(via Indy Star) – Across more than 60 years of 500 Festival parades, grand marshals have enjoyed the spotlight while being passengers in sharp-looking cars.
This year, Sam Schmidt will be the first grand marshal in the driver’s seat.
The co-owner of Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports will drive a semi-autonomous car May 25 in the IPL 500 Festival Parade.
Schmidt competed in three editions of the Indianapolis 500 before being paralyzed from the neck down following a crash in January 2000.
Arrow Electronics engineers worked with Schmidt to modify a Corvette to be controlled by his head movements. The vehicle, known as SAM (semi-autonomous motorcar), made its Indianapolis Motor Speedway debut with Schmidt in 2014.
In 2017, Schmidt battled Mario Andretti in an informal IMS race at speeds higher than 100 mph.
In his role as co-owner of Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Schmidt’s roster of drivers has included James Hinchcliffe (2015-present) and Simon Pagenaud (2012–2014).
The list of 500 Festival Parade grand marshals includes James Stewart (1965), Walter Cronkite (1966), Larry Bird (1993), Reggie Miller (2005) and Peyton Manning (2007).
The 103rd Indianapolis 500 is scheduled to start at 12:19 p.m. May 26.