If you’re a regular reader of CorvetteBlogger, you’ve seen a lot of our stories about the inspirational journey of former Indy racer Sam Schmidt.
This week on Jay Leno’s Garage (Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on CNBC), Jay takes us up close and personal with Schmidt in a way only a comedian like Jay can provide.
Watch and you’ll be inspired by this amazing man, who’s been a quadriplegic since 2000 after a terrifying crash at Walt Disney World Speedway at 210 mph.
Jay and Sam start out the video on the track at Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club with a chat with Sam’s special Z06 sitting behind them, a Corvette controlled by the breathing and eye movements of the driver.
During their casual conversation, we find out that Sam started motocross at age 5, racing until he was 15. He set aside a career as a businessman to focus on racing stock cars professionally when he was 31 years old.
“A late start by most racing standards,” Jay points out, “but he quickly rose through the ranks driving in three consecutive Indy 500s and winning the Las Vegas Motorspeedway in 1999.”
Then came that horrifying crash during practice at the Walt Disney track in 2000, leaving Sam a quadriplegic.
“That night, the doctor told my wife, if he makes it a week, he’ll be on a ventilator. Just find him a nursing home,” Sam tells Jay.
No nursing home for this man, though!
Sam – with the help of Arrow Electronics and others – has been able to drive again for several months now, thanks to the ingenuity of his million-dollar high-tech Corvette. He even has become the first quadriplegic in the country to receive a semi-autonomous driver’s license, thanks to the progressive leaders in Nevada.
As Sam heads onto a public road with Jay riding shotgun, Schmidt points out that he anticipated anxiety and the nervousness of getting in a car again, “but I think the biggest thing I did not realize like an idiot is the amazing and overwhelming sense of normalcy,” he says.
“For 17 years there’s been very little in my life that I had a hundred percent control over,” he points out, “but being in this car and driving is a hundred percent under my control!”
And what a blast he and Jay have in the Corvette! It’s great to see the smiles on their faces as Sam does doughnuts with Jay whooping and hollering all the while.
Sam tells Jay he and his engineering friends at Arrow even believe that he’ll be able to walk his daughter down the aisle when she gets married someday.
“For folks like Sam, victory lane isn’t about crossing the finish line first,” Jay concludes. “It’s also about having the patience, optimism and determination to get back behind the wheel.”
“Nobody can stop me from doing anything,” Sam says.
Who would argue with the man? We definitely wouldn’t bet against him walking down the aisle one day!
Catch the full segment with Sam Schmidt on Jay Leno’s Garage this Wednesday at 10 pm ET on CNBC.
[VIDEO] Schmidt and Andretti Prepare for Saturday’s Semi-Autonomous Corvette Race at IMS
ingenfelter Partnering with Arrow with Upgrade their Semi-Autonomous Corvette Z06
Sam Schmidt to Race Semi-Autonomous Corvette Z06 at Pikes Peak