Streak Ends Schmidt Goes On
June 12, 2001 | 12:00 P.M. EST
Indy Racing Northern Light Series driver Davey Hamilton will be unable to make the trip to Pikes Peak International Raceway this weekend, ending his streak of starting every IRNLS race since the all-oval series began in 1996.
For the record, Hamilton started 48 consecutive races.
Hamilton was injured Saturday night in a vicious crash with Jeret Schroeder in Turn 2 of Texas Motor Speedway’s high-speed, 1.5-mile oval. Schroeder blew an engine and spun, sending both drivers hard into the outside wall.
Hamilton’s No. 99 car got airborne briefly, sending the nose into the catch fence. The front portion of the car was torn away, exposing Hamilton’s lower legs and feet. He suffered severe injuries to his lower extremities.
Sam Schmidt, Hamilton’s car owner, will carry on with another driver this weekend in the Radisson Indy 200.
“This has been a difficult time as an owner, but we will go on to the Pikes Peak event in Colorado Springs,” said Schmidt, who suffered a paralyzing injury in January of last year in an IRNLS crash at Walt Disney World Speedway. “We have obligations to many paralysis patients who will be joining us trackside and at a fundraiser for the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation.
“No decision has been made at this time with respect to a driver. Our first focus has been on Davey and his needs.”
Hamilton would appreciate Schmidt’s determination to continue. After all, he kept his starting streak alive despite changing teams numerous times and competing in other forms of racing.
In his first 13 races in 1996 and 1997, Hamilton drove for the legendary A.J. Foyt. He finished ninth and second in the championship standings and compiled seven top-10 finishes. He also competed in five USAC Silver Bullet events.
Hamilton moved over to Nienhouse Motorsports in 1998. He finished as runner-up in the points again. During the 11-race season, Hamilton also competed in five Silver Bullet races and three USAC Midget Series events. At the end of the season, Nienhouse folded, leaving Hamilton unemployed and jeopardizing his streak.
Car owner Rick Galles came to the rescue. Galles was running Nienhouse’s operation, and he hired Hamilton when he formed his own team in 1999.
With Galles, Hamilton finished fourth in the points standings and extended his streak to 34 consecutive starts. He also became the only driver to finish in the Top 10 in the points in all four seasons.
Last season was Hamilton’s most trying season. He began the year with Sinden Racing Service before moving over to TeamXtreme for seven races. TeamXtreme parted ways with the veteran after the Kentucky race in August.
With six weeks between Kentucky and the season finale at Texas, Hamilton had plenty of time to secure a ride. He found it at Mid-America Motorsports. His best finish of the nine-race season was 14th at Pikes Peak. He was running at the finish in just four races, but upped his starting streak to 43 races.
This year, Hamilton teamed up with friend and fellow Las Vegas resident Schmidt. In the first five races of the season, Hamilton’s best finish was a 12th in the season-opener at Phoenix. He ran strong in the Indianapolis 500 before his engine let go, and he was minding his own business at Texas when Schroeder’s engine blew.
That’s 48 starts and a lot of ups and downs.
Hamilton’s streak will officially come to an end on Sunday when the IRNLS drivers take the green flag at 4 p.m. (ET).
Eddie Cheever Jr. and Buddy Lazier are poised to become the next IRNLS Ironmen. They have started 46 consecutive races and can tie Hamilton’s streak on June 30 at Richmond International Raceway.