Using his breathing and neck movements to drive the car, Schmidt – a quadriplegic due to an Indy car testing crash in 2000 at Walt Disney World Speedway – improved his pace each lap to reach trap speeds of more than 150 mph on the oval and averaged more than 105 for the four-lap run.
"It's a full-circle moment for me," Schmidt said after parking at the yard of bricks on pit road. "Sixteen years ago, I thought I'd never drive again. For me to come out in such a high-performance vehicle and go pretty darned fast, it was really cool. It's something I'll remember for the rest of my life."
Schmidt controls the throttle and brakes with his breath, blowing through a tube to accelerate and sucking through it to brake, and turns the car with 3D camera glasses. As he turns his head, the steering wheel turns in the same direction.
Schmidt is aligned with Arrow Technologies – primary sponsor on Hinchcliffe's pole-winning car – to work toward improving the lives of people with disabilities.
Schmidt said Arrow undertook the SAM Project, modifying the Corvette to allow Schmidt to control it, to help people with disabilities and push the project forward at a rapid rate.
Schmidt first drove the SAM car at IMS in 2014. Since then, he has proven the technology's abilities on the street course at Long Beach, Calif., the winding permanent road course at Sonoma, Calif., and the short oval at Phoenix.
"Arrow has a five-year-out initiative where they keep pushing things and seeing five years ahead, and what it's capable of," Schmidt said. "For everybody, their motto is 'technology is there to improve people's lives.' For people with disabilities, that's a greater impact. It's fantastic to be a part of that."