IndyCar team owner Sam Schmidt named 500 Festival parade Grand Marshal

IndyCar driver Alex Tagliani, right, talks with team owner and former driver Sam Schmidt during the qualifier for the Firestone Twin 275 at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday, June 10, 2011, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Jeffery Washington)
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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — The 500 Festival annouced that IndyCar team owner and former driver Sam Schmidt will be the Grand Marshal of the 2019 IPL 500 Festival Parade.

Schmidt suffered a spinal cord injury while practicing for the 2000 season opening race at Walt Disney World Speedway. In response, he created the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation (SSPF). The foundation's project, Conquer Paralysis Now, is dedicated to finding a cure for paralysis.

Schmidt is the co-owner of Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

500 Festival president and CEO Bob Bryant made the announcement Friday in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Bryant released a statement that said:

"Sam is a tremendous example of overcoming adversity and using innovative technologies to improve the livelihood of people with disabilities. As a past driver and current team owner, it was only fitting that we surprised Sam with this announcement while doing what he loves. We’re excited to have Sam return to the IPL 500 Festival Parade as Grand Marshal, 20 years after he rode the route as an Indy 500 driver."

The 2019 IPL 500 Festival Parade will begin at 11:45 a.m. on Saturday, May 25. Tickets to the parade start at $10 and can be purchased at 500festival.com/tickets.

WTHR is a proud partner of the 500 Festival and will broadcast the parade on Channel 13.