(via CNBC) – “If you can dream it, it can be done,” champion racer Sam Schmidt proclaims in a sit down interview with Jay Leno. In 2000, a tragic high-speed racing accident left Schmidt paralyzed from the neck down but that did not stop him from getting back behind the wheel. Leno refers to Schmidt as the most inspirational driver he has ever met and is “the living embodiment of the competitive spirit.”
Before his accident, Schmidt won the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 1999 and drove in three consecutive Indy 500s. Determined to get back to racing, Schmidt worked with engineers at Arrow Electronics to design a Corvette that can safely be driven on a racetrack or the open road. The car has built in electronics, cameras, and sensors that help Schmidt drive and steer. In 2016, Schmidt made history by becoming the first quadriplegic to get a driver’s license.
The gas in the 2016 customized Chevrolet Z06 Corvette is controlled by a breathing tube Schmidt wears while driving. When Schmidt blows into the tube, the car moves forward, when he inhales it applies the brakes. Even though the car is controlled by Schmidt’s breathing, it doesn’t mean the car can’t accelerate. Currently, it reaches a top speed of 185 mph, and the goal for 2017 is to get the car over 200 mph. Schmidt jokes with Jay Leno in a ride-along, his car is the only place where you can say “blow to go, and suck to stop” without getting slapped.
The steering wheel is controlled by infrared cameras that reflect off of Schmidt’s sunglasses and is designed to suppress sudden pressure spikes like sneezes.
Schmidt tells Leno for the 17 years after the accident, there was very little that he had 100 percent control of, but getting out on the open road and having full control of his Corvette gives him a sense of normalcy. He even drove 19 miles up Colorado’s Pike’s Peak, which included 156 grueling turns.
After driving with Schmidt, Leno explains that “for folks like Sam, victory lane isn’t about crossing the victory line first, it’s also about having the patience, optimism, and determination to get back behind the wheel.”
Schmidt explains “no one can stop me from doing anything.”
Learn more about Schmidt’s incredible and inspiring story on an all new episode of Jay Leno’s Garage, this Wednesday at 10P ET/PT on CNBC.