Winning at Long Beach would be big for Schmidt and Pagenaud
Singer Dierks Bentley recently reached No. 1 on the country charts with his song titled "Home." IZOD IndyCar Series team owner Sam Schmidt would also like to reach No. 1 with his own version of "Home" – his home race that is.
When the IZOD IndyCar Series cars line-up on the grid for this weekend’s Toyota Long Beach of Grand Prix, Schmidt will be watching from the pit box of the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports team. Though he is a focused and competitive team owner, you can guarantee Schmidt will briefly let his mind drift back to his teenage years when he sat in the Long Beach grandstands as a fan.
Though he now lives in Las Vegas, Schmidt grew up in the San Fernando Valley and went to 10 consecutive Long Beach Grand Prix races with his parents. The Southern California native not only visited Long Beach as a racing fan, Schmidt also ended up living there as a newlywed.
Next to a win in May’s Indianapolis 500, a win by his team at Long Beach would be the biggest win for him as an IndyCar car owner, according to Schmidt. He can confidently say that because it’s easy for him to make the Indy and Long Beach comparison since his Firestone Indy Lights team has won at both.
Is all of this just sentimental wishing? No.
The Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports team and driver Simon Pagenaud enter the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach fifth in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship point standings on the strength of top 10 finishes (6th and 5th) in the first two races of the season. When they unload the car this Thursday, they expect to be contenders.
And like his car owner, Pagenaud has sampled the Long Beach victory lane. The Frenchman, though a rookie in IndyCar racing, has driven to victories twice in American Le Mans Series racing at Long Beach.
Pagenaud would now like nothing more than to deliver a ‘welcome-home’ gift of a Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach victory to Schmidt.