The Story behind “My Finish Line”
Michelle Murray met IndyCar owner Sam Schmidt at Chicagoland Speedway in 2009 when she was asked to perform a special infield concert for the team owners and drivers. The concert was a success and Michelle was officially invited by Michael Andretti to open the 2009 INDYCAR Season in St. Petersburg, FL by headlining a concert and performing our National Anthem.
Michelle and Sam instantly found that they had a lot in common, including focused ambition, a deep love of family and an abiding faith in God. Both believe that exercise will keep them strong and healthy. But while Michelle runs daily, Sam’s exercise involves a fully assisted treadmill and an indoor “FES” (Functional Electrical Stimulation) bicycle which uses electricity to force muscle contraction.
Always an athlete, Sam Schmidt had been a top-notch driving talent in IZOD IndyCar Series competition and winner of the 1999 IndyCar race in Las Vegas. Then, prior to the 2000 racing season, he was rendered quadriplegic with a C-3/4/5 spinal cord injury sustained in a testing accident at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, FL. Now this former athlete spends his days in a wheelchair, unable to move his arms or legs.
During months spent in a hospital after his accident, Sam realized that he still had a lot to contribute to the world. In 2001, he formed Sam Schmidt Motorsports (SSM). The team’s multi-championship IndyLights program is now recognized worldwide as the premier avenue for young drivers determined to follow an upward career path. Besides their IndyLights program, SSM now competes full time in the IndyCar Series, including the Indianapolis 500.
At the same time, Sam took the passion and commitment that made him one of America’s top race car drivers and focused it on creating a broader awareness of spinal cord injuries and the research necessary to find treatment and cures, by establishing the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation (SSPF).
In 2009 Michelle and fellow Nashville songwriter Paige Logan sat down at Michelle’s home and wrote the music and lyrics that would become “It Won’t Be If But When” (Sam’s Song), finishing it the following night at Paige’s home. The two were so moved by Sam’s determination in the face of tremendous challenge that the song almost seemed to write itself.
Michelle performed the song for the very first time at the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation’s 2010 Gala event in Indianapolis, the week before the Indianapolis 500. The annual Gala is SSPF’s biggest and most anticipated fundraising event and was the perfect way to present her gift to Sam and the foundation. The song was well received and became a topic of conversation among supporters of Sam and the foundation. Michelle was asked to be a spokesperson for the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation and continued her appearances at many IndyCar and SSPF fundraising events.
During this time Michelle’s management was in the middle of discussions with the Saylor Brothers to produce and direct a television series called “Long Road To Fame”, following Michelle as she balances being a mother of three and touring the country as a recording artist. Tom (Michelle’s husband and manager) felt that a single project needed to come before the series; a project that would be both exciting to film and to watch and would tells Sam’s story through Michelle’s music.
On a Sunday evening at the Saylors home, Tom and Kyle Saylors put together the outline for the film “My Finish Line”. There was no doubt in Tom’s mind where and when it had to be filmed. The location would be Speedway, IN at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the annual Indy 500.
The concept was pitched to Firestone management, who had already expressed an interest in supporting Michelle. With their full support, filming was set to begin the weekend of the Indianapolis 500. Together with the support of Sam Schmidt Motorsports, Andretti Autosports, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and investor Mary Snyder, the Saylor Brothers and Harmony Village Productions began filming “My Finish Line” on Friday May 28, 2010 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Most of the filming was completed during that Memorial Day weekend, with additional footage shot in Las Vegas, NV and Nashville, TN, and editing taking place over the remainder of 2010.
The project was released in 2011 and was quick to receive enthusiastic praise. “My Finish Line” had the distinction of being named an official selection of the 2011 Gideon Film Festival and has begun to see distribution through some of Michelle’s sponsors, including LifeLock and Delta Airlines. “My Finish Line” kicked off an exciting “DVD for Disabled Veterans”* campaign in 2012, with the ultimate goal of gifting a copy of “My Finish Line” to every disabled veteran in America.
“My Finish Line” is a must-see for anyone who has pursued a dream that seemed impossible to achieve. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, but most of all it will keep you cheering all the way to the finish line.