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Sam Schmidt Returns to PIR to Showcase SAM Car with Arrow Electronics

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – Over the weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, Sam Schmidt and Arrow Electronics showcased the SAM car, a vehicle in which Schmidt, who was rendered quadriplegic in an accident sixteen years ago, gets the opportunity to drive again.

“They just called me to drive it, which is the ultimate,” Schmidt said. “To just be a driver again and not have to find the resources, buy the car, put the people together, just shut up and drive. That’s always a good thing to do.”

Schmidt explained that from the time the Arrow team contacted him about the car to the time he was actually able to drive, it was only about a five-month period.

“I’ve never met a company like this that has such a directive and such an initiative to help people with the products they produce in a genuine matter,” he said.

The modified 2014 Corvette C7 Stingray uses infrared sensors to motion-track the driver’s subtle head movements in real-time, which are used to help steer the vehicle. The driver then uses the back of his or her head to press on a sensor located in the head rest in order to accelerate the vehicle.

“There are a bunch of components in the trunk and they’ve never been used in this fashion before, but they figured out how to get everything to talk to each other,” Schmidt added. “Then, voila, you’ve got this. That’s what they do.”

Schmidt first drove the car in May of 2014 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He drove it again in April of 2015 at Long Beach, where he topped out at 107 mph on the track. With the return of IndyCar to PIR after more than a decade for the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix, Schmidt saw it as the perfect opportunity to both showcase the incredible SAM car and to return to a track that he says holds a special place in his heart.

“For me it’s a bit of a full-circle moment because, having grown up on the west coast in California and Las Vegas, I’ve done thousands of laps around this place in the old configuration,” Schmidt said. “I loved racing here when I drove and I thought it was a real driver’s track.”

From the couple of times Schmidt has used the car, many have been inspired by what he continues to do as both a team owner and as a driver. However, he explained Arrow Electronics is what has inspired him to continue to have hope for the development of a cure for paralysis.

“It just is a matter of the right minds working together for a common goal with sufficient resources, we can do anything,” he said.

EMAIL VIVIAN AT vivian.meza@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularOpenWheel.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement. 

Vivian Meza

Vivian Meza is from San Bernardino, CA. She currently lives in Phoenix, AZ, and is an undergraduate student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU. Meza is also an intern in the media center at Phoenix International Raceway.

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