy of California and Indy, and it is extremely fast. The track has a lot of grip. The cars have a lot of grip. It's not just fast in a single file line like some other series but it's fast two-by-two. I just don't think TV does it justice. You have to sit there in the stands and watch those guys down the backstretch. In just a couple of seconds, they are out of (turn) two and into three. I got to admit, the first time I watched a race at Texas I was a car owner and up in the suites with my wife watching. I just looked at my wife and said, 'Are you kidding me? I can't believe I did this.'"

Q: TALK ABOUT THE SAM SCHMIDT PARALYSIS FOUNDATION.

SCHMIDT: "It's not a job I think anyone wants. Unfortunately with Chris Reeve passing away last October, he was the face on paralysis. I don't want to be the face on paralysis but we have to keep the momentum going. It's an extremely hot topic right now in Washington. We're obviously and advocate of doing whatever we can do to keep the momentum going. Just a spinal cord injury happens every year to 10,000 (people), and there are 300,000 people in the states living with it. When you talk about stem cell research, it's going to positively affect several more forms of neurological disorders, so we're talking about millions of more people. If we can tap into our notoriety in the motorsports community and that kind of leverage with a very loyal fan base and raise a bunch of money and awareness, that's great. I'm all for it."

Q: FOUR INFINITI PRO SERIES CARS -- DO THE MATH. WHAT IS FOUR IPS CARS VS. ONE IRL CAR (BUDGET)?

SCHMIDT: "There is still a big difference. The operating budget for four (IPS) cars all year would be in the range of $2.5 million, which is still half of what it would take to run one IRL car all year, probably in the back of the pack. We see it (Infiniti Pro Series) as a tremendous value. We can have four cars out there. We can go to the sponsors for the tenth of the money of an IRL car, still race on the same weekend, usually the same day, and still get pretty good TV coverage. We have four times the chance to win. We put together a package for our sponsor that includes hospitality, includes everything for an IRL car. We have basically 12 fulltime employees, while I think Andretti-Green has 95."

Q: GOING BACK TO THE IRL SOME DAY. DID THE INDY 500 WITH RICHIE HEARN WHET YOUR APPETITE?

SCHMIDT: "Well, I did it in 2001 and 2002. I missed a lot. I missed the strategy. I just missed competing at that level. But I don't miss the stress of raising that kind of money. The reality is if you can come in with a big budget with manufacturer support like a Rahal, like a Ganassi, like a Penske, then I'm all for it. But I'd much rather do what we're doing now, running up front, than go up there and run at the back.

Q: ANY THOUGHT TO SOMEHOW GETTING INTO NASCAR OR THE CUP SERIES, WHETHER WITH THE FOUNDATION OR AS AN OWNER?

SCHMIDT: "Actually, (I thought about it) briefly. I still have a lot of friends over there with Smoke (Tony Stewart) and Jeff (Gordon) and they guys when they come over here (Las Vegas) to test. Frankly, the travel would just kill me. I'm already on the road 140 days a year with the IRL and the Foundation. With a five-year-old and seven-year-old, I just don't want to do it any more than that. I think it would be fun. I think everybody who is a driver or car owner wants to race where they think the stiffest competition is. You look at somebody like Robby Gordon, who has what I would think would be decent resources and he is struggling big-time. I don't know how we could go in with more resources than that. I thought it would be fun but the reality is I'd rather just go visit them at the track."

-cw-

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Tony Stewart , Robby Gordon , Sam Schmidt , P.J. Abbott