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Schmidt teams prepare for busy week at Indy

This is the time of the year that Henderson resident Sam Schmidt calls Indianapolis his home.

He has high hopes for his two racing teams to perform well at the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend and for one of his four Indy Lights cars to wind up in Victory Lane.

Schmidt is taking a chance with a rookie driver for the Indy 500. The big race will be the first one on an oval track for French driver Simon Pagenaud.

“It’s been a really steep learning curve for him,” Schmidt said. “But he’s fifth in points in the series, and it’s important that he’s done well in the big picture.”

Pagenaud has veteran assistance on the team, with part-time driver Townsend Bell brought in for the race. Bell spends most of his time as a pit reporter for NBC Sports Network.

Schmidt said he hopes for at least a top-15 finish for Pagenaud, but if there aren’t crashes or other major issues, “a top 10 would be a good rookie outing for him.”

Schmidt’s four Indy Lights teams will compete in the Firestone Freedom 100 on May 24 at the Brickyard. His drivers have claimed five series championships, including last year’s.

A win next week would make the annual three-week Indianapolis stay that much sweeter.

“There’s no rest going into next week,” Schmidt said.

■ MORE INDY – Like other teams, Schmidt’s drivers are learning to operate essentially a new car, one with a new engine and chassis.

The Indy 500 will be the car’s first race on an oval, but Schmidt’s Honda vehicles at least have been able get some answers from the road-course part of the season.

“It’s definitely a learning experience,” Schmidt said.

The new type of car is part of an effort at making the sport safer, especially in the wake of Dan Wheldon’s death in October at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

■ NOTHING TO SEE HERE – LVMS essentially goes dark this weekend, but heavy activity returns to the complex the following weekend.

The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, U.S. Legend Cars International and United States Auto Club circuits will be part of the big weekend at the Bullring.

The dragstrip will feature the Rockabilly Rod Reunion and NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.

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