Schmidt to buy FAZZT IndyCar team UPDATE
This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Shortly after being paralyzed in a testing accident 10 years ago, Sam Schmidt started a race team to compete in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Though he transitioned that team into a Firestone Indy Lights powerhouse, he always had his eye on returning to the top-level of Indy car racing.
|Alex Tagliani will drive for Sam Schmidt's team|
In less than a month, Schmidt will return as a full-time owner in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Schmidt announced Tuesday that he has acquired the assets of the FAZZT Race Team, which debuted in the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2010 with Canadian Alex Tagliani and will enter the team's No. 77 Honda-powered Dallara in 2011 as Sam Schmidt Motorsports with Tagliani as the driver.
"This is a fantastic time for me, my family and everyone at Sam Schmidt Motorsports," said Schmidt from his Indianapolis race shop. "Though we competed in the IndyCar Series in 2001 and 2002, I can now admit we were naive in our understanding of what it took to be successful at the top level of open-wheel racing in the United States. Ten years later, I have a much better understanding of what it takes to go Indy car racing."
In addition to acquiring the cars and equipment, Sam Schmidt Motorsports will retain FAZZT employees for continuity into the 2011 season. SSM will retain the full sponsor support from Bowers & Wilkins (B&W) in the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg March 27.
"Our support for Alex (Tagliani) will transition with him to Sam Schmidt Motorsports," said Joe Atkins, chairman of Bowers & Wilkins. "We are excited about this new relationship and look forward to supporting Sam and the team in any way we can."
Schmidt stressed that acquiring the FAZZT assets and an additional IZOD IndyCar Series program will not detract from his team's existing plans for 2011. His team has already announced plans to field a car for Jay Howard at Indianapolis and Wade Cunningham for three other IZOD IndyCar Series events.
"We have worked hard to accomplish what we have in the Firestone Indy Lights series and, most importantly, we have built a team around a group of great individuals," Schmidt said. "That, combined with the excellent talent base at FAZZT Racing, should create a powerful combination. This in no way will interrupt our plans to compete strongly for the Indy Lights championship, and we all look forward to the challenge of being equally as competitive in the IZOD IndyCar Series."
In the upcoming weeks, Schmidt will have additional announcements regarding the 2011 season, including detailed plans for his team's effort at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May.
03/01/11 One of the best stories of the 2010 IZOD INDYCAR season was a one-car team with a veteran cast and a tiny budget. And one of the rumors that wouldn’t go away during the past few months was that the FAZZT Race Team might not be able to answer the bell in 2011.
But it appears Alex Tagliani, Rob Edwards and Allan MacDonald have been rescued by longtime Indy Lights owner Sam Schmidt, who is believed to be making a deal to buy this operation.
“All I can tell you is that the No. 77 car will be driven by me all year and there are lots of good things happening,” said Tagliani late Monday night from his home in Indianapolis. zzzz
“We’ve been able to keep our whole team intact and I’m excited to be with such a good group and to have Allan as my engineer for two years in a row.”
Asked if Schmidt was, indeed, the new owner, Tags replied:
“There has been a high level of interest from Sam to get into Indy car and he’s looked at us very seriously.”
It’s not known if original owner Andre Azzi will remain involved or if the team will sport a new name.
Sam Schmidt, left, has turned his SSM operation into an Indy Lights powerhouse. Could the ex-racer now be positioned to take an ownership stake in Tagliani's IndyCar team? (LAT)
Schmidt, whose team captured last year’s Lights’ crown with J.K. Vernay, could not be reached for comment but team manager Edwards was in Las Vegas last week negotiating with the former Indy car driver who was paralyzed in 2000.
Sam Schmidt Motorsports is fielding four cars in the 2011 Lights campaign out of his shop and its likely Tag’s operation will remain in the Indy shop they opened last year.
Schmidt announced last week he would field a car at Indy for Jay Howard but it’s not known whether that will be farmed out to Bobby Rahal or Howard will now run as a teammate to Tagliani. Schmidt will run Townsend Bell at Indy for the second consecutive year, and will also field a car for 2005 Indy Lights champion Wade Cunningham at three rounds. Speedtv.com
Note: See our revised 2011 IndyCar Silly Season page above showing the two teams merged.