CUNNINGHAM TO DRIVE FOUR INDYCAR RACES FOR SCHMIDT IN ’11
INDIANAPOLIS (Feb. 17, 2011) – Wade Cunningham, one of the most successful drivers in Firestone Indy Lights (FIL) history, will make his IZOD IndyCar Series debut June 11 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth driving a Dallara/Honda/Firestone car owned by Sam Schmidt Motorsports (SSM) in The Twin Texas 275s.
In his six-year FIL career, Cunningham has eight wins, 37 top-five finishes in 64 starts, and captured the 2005 championship. The New Zealand native also holds FIL records for races led (25), most career laps led (796), most career pole positions (10) and most career total points (1,496).
“I’d like to acknowledge the role Sam (Schmidt) has played in planning this step up,” said Cunningham, who now lives in Indianapolis. “It was Sam who suggested that rather than focusing on the Indianapolis 500, like a lot of drivers trying to break into the IZOD IndyCar Series do, we should look at spreading our budget over three or four races to give us a better chance to show what I can do in one of these cars.”
In addition to his career FIL statistics, Cunningham is a three-time winner of the series’ most prestigious event – the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He won the 2009 and 2010 Freedom 100s driving for SSM after winning the 2006 event for Brian Stewart Racing.
“Wade is a fighter and deserves a shot in the IZOD IndyCar series,” Schmidt said. “I’ve watched him closely, and I can honestly say no Indy Lights driver has worked harder at physical training, mastering on-track race craft, and taking care of his personal sponsors. In addition, he will spend countless hours in the shop personally making sure his car is the best it possibly can be. We at SSM are pleased to be associated with his first experience in an Indy car.”
The other IZOD IndyCar Series races where Cunningham will compete are the Oct. 2 Kentucky Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta and the Oct. 16 season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. For the entire three-race effort, Cunningham brings two new sponsors to INDYCAR racing.
“I’m also excited to use this opportunity to announce two Indianapolis-based companies that are supporting our program – Creatherm, which manufactures energy-saving radiant heated floor panels, and Mobile Drill International, a leader in the drilling industry since 1947,” Cunningham said. “Without the support from these companies, I would not be able to prove myself in the IZOD IndyCar Series. I’m also going to work with Zephyr Technology, which is a company that specializes in real-time physiological and biomechanical monitoring.”
SSM was formed in 2001 after Schmidt’s own driving career ended in 2000 after a crash during testing at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla. In addition to entering cars in the Indianapolis 500 and IZOD IndyCar Series, SSM is the most successful team in Firestone Indy Lights, which is the leading support division to the IZOD IndyCar Series. Driver J.K. Vernay’s championship in 2010 was the team’s fourth FIL championship. Schmidt has visited victory lane 37 times as a car owner in the series.
The 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season kicks off on Sunday, March 27, with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Fla.).