Then there's the matter of his own children. Schmidt said his 13-year-old son, Spencer, showed little interest in racing himself until recently. Schmidt said his 15-year-old daughter, Savannah, who has done competitive cheer and played travel soccer, quickly followed with her own request. Next Saturday, Schmidt's children will drive go-carts at a local track near the family's home.
"We're going to let him go drive it, but more importantly we're going to let him see all the other stuff they've got to do in preparation to drive it," Schmidt said. "Their grandma and grandpa probably won't like it, but we've always taken the same stance whether it's been soccer or competitive cheer or football, that we would support them. We're not going to go back on that because I got hurt. But we're going to take all the precautions and we're probably not going to spend much time doing it if they're not any good."
Aside from his racing team, and the money he and his foundation are raising for spinal cord research, his family is what keeps Schmidt going. Brad Kruetzer, a retired Nevada firefighter who met Schmidt through a mutual friend and now works on the Indy Lights maintenance crew, said "the man has no self-pity, never. He is grateful for every day he gets to live after the accident and says, 'My kids get to hug me.' "
Said Sheila Schmidt: "I'm not going to say he doesn't have off-days — we all have bad days once in a while — but for the most part he says, 'This is what we have, so let's move forward and what can we do.' He has his foundation. He wants to get out of his chair. Will it happen? We don't know. But without hope, you have nothing. So we continue that hope."
The most despondent Kruetzer has ever seen Schmidt was after two-time IndyCar champion Dan Wheldon died in a crash during the season-ending race last year in Las Vegas.
"There were so many coincidences between Dan Wheldon and Sam Schmidt," Kruetzer said. "They were about the same age. Sam had two little bitty ones at the time, Dan had two little bitty ones. So many similarities. I remember seeing Sam, and I said, 'How are you doing?' He said, 'Why does Dan die and I don't, what's the difference?' I said your number wasn't up, your work's not done."
The work will continue in the pit area Sunday in Baltimore. Sheila Schmidt, who is in town for the Grand Prix, spends more time at home now as a race owner's wife than she did as the race driver's wife. But she sees how her husband's life has grown since that horrific day in Florida a dozen years ago.
"I think it's busier, I think he's taken on a lot more since his accident," she said. "I think he's always trying to do something more, do something better. He loves racing — that's where his passion is and that's where it always will be."