Hamilton adjusts to new role as team owner
It was strange, Davey Hamilton acknowledges, checking the Indianapolis 500 entrant list and not spotting his name.
Hamilton, an 11-time starter in the 500 Mile Race, this year is concentrating on his role as co-owner of Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports.
"I still have that drive and desire to be in the car, knowing I can't be on road courses because of my injuries, but still be able to do something," says Hamilton, who returned to the Speedway in 2007 following the 2001 crash at Texas Motor Speedway that required more than 20 surgeries to his lower extremities.
"The only way I'll drive an IndyCar again is if it's an asset to the team -- if it's done in the right manner and funded. But if it's a hindrance to the team and a financial stress to the team I won't do it."
Hamilton will compete May 5 on opening night at Oswego (N.Y.) Speedway in the Novelis Supermodified division, driving the No. 6 Nicorta Racing car. He ran his first Supermodified event at Oswego in the 1992 Budweiser International Classic.
"I will do some short-track stuff to have some fun and mining the grassroots," he says.
Hamilton and Sam Schmidt teamed up again to operate a full-season IZOD IndyCar Series team, with Simon Pagenaud as the driver of the No. 77 Honda-powered car. The Itaipava São Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle on April 29 marked the 63rd time Schmidt-owned car has lined up on the grid of an IZOD IndyCar Series race.
Hamilton was in the cockpit of the No. 99 car when SSM made its first race in March 2001 at Phoenix International Raceway. That was a long time ago, Hamilton says, with numerous twists and turns for both team owners.
"It's a big step," Hamilton says of the ownership stake. "This is the pinnacle of open-wheel racing and I never knew I would be in this position to be able to do it and being able to do it with Sam - a guy I've been friends with for so long. He's been very successful as an owner. To be able join him and help each other out brings a good package, and we're fortunate to have Simon as a driver."
Pagenaud, who has finished in the top 10 in three of the first four races -- with a high of second in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach - will participate in the Rookie Orientation Program on May 10 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indianapolis 500. He's by far the Rookie of the Year points leader heading into the first oval race of the season May 27.
Hamilton will be in attendance - in a different capacity.
"I was a rookie in IndyCars in the mid-90s and I was a rookie again when I came back from my injuries in '07 because I was so far out of it," said Hamilton, who has a best finish of fourth in the 1998 500 Mile Race. "And now here I am a rookie again as a car owner. I'm learning a lot and it's a change of pace. It's been a lot of hard work.
"I look at drivers in a different way now. I know what kind of money it takes to do this, and the pressure is on me to find the proper funding to have a winning team. As a driver, I just drove my own. It's good to have different aspects of sports.
"There will be more responsibilities for me and I look forward to it. Right now, I'm just getting my feet wet."
Hewlett Packard, the multinational information technology corporation headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif., which has a long association with Hamilton, came on board as the primary sponsor this season.
"HP it what makes it happen; they've been great partners since my comeback in '07," Hamilton says. "It's a good business relationship and a very good friendship with all the folks at HP. When you can create friends out of any business it's great.
"From the first year doing the Indy 500 in my comeback and here we are with a full-funded program with Simon, Sam and HP it's really a dream come true."