Sam Schmidt is a former IndyCar driver, the co-owner of Arrow McLaren SP IndyCar team, and the founder of Conquer Paralysis Now. He grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, working on race cars with his father, who used to race dragsters. Sam raced from the age of five to ten until his father was injured in a race. After graduating from Pepperdine University with a BA in Business Administration and an MBA in International Finance, Sam resumed his racing career. In 1997, at the age of 32, he competed in his first season of IndyCar competition and won his first pole and race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway two years later, finishing sixth in the 1999 championship.
The turning point in Sam’s life came in January of the following year when he was involved in a massive crash during off-season testing at Walt Disney World Speedway. He was taken to the local hospital and was later diagnosed as a quadriplegic due to a severe spinal cord injury at the C-3 and C-4 levels.
How Technology Can End Paralysis
Sam showed incredible fortitude despite his inability to compete by establishing the Conquer Paralysis Now charity and Sam Schmidt Motorsports, which is now Arrow McLaren SP, just 14 months after the injury. No matter his current condition, his determination to continuous improvement and his enthusiasm for racing remain unabated. Sam has been, in fact granted the first license of its kind, which permits him to drive a semi-autonomous car, thanks to technology and his willingness to develop means of independence.
Sam is a firm believer that with enough money and time, it’s possible to find a cure for paralysis. The progress we’ve witnessed since this episode first aired, show that he’s very right. In the last two editions of my Inspire & Activate Greatness Newsletter, I’ve shared with you two articles, a man with a severed spinal cord that walks again thanks to an AI implant, and a human spinal cord implant that helps mice walk again, which give great hope for the future. Progress in this field will continue accelerating thanks to the convergence of technologies, and Sam Schmidt’s dream might be closer than you imagine.
And now here’s Sam Schmidt.
Full transcript below
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Podcast with Sam Schmidt. Paralysis is Not a Life Sentence.
racing, ventilator, driving, people, sam, driver, louis, thinking, rehabilitation, started, years, foundation, day, spinal cord injury, walking, physical therapy, technology, dad, car, breathe
Mike Malatesta, Sam Schmidt
Mike Malatesta 00:11
Okay, yeah, right. Yeah, I assume you’re on these things all the time, huh? Well, actually, you’re still dude. Oh, really? Okay. Hey, you probably tired of the mind. Okay, sure. Yeah, I can imagine that it’s a lot to fly
Sam Schmidt 00:56
can work. You know, cuz I do. We just a lot of kind of old school guys that have flip phones and they really like to face to face interaction and I’m happy to go comedy, but the more they can do this kind of stuff.
Mike Malatesta 01:18
Yeah, right. Yeah it can be can be a big blessing that comes out of a really weird time, right? So um I was a while ago since we talk. So I just want to make sure that I have you all set for for this. It’s very, very simple. I do the introduction separately, Sam. So I just get started, say a few things like how I met you or whatever. And, and then I asked the question that I asked everybody, which is how it happened for you. And you can answer that however you’d like. And then we kind of just go from there. Yeah. Okay. And just so I’m caught, I’m aware. How much time do you have? I usually go for about an hour, but I you know, I want to make sure that it’s okay for you. Okay, well, you tell me, and we’ll do whatever’s okay. Okay, good enough. All right, so I’ll just count down 321 and get started if that’s okay with you. Okay. 321 Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the show. As you heard in the introduction, I’ve got Sam Schmidt with me today, Sam, thanks for joining me. I do I owe Teresa easler, a debt of gratitude for connecting Sam and I she was on the podcast earlier. Hopefully you listen to that episode. And I knew I knew Teresa from Strategic Coach where she was my business coach for a number of years. And after she did the show, she was kind enough to introduce me to both to Sam into another fellow named David Allen, and got a chance to talk with Sam maybe a month ago or so. And talk to him about the show. And he agreed to come on. I’m just thrilled to have him. So Sam, I start every show with the same question. And that is how did happen for you. Okay, that happens. Yeah.
Sam Schmidt 04:14
I guess you know, I could go back to, to when my two when my parents left the church when they were married, because my mom had to drive to church, because my dad’s license was revoked. For street radio. Okay.
Mike Malatesta 04:42
And when you were born and started coming up, let’s assume your dad may have gotten his license back by then. How did you how did you first get introduced to to racing and how did you I guess how did you figure out that that’s what was what you wanted to do.
Sam Schmidt 05:00
Yeah, I think it’s a pretty common thing in motorsports that, you know, if your dad and your parents are into it, you sort of log into it. You know, it’s clear with the andretta use and the answers and those those legacy days. But I think it’s Same for a lot of people on the other side of it. A lot of kids get involved in baseball, basketball, football. Sure, same way. My dad raced before I was bored, drag racing supermodels in the Midwest, and he was known as a prolific welder, and fabricator. And so this is the 60s. The guy in California named Ellen Brown was known for really, really, you know, avail to restraint cards, etc. So, legends would buy screen cards from him, he got a big order, and called my dad and said, Hey, man, I don’t know how many keys cards when I need to get to California. Well, I was to load up the 55 Chevy, you know, meet Nebraska, you go to California, and you’re never gonna go back. Right? So my dad started racing in Southern California. When I was five, I didn’t get a bicycle for Christmas. I got a motorcycle. And, and that was our lives. We worked after school and come home and work on my stuff to work on his stuff. And every weekend we’d be racing, whether it was me at the motocross track or him at the super modified track. And I really didn’t know anything different. I didn’t think I was
Sam Schmidt 06:30
Man, what a fantastic way to build a family. We were so tight in a little bit I no matter my life, if that would be so important. To My recovery was the family and the attitude and the support.
Mike Malatesta 06:52
Right. So let’s talk about that a little bit, Sam, that the, you know, the the impact of something like what happened to you, you know, really touches your whole family. How is and you have faith, faith, a faith, I understand you need faith to get through something like this, but I’m just curious how, like, what your what was going on before you before this happened to you? And I guess afterwards. There had to be, I’m thinking there had to be a point where you’re like, Oh, my gosh, this is never going to be the same and some parts are never going to be the same. But how did you and your family rally around what needed to be done to keep making progress as opposed to reflecting on what could have been if you know, before something happened?
Sam Schmidt 08:02
racing a desert cup with Roger Penske Ray, super Bs, and, you know, from Bakersfield, California, winds up winning 4500. So like, you know, like target was sending him gauge that I wanted to get to the 500. And I wouldn’t erase it any further. Ultimately, I wonder when maybe 500. So, you know, laser focus on that throughout high school. There wasn’t any opportunities. So I get y’all to get my MBA, international finance, because you have your family either to do this. That’s what’s different about soccer, your family dressed up, have a pot of money, or you’ve got to find other people to support this. And so my family didn’t have a pot of money. So I got a degree in started chasing the money myself, and found people to sponsor my my racing. Now it took me longer to get there. And I didn’t start racing until, you know, on asphalt until I was 2223 years old, which is really late. But that’s a large degree to get the money. And so, you know, we we didn’t make it. Long story short, fast forward. Race being 597 9899 was very fast, fastest with the 9799 and 99 qualifying 16 Southern, you know, can lead the race of 99. So, a lot of success there. 99 was my best year where I finished getting the championship, won the Vegas race, which is kind of my adopted hometown, right. And it’s like, you know, here we are living in this euphoria, of you know, have reached my goals with racing at that level. beautiful wife, seven years at a time, six months old, two and a half year old and this is everything I wanted. And four months later, we hit the wall. Reality jack was not going to Just about breathing for five minutes airlifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center. And Dan was testing crash. They were having an open test. My wife had grabbed my phone, take a red eye back. And so now we’re kind of caught up to the question, right? Yeah. All night and neurosurgeons aren’t exactly known for their bedside manner. And this guy was right, right up there with it.
Mike Malatesta 10:52
This is the this is how you greet your wife. Exactly, yeah. Okay.
Sam Schmidt 10:57
What he didn’t realize is that when I was 11, my dad had an accident, down in Mexico, his brain, which paralyzed the speech, much like a stroke. And outpatient therapy, five days a week, two hours a day, I went to some of the sessions, and had a hard time, myself, visually, so I didn’t do that very often. But anyway, long story short, he got his walking back, I got to speech back. The only thing he never got back was the use of wood, right. But you got back into business, very himself in that and continue to work till you’re 65 years old, and then basically retired. And now he’s 76. Still doing fine, right?
When I got hurt,
Sam Schmidt 12:09
that was our background, that was my goalpost, so to speak. He didn’t know the driving determination, right. So they started calling and all the ton of our degree centers around the country, I was out of it, I don’t remember, at all the first couple of weeks. But they were calling calling, everybody said, you know, instead of ventilator, we’ll teach you how to live with it. But don’t, don’t expect to get off the ventilator. But there was one doctor in St. Louis, instead of begin here, we’re going to work your butt off, we’re going to do our best to get him up off the ventilator, and very aggressive forms of physical therapy. And we’ll just do our best. And that’s what everybody wanted to hear. And he was the only guy to do it. dr. john McDonald, the only guy out there really gave us any sense of hope. And so to attack the maximum, be happy all of those medical medical airplanes, and they were sent into St. Louis.
Mike Malatesta 13:33
So I want to go on and get back to the ventilator and a second, Sam, but I you said something. When you were talking about getting your MBA that, you know, as a driver, you either have to have a pot of money. And I wanted to go back to that because I I don’t have a great understanding of what the race world is like, but I do. But But I have heard enough stories about how, you know, drivers basically have to pay their own way. I mean, they have to figure out a way to get somebody to sponsor them. And it’s a very, very difficult road. So could you just tell me a little bit more about how difficult that road is and how a drive what a driver has to do to get a ride to become successful?
Sam Schmidt 14:31
things you have to specialize. You typically have to go to an academy in Florida.
Mike Malatesta 14:38
Yeah, sure. You know,
Sam Schmidt 14:45
kind of 678 years old, the latest that is going to run a parent, you know, between 150,000 a year to compete at that level. Now, the kids really get out of the box here. Couldn’t get factory vacuum for the go kart or for the engines or something, and not not have to put a pencil on 50 grand, but he is kind of like the chicken in the egg, you got to spend something to lease my kitchen good. And then hopefully it gets picked up with some sponsorships of equipment or whatever. But in no way shape or form is a candidate you’re getting paid. So Marriott typically has to come up with that hundred 50 grand from 678 until 15. And then if you’re forcing it, you’re gonna move up to sort of f4 your triple A double a single a or it’s kind of like little B, or pop corner, then there’s high school and there’s college, but it’s not free. It definitely costs. Now there are instances where kids have just been so shockingly good at a certain level, that they’ll get funding to move up through those levels. But, man, that’s like more than 1000. So you got to ultimately start the process with another 8 million to just do that, and get to get into it in the opportunity to be seen. My dad, my dad had an automotive recycling facility, which is
Mike Malatesta 16:48
a scrap yard, okay, you
Sam Schmidt 16:49
know, sold used parts most of his life, and worked his tail off, you know, and paid for his own racing doing that. But that was just Mexico. And you know, he might spend 25 30,000 euros on racing, not hundreds of thousands of dollars. So my friend?
Mike Malatesta 17:21
Sure. So how do you, I’ll just use you as an example. How do you raise $850,000 to get to be, you know, so that you can race it into you? How do you How does one go about that? Okay.
Sam Schmidt 17:43
You’re, you’re competing against billboards, and tickets, all of these other things that companies spend money on. And to me sports, kind of that Motorsports, that behind the scenes, at the track behind the pin wall, you know, being really engaged with the team and whatnot is, is something that, you know, we’ve had success selling on the activation side. Because you compare that to a suite at a Laker game, for example, your customers come in, and you get them get about 20 minutes for the game.
Mike Malatesta 18:26
Yeah, right. Yeah.
Sam Schmidt 18:29
Typically. So what I’m selling is the ability for you and your customers to have two days of, you know, non stop activity. We build platforms from, like, coming in Saturday morning, play around a golf and everybody loves to go to Jay Leno’s garage, out dinner somewhere with the drivers get a juicy to ride and indie cartoon scene around. And then he likes a race. And he go over here to LA, you know, 48 hours of relationship building you with your customer. And you know, it’s
Mike Malatesta 19:18
Right, right. Gotcha. Something that they can’t forget.
Sam Schmidt 19:31
dots, you know, on b2b introductions and stuff like that. So, you know, I guess in a very early age, I put my, my MBA to work and try to be different than everybody else. And again, you know, now I got to raise 70 million car raised less than a million. So it’s all relative. You know, just got to figure out
Mike Malatesta 19:57
okay, I want to come back to that, too. So now I’m going to circle back to the ventilator and Dr. McDonald, what, what had to go on both both mentally, and physically, physically for you to get off of the ventilator, Sam, because if all these experts were saying, you know, that’s just going to be a part of your life, or whatever’s left of it, and he’s saying, well, your own mind saying, well, don’t tell me what’s, what’s gonna happen to me. But then Dr. McDonald is saying, You know what, I think I can get you off of this ventilator.
Sam Schmidt 20:36
Sometimes it doesn’t, but you’ve got the ventilator in your throat. They have different levels of filters. And suddenly you start kind of going day by day of blocking off that ventilator, and you try on your own, to train yourself to be able to breathe without it to where after, hopefully a week or 10 days, they’ve got something fully closed off. And you’re breathing on your own. And hopefully, you know, when they pull that thing out, you continue to breathe. And I mean, I’ll never forget I like I said, the first couple weeks hours out of it on the move from from Florida to St. Louis. It was a really, really bumpy ride in a very small jet. And I remember being tossed around quite a bit. And Neil, like, blacking out, because I couldn’t breathe. And there’s probably a chapter in the book, just in that flight from from Florida to to St. Louis. But then you get to St. Louis. And the doctor that was assigned to me, the neurosurgeon assigned to me, by Dr. McDonald, happen to be the neurosurgeon to the Rams.
Wait takes a look
Sam Schmidt 21:55
at my MRI and says, Well, this is all wrong, we got to redo the apparatus in your neck. And that happened to be
Sam Schmidt 22:05
When the Rams won the Super Bowl, and said we’ll fix it, fix it now because I want to get him into physical therapy as soon as possible. The guys like he says 19 fixes. I was in less than 24 hours and went into surgery in St. Louis, to restabilized my neck. Because they had put metal metal in my neck to stabilize. I had no more seat for vertebrae that was just gone. So they had a bridge between C three and C five. Okay. And in even like the way it was done in Big O stable enough, in a week. So I got off right on that night. And then it just kind of I don’t know, it was probably two three days. He kind of began the process to, to wean me off the and
Mike Malatesta 23:09
and how long was it before you were able to leave the hospital and start, you know, the process of living your life the way that you have to live it now.
Sam Schmidt 23:36
Florida in St. Louis, but so roughly five and a half local St. Louis, but I tell you, the time that I was on the ventilator was nothing short of a living hell, from temperature spikes to breathing issues to, you know, just not able to do in physical therapy because the ventilator. And I can tell you without any doubt that if I hadn’t stand a ventilator, I would not be your 20 years later, because it was just literally day in day out. You know everything from sanctions, you notice all kinds of things. Very painful, very just demoralizing and didn’t have energy for anything lost like 40 pounds. And so when they pulled the ventilator out, we really like flipping on a switch. And I immediately felt better and didn’t have any of those issues I had previously and I just had no idea. It was going to have that kind of effect on me. But we went straight into the intensive rehabilitation and started doing you know, literally five or six hours a day, physical therapy from five to five morons.
Trying to get you know,
Sam Schmidt 24:54
just bone mass and bone density and muscle Mass atrophy, just trying to keep all that stuff away. So I was kind of glad I wasn’t insane. I was in St. Louis, away from my friends, and everybody else because I couldn’t focus on it now, again, back to having, you know, good insurance, and a family, the community is supporting me. I mean, I also realized that I wasn’t, I was in the minority, you know, my family was able to load up the foreigner and drive to St. Louis and get an apartment, and they were there in the morning. And they were there at dinner for me. And so.
Mike Malatesta 25:45
And if I, if I remember, correctly, what I read, you know, when you say you’re a quadriplegic, you, you you’re off the ventilator, now you’re going through physical therapy, you begin to become introduced to other people who maybe have at work, have, you know, in your, in your mind have it worse than you? And so that starts to that’s kind of a it’s a hard thing for someone to imagine, who isn’t, you know, isn’t suffering with what you’re suffering with? But you had you saw this, and that really gave you strength, right? I mean,
Sam Schmidt 26:25
spinal cord injury,
Sam Schmidt 26:31
we have a hospital 20 beds, and then there’s 20 minutes for brain injury, and you see people coming and going all the time. And it’s like, you know, what happened to Tony, he was only there a couple of weeks, well, I’m getting bags of mail every day from, you know, fans and supporters. And I got my parents and my, my wife and kids around me all the time. And these people don’t have anything, you know, I mean, literally vulnerable parts of this. And it’s like, Man, this is really wrong. That, you know, 65% of people now have a brain injury or spinal cord injury, or ALS, or whatever. I mean, they’re all living below the poverty level. And so that’s why we started the foundation. We didn’t know what we were going to do with it. But I had so many people offering to help. And I didn’t want that to go to waste. But I did have my family insurance, everything else. So I didn’t really need the help. But all these other people did. And so it was emotional and motivational, helped.
Mike Malatesta 27:49
And so you establish the foundation, shortly after right, Stan? Like in the within the first year. And I, as I read I mean, the goal was really to figure out a way to reverse paralysis, I guess. And so 20 years, 20 years in Where are you with the foundation? How is the progress been in? And then what what’s what specifically Have you actually gone through on your own to? Like, I’m thinking stem cells, or I’m thinking all these different things that are available? Recently, at least, can you can you? Can you talk to me about that?
process, no different than
Sam Schmidt 28:37
any for profit company, in that. First of all, I’m sitting there in the bed, thinking about my previous 30 years. And up to that point. There had been never been never set a goal that I couldn’t achieve, just through pure driving determination. I mean, literally, whether it be racing related, or college related, or business related, or at 500. I set that goal. And I just went for it. And I figured it out one way or the other. And spinal cord injury was really the first thing that it’s like, holy crap, this is not easy. People have been working on this for a long time. And every spinal cord injury is different, you know, the way the body takes that damage to the spinal cord. I mean, I’ve seen people with ugly looking spinal cords that are walking, and I’ve seen some of their looking spinal cords, you can’t get them. So what’s the difference? And it didn’t take me long. I mean, like at first it was, you know, we should be able to solve this, just, you know, money and time, and we can fix it. And then when I dug into it, it was like there are so many complicating factors. And it’s not just spinal cord injuries. transverse myelitis, als, Ms. Parkinson’s? I mean, these are all nerve related disorders with sort of broad margin places. I realized that, yeah, I mean, what do you think? Sure, you think stand up or walk is what everybody’s Sure. The reality is, you know, my definition has changed over time. I just like kids, you know, for me, that would be a cure. Other people have been walking other people, it’s, you know, being able to get on event so that the foundation’s evolved over the years, we’ve invested I think it was close to $8 million, specifically, in this final research realm of stem cells, rehabilitation techniques. I’ve basically seen a lot of rot, a lot of rats walk, unsophisticated rats walk. And now we’re going to see some. And really, it’s just probably last five years. And it’s starting to pay off. I mean, we have our own. First it was a driver in a sprint card, I want Oh, we put into our techniques and intensive rehabilitation. And he’s now walking with a walker, my old driver 2018 at the catch Benson 220, in Pocono at a spinal cord injury, he said he never walked through intensive rehabilitation. He’s walking with a walker. And that’s Robert Wiccans from Toronto. And now there’s, like 140,000 people watching this progress. You know, social media can do a lot, they’re sure, at the end of the day, you know, there’s millions and millions of people living with this disorder around the world. And so the latest evolution of our foundation, a is constantly searching for human clinical trials that we can invest in, for everything from, you know, bowel, bladder control, to pain, to pain management, to rehabilitation techniques. And then the other side of the news, we just kind of got pissed off at what wasn’t available out there, for the intensive rehabilitation. And the fact that insurance companies don’t cover it, that we opened our own neuro Recovery Center in downtown Las Vegas. And, you know, back to our previous conversation, I was in rehabilitation, we’ll get insurance for six months. Now, 20 years later, I’d be lucky to get two months with accident.
Most people get a
Sam Schmidt 32:50
month. And that’s not enough. Your, your analysis already, you don’t have a man, your family’s out ready, and they send you home, let’s say you’re on your own. So our big, you know, initiative and advocacy and everything we’re trying to do with, with a lot of the foundation analysis, making sure surance companies know that, you know, you pay me now or pay me later, you send me home now, without the proper level of independence. And rehabilitation. I’m going to be back in in six months with $125,000 pressures, or some other disorder that you’re going to have to pay for. So you’re better off to spend a little more money. Now, the proper intention. Right.
But you don’t really enjoy
Sam Schmidt 33:47
it, because I know that I just have a lot of advantages in my situation. Other people don’t have.
Mike Malatesta 33:59
And you mentioned the couple of examples of folks. Well back from your dad and now more recently, the the you know, your team driver and some others. What of what has been the most optimistic thing you’ve seen in progress since you started the foundation? What’s been you talked about some of the challenges, what’s been the most optimistic thing?
Sam Schmidt 34:30
know, when it happened to me 20 years ago, any spinal cord injury was like almost a death sentence. You’re not gonna there’s no chance. There’s no chance you’re going to get back any, any use of your limbs or anything like that. And so, you know, over the last 20 years, through media, search, social media, other stories, people do though, that if they work hard, they can gain a different level of independence. And if they weren’t part of that They may get it back, you know, the fact is, if you lay there and do nothing in the hospital, you’re not going to get back. Sure. But if you work your butt off, and the sky’s the limit, and I’ve seen plenty of people walk out, they were told they would just through, you know, pure determination. What I mean, I still, you know, I be I worked my tail off. And then 15 years and yeah, I stub tambu my arms. But I travel on 40 flights and, and so I finally I think eight or 10 years ago came to the realization that at least without stem cells or any other type of maybe brain interface technology, I’m probably not going to get my arms back. But there’s a reason for that, because I find myself.
Mike Malatesta 36:08
Sam Schmidt 36:12
You know, it works off for me. So why don’t you be a productive member of society and support your family? put bread on the table, instead of being a drain on society? I generally think that’s probably the reason that I haven’t, you know, got a lot back is that, you know,
Mike Malatesta 36:38
right. Well, not only that, but what do they have to gain by seeing what what you’re doing and right.
Sam Schmidt 36:48
Not a week that goes by somebody doesn’t either, you know, send an email or call me, or I see him at the gym, and they’re like, man, motivated me to get out of my life and figure out what my passion is and, and just live the dream. You know? I mean, it’s.
So you mentioned
Mike Malatesta 37:22
earlier, Jay Leno’s garage is being maybe part of the experience, and I have had the pleasure of watching you and Jay Leno. drive a car. And in fact, as I understand it, Sam, you you have your driver’s license now for an autonomous autonomous car. I can’t remember exactly what it’s called. But let’s, I think it’s called the SAM car. I’m not sure. But can you? It’s, it’s pretty, so you can drive and talk to us. Fit Yeah.
Sam Schmidt 38:18
was to just drive around the motor speedway at 100 miles an hour, Arrow Electronics out of Denver, you know, came up with a concept and a process and they come back in about eight months, which was truly unbelievable. Race Mario on the road course. we raced up Pikes Peak, which everybody thought was insane. Probably was but then I got my driver’s license in 2017. When the car so far, and keep checking the box, I mean, doing fun stuff and promoting, you know, I mean, it really was a bit of a wake up call for me because it is, you know, you have the right resources and the right people, put them in a room and say, accomplish this task. Get it done, they can get it done. Well,
Mike Malatesta 39:41
I was thinking as you were talking about that you’re, you know, hundred miles an hour, 192 miles an hour. Obviously, you you were a professional driver. So you’ve got the mindset about what that is and what that feels like. And most of us don’t don’t have that but You were able to they made they made, they basically combined your brain with their vehicle in order to accomplish this, is that is that about about right? And how? So how do you? First of all, were you scared when you got back in the car? We’re going hundred miles an hour? I guess that’s first question. But then after that, just thinking to myself, how, how does it actually work? How do you control it? Because I think it’s super cool.
Sam Schmidt 40:36
leash, there needs to be electronics industries, taking the off the shelf technology that has been around for a while, they’ll try to improve and in reconfigure new ways. So we use infrared cameras, we use, you know, just sort of interface actuators, and technology and it all, it all happens in real time. Like I think, from the time I move my head to the time the car turns is really, I can’t tell if they can tell the difference. So negligible, immediately. And so it also I mean, again, this is evolved over seven years, from several different forms of equipment, and receivers. And at first we had to have the car completely blacked out for life. Now we now we take out the sunroof, roll the windows down the sunlight, it doesn’t matter. It just continue to refine. But ultimately, it’s cameras, cameras, looking at my head, I’ve got on sunglasses with little embedded tracking devices. So then, when I turn my left, cameras get a signal into the computer, computer sensitive steering wheel, our terms, but all in some cases, I mean, like I can’t tell the timeline, turn the left or the right. And then in my mouth, I was drawn like this, which is effectively a symptom from a wheelchair. So I blow in that it goes I suffered stops. And you know, it’s progressive and blowhard. I’m gonna kind of whisper it just leaves like, you know, normally push on the gas. Same with a break, so it’s all proportionate. It’s all programmable. So when I drove up Pikes Peak, I have a really tight turning radius when I went the other night I you know, they were able to dummy up the steering so that it wouldn’t go anywhere but street you know, so Okay, driving, driving 100 night was easier than driving high speed by a fair bit, you know. So again, I’ve got this wonderful, wonderful team at arrow and it’s kind of evolved in engineers, different years and some kind of come and go you know, we’re going to the company in Germany Amazing, amazing opportunity we just took took delivery of the new minute and ca Corvette and I’ll be driving that in about a week with new with even new technology on the team. And when do they
Mike Malatesta 43:25
think this will be something that’s available to people other people like you so they’re so you’re sort of the you’re the test pilot I guess right and you forgot okay. I was trying to be
Sam Schmidt 43:54
merge of this technology but also autonomous driving.
Sam Schmidt 44:02
the ultimate scenario is where you know, I can log out of my car and because right now
Mike Malatesta 44:19
Oh, sure. Yeah.
Sam Schmidt 44:45
right, sure. going the other way from a control system where like I would need voice activation to start the car and reverse adjust like that kind of stuff. When So, there’s that application on a day to day basis. But I think more importantly, is people with disabilities, forklifts or to drive harvesters, or to control anything using your mind, which is not that far away, is more important. Because let’s face it, you know what, like, when it comes to disabled veterans, right? A lot of times they signed up, just to put bread on the table, they go over there, they get the light shot off. And spinal cord injury or amputee, and they come back and, and you know, their livelihood is taken away, they’re encouraged to stay home and do nothing, you know, getting vocational training. And it’s like, well, why did I do that? The real support for the Battle of fighting, and I really would like this type of control system, you know, to be offered as a way for these young men or women to get back to work, or do whatever they want to do it. Right. And so, I think that’s really where we’re at, with the project is an effort to show how we can take that burden off of society. And if we can take 1000 you know, sort of disabled veterans, and take them off of, you know, sort of Medicare’s payroll, and put them on a rolling 80 grand and you’re driving a truck or whatever. Yeah. Sure, that’s ridiculous. And shouldn’t be a real situation in America. Period. So that’s the kind of bigger picture stuff that arrows going after the MMD od division and an automotive division. And they’re working on.
Mike Malatesta 47:12
So a little small world connection here, one of my friends here in Wisconsin, was the president of a division at arrow in his previous, his previous job. So. So yeah, so I know a little bit about a little bit about arrow, but I’m kind of
Sam Schmidt 47:38
right. Company, you know, based in Denver, so they’re in 57 countries, 18,000 employees, and, and this is really good, you know, eye opening, you know, for their employees, for their engineers. It’s been a way to make everybody. And I’ve just been
blessed to be
Sam Schmidt 48:16
able bodied people love it. Yeah, sure.
Well, if you
Mike Malatesta 48:36
goes to YouTube, and they look for Sam’s videos, I, I’ve watched at least two of you with the car. And I would say that if you watch those videos, you would not think that it’s very far off for some of those other applications that you were talking about to be real mean
Sam Schmidt 48:54
things for different people, and some of them are sort of promote pros later, but a lot of, you know, when I speak, are there different technologies deployed. And it’s been amazing. Just the unanticipated benefits of doing that project and a lot of engineers that were thinking about
Yeah, I’m glad
Mike Malatesta 49:24
you made the connection with the other types of applications because I hadn’t when I was when I was thinking driving but you’re right, there’s, if you can, anything that you can drive, you could drive with this technology, I suppose or any earn a lot of other things with this technology, you know, just yeah, operating machine or whatever. You could do all kinds of things.
Sam Schmidt 49:48
connectivity in the world today is evolved where a farmer biggest is able to drive as harvest period.
Mike Malatesta 50:05
Sure. So while you while you’re recovering and starting the foundation, you also still have your business hat on and you become a team owner. And I wasn’t I wasn’t 100% sure if you had owned teams before the accident, or you just got into that after it, Sam but I, but obviously big time after it. Sure, right. Yeah.
Sam Schmidt 50:54
Year after I got home, my wife is like, you know, our entire relationship of seven years, I was on the road, 200 days a year. And now I’ve home. And there’s 80 people and nurses and people coming and going, and my wife’s like, you really need to find something.
I thought about I
Sam Schmidt 51:18
got into finance or get involved in company, but my passion was always racing. So you know, why not try.
And we started out,
Sam Schmidt 51:28
which is the triple A, so to speak, of the College of racing, just before any car, one level down. And we’re very fortunate, 11 years, we won 77 championships, at races. And we were based affectionately called the Roger Penske of Indy lights, which is,
Mike Malatesta 51:52
Sam Schmidt 52:06
Work with personnel and with, with equipment, it was basically a free deal to get a trial run at it. And I just kind of said, Well, if we’re successful, we’ll stay in it. If we’re not, we’ll go back to New likes. And unfortunately, at first year, we sat on the board in the town hall at Texas, and had a really good run up, you know, so it’s, it’s pretty consuming. I mean, it’s 55 full time employees. And, you know, pretty stressful budget at times, and all that kind of stuff. But it definitely, you know, feeds the need for the competition and the passion that I have for Motorsports. And sometimes I wish it would knowing any lights, because that was only 10 people and a lot less risk, you know, but anyone be racing with the 500? Right? It’s, it’s, you know, Mike is, it’s a perfect, I think world now that I can, you know, use, I committed my connections in IndyCar town Foundation, in a lot of ways. And then I’m also talking with a company called BraunAbility, where I’m a shareholder on the board. And they’re the largest manufacturer of wheelchair lifts, and wheelchair accessible vehicles in the world. So it all is interconnected. We can have, you know, data races program really motivates people to get back into what they’re passionate about. We can, you know, help ourselves of the world to help us with our foundation initiatives. It’s a pretty good little triangle from that perspective.
Mike Malatesta 53:54
Sam, how did the the the drivers, either drivers on your team or? Or the rest of the drivers or the driving community? How do they interact with you when it comes to, you know, what they’re doing every day and what you were doing every day? And, you know, kind of what? What can happen? I’m just, you gave it You said, you said some really cool stuff about the you know, when you’re with other, you know, paraplegics and others, you know, how you were, you basically get them to focus on what they can do and not what they can’t do, but I’m just curious, especially and then I’m thinking like what their parents say and you know, want to know from you and that kind of thing. Right.
Sam Schmidt 54:48
A great deal of time doing. I really enjoy interacting with primers. I remember like it was yesterday and a lot of them are kind of shot, because I am over now. When I start talking to them about driving techniques and brake pressure, and trail braking and everything, just like, oh, wow, you really?
Sam Schmidt 55:15
I’m trying to help them not making mistakes. Right. And, and the safety has advanced, you know, leaps and bounds. You know, since I got hurt, so that’s, that’s a good a good thing, but that’s probably what I like doing the most is interacting with the engineers.
Mike Malatesta 55:46
And when I talked to you earlier, when we were sort of just getting connected you had mentioned I think that Savannah is getting married. Is it this year or next year?
Mike Malatesta 56:03
Sam Schmidt 56:12
Hopefully, yeah, he’s 23. Graduated over a year ago and actually have a job lined up in London but Cogan kind of destroyed that, unfortunately, for which is a smart girl, and she’s gonna go she’s gonna save the world, you know?
Mike Malatesta 56:44
And what about yours? What about your son, Sam? He’s,
Sam Schmidt 56:50
he’s amazing. Okay.
Okay. Got it.
Mike Malatesta 57:10
Yeah. And he’s has has, has he raised? Has he been interested in racing? Or is he is just not his thing.
Sam Schmidt 57:24
discourage them from doing anything they wanted to do. Sure. And, inevitably, around 910 11, they asked if they didn’t race, go karts. And their grandparents didn’t want that to happen. But I said, Yeah, sure, what bad Come on out. And I didn’t know right away whether or not they’ve got the passion. You know, to do it. So we took him off the track as a friend with a bunch of go karts. And I said, Okay, here’s the deal. For every hour you spend on the track, you have to spend certain time prepping the car. And, you know, if you’re going to be committed, you’re going to be working on the car every day, or you’ll be driving the car every day. And kind of like that Christmas gift is great for three days. With both of them kind of the same thing. I’m glad that we didn’t say go, you know, just like a hard note. But we gave him the opportunity. And at the end of the day, they weren’t as committed as it takes to do it. I mean, you got to be all in as a family, as a driver. No different than those, you know, tennis stars in football. It’s what they do every day. Yeah, when they get out of bed, they want to go drive.
Mike Malatesta 58:43
And I was this is my last question for you, Sam. The the thinking about video games. And you know, the way you drive the car now is sort of, sort of like a video game. The the, I feel like video game technology is probably going to have an impact on you know, paralysis, you know, just I’m probably going to and then I’m thinking about driving, you know, the kids that come up now, were raised on video games. Do you do you think that drivers now are the ones that are committed? Are they better drivers because of you know that that hand icon or whatever it is? Where you didn’t have that? I didn’t have that when I was when I was growing up? Where do you think now not really
Sam Schmidt 59:48
very, very busy, very physically demanding and being successful at racing is probably 75% mental, but if you can’t handle it physically Many drivers in IndyCar are professional triathlete. Yeah. aerobic fitness and physical fitness certain muscles. To your point, I think you see a lot of, especially in NASCAR right now, new guys, William Byron, Ryan Blaney, and Gus, number of them that said, you know, they spent 10 years driving simulators those ugly. Yeah, and maybe
Mike Malatesta 1:00:53
actually, there’s a connection between not, you know, abusing your body by working in a simulator, you know, because you’re because the physical part, you said, Oh, that’s interesting, I never thought of that.
Sam Schmidt 1:01:12
pretty elaborate. So nowadays, you actually do a lot of your, a lot of your setup letter testing is done in a in a full on simulator, as opposed to on the track. So you have less and less track time where you can drive on the racetrack, and more and more time in the simulator. So all that stuff’s important. To your point. They’re developing you know, brain either based technology, where there’s a computer on your brain that can tell the computer what you’re thinking. And I think that’ll have a lot to do with the disabled and, and what we’ll do in the future, so it’s, it’s all
Mike Malatesta 1:01:54
yeah, cuz I’m thinking how far Could it be till you have like an exoskeleton or something that you can control just the same way that you can control that car? Like, some so? Well, Sam, Sam Smith, thank you so much for being on the show and making time to do this. I it’s been a real pleasure. You should check out Sam’s videos on YouTube. His his foundation conquer paralysis now and of course, arrow McLaren IndyCar racing as well. So I’m so glad Teresa introduced us and that you made the time today, Sam.
Mike Malatesta 1:02:52
Thank you so much, Sam. I hope that was okay for you. Okay, yeah, that would be great. And I will, I will let you know when this episode airs in case you want to listen to it or share it or whatever. And in the meantime, if I can ever be helpful to you, please reach out to me. I will and I would love to meet you in person and go to race and because you go to you go to Road America now. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well, we can definitely make that work. I would love to I would love the opportunity. All right, cool. Okay, Sam. Thank you. Enjoy your day. Bye.