Friday, April 14, 2017

Sarah Fisher: The Most Starts at Indy

As the second woman to race at Indy, Lyn St. James, made her final start in the Indy 500 in 2000, Sarah Fisher made her debut. At just 19, Fisher was the youngest woman to compete in the 500, and she still holds the record for the number of total Indy 500 starts (9).

She holds other records beyond the Indy 500: the first woman win a pole position for a major open-wheel race (Kentucky Speedway, 2002), the track speed record holder there (221.390 mph), and the first woman to stand on the podium in the series (3rd, Kentucky Speedway, 2000). She also holds the record for the fastest woman at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (229.439 mph).

For all that she came along third to the Indy 500, Fisher was every bit as pioneering as Janet Guthrie and Lyn St. James before her. Where she differs is in coming to racing as a career, not a hobby—while both Guthrie and St. James turned racing into a career, they stepped into the racecar later in life.

Fisher started racing at five years old, winning her first (of many) karting championship at 11. She was the first woman to run a full season in IndyCar and holds the record for the most starts of any female in IndyCar Series history. But the bottom line on Fisher seems to be that she grew up a racer, wrenching on cars in her father's garage, and being female was almost incidental. As has every female IndyCar competitor, she's gotten lots of attention and questions about being a female in the business. With every reply, you can almost imagine a shrug, as if to say, "what's the big deal?"

"I love this sport; it's a family sport, in my opinion," Fisher said. "It's been my whole life, so why would I not bring my family into it? If they want to be involved in it, that's tremendous and it would be a compliment. But at the same time, I don't want them to do it because I did. Because it's a very dedicated thing you do, and you have to put your whole heart into it to be successful with it."

She started transitioning to her next role before she'd hung up her helmet, launching Sarah Fisher Racing in 2008, becoming the first (and youngest) female owner/driver in IndyCar Series history and the second female owner/driver in the Indy 500 after Janet Guthrie. In 2011, she became the first female team owner to win a race in the IndyCar Series.

Unfortunately, she shuttered her team in 2016 and turned her attention to a new venture with her husband (former tire changer and later crew chief Andy O'Gara, who she once ran over during a pit stop): Speedway Indoor Karting, a brand new facility near IMS. But no one has ruled out a return to racing. Given her popularity with IndyCar fans—she was voted most popular driver three times—a lot of us are crossing our fingers.

(photo from Sarah Fisher's Facebook page)


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