Fisher Returns To IRL
August 3, 2006 | 2:01 P.M. EST
“It’s very exciting to have Sarah back in the car at Kentucky Speedway, said team co-owner Dennis Reinbold, who first put Fisher in his car back in 2002. “We believe that it is a very good track for her and with the momentum our team has been building, a good result is what we are looking forward to. It’s always a pleasure working with Sarah and this time will be no different.”
Her Kentucky Speedway start will be far from Fisher’s first event with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing as they first teamed together back in 2002 with her fourth place finish at Nazareth Speedway substituting for injured driver and now co-owner, Robbie Buhl. During her IndyCar Series career, Sarah has had best finishes of second at Homestead-Miami in 2000, and a third place finish at the Kentucky Speedway in 2001, giving her the best two finishes by a woman ever in IndyCar racing.
Her commitment to excellence has made her one of racing's most admired figures among fans and drivers alike. Voted the Most Popular driver in the 2001, 2002 and 2003 IndyCar Series and in the 2005 NASCAR West Regional Series, Fisher’s return marks her first time racing in an IndyCar since her 2004 Indianapolis 500 one-off start with Kelley Racing, before she moved to NASCAR under the guidance of owner Richard Childress.
“I am really looking forward to the opportunity to get back into an IndyCar,” said Fisher, who attended the Lyn St. James Women in Winner’s Circle event today along with the Jeff Gordon Celebrity Bowling tournament. “It has been some time and there is a lot of catching up to do. Hopefully it will be like riding a bike, but I am sure that there will be challenges we will have to figure out how to hurdle. This weekend is all about getting back on the bike (literally!). It's a personal goal of mine to at least run in the top-10. I want to be there at the end and racing as hard as I did before, and that in itself will achieve results.”
The Commercial Point, OH native fueled national headlines when she emerged in the IndyCar Series as just a 19 year old teenager looking to go racing in a male-dominated sport. But it was her athleticism that ultimately kept her continuing what Janet Guthrie and Lyn St. James pioneered for women. The determined racer became a household name and was coined as the “girl next door” chasing her dream of winning the famed Indianapolis 500.
“One thing I am so proud of, is being accessible to fans, to sponsors, to everyone who enjoys the sport,” said Fisher, who has been teaching her fiancée’s 11-year-old brother, Kyle, how to race go-karts. “The go-karters, the local Saturday night racers. These people truly love racing and it’s amazing to realize how down to earth you can be when you are around them. They are what America represents and I am so privileged to be a part of what they represent. Racing is about preparation. The endless days at the kart track just to beat you up and send you out again the next day. It’s the tireless focus where decisions remain split seconds. It’s great people that not only believe in you but are willing to give everything to help you. It’s knowing that you are 100% ready for anything or anyone.”
The 2000 Indianapolis 500 was the first time two women had raced in the same event. In that race, Lyn St. James, 53, and Fisher, 19, who became the youngest woman and the third youngest person ever to qualify for her first Indy 500, competed among the field of 33. Fisher continued to race in the series as the sole-female until she left the series in 2004 for the NASCAR West Regional Series. In this developmental series of NASCAR, Fisher captured four top-10 qualifying starts and four top-10 finishes in her first full-season and finished 12th in the chase for the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series title. Now in 2006, she will join Patrick on the track as the only other female driver in the Series.
"I'm here to race against everyone," said Fisher, who holds the record for the two best finishes ever by a woman in IndyCar racing. "I'm here to do the best that I can and ultimately get back to the level of IndyCars that put me up front. Every driver out there has the same goal and drive that I have and that is to win. Danica and I are two individuals out there competing in a man's world, whether it is in stock cars or IndyCars. I don't look at her any differently then all the other drivers. We are different people who want to achieve the same result."
Her first race back in the IndyCar Series will be close to her heart as she calls Kentucky Speedway her home track. Back in 2002, national headlines proclaimed “Ladies First” as Fisher became the first female to start from the pole position in a North American open-wheel event at Kentucky Speedway, later finishing eight. To date, she still holds the track qualifying record for a 221.390 mile per hour lap, to become the first woman in open-wheel racing, IndyCar Series racing and Kentucky Speedway history to earn a pole award.
“Kentucky has amazing memories for me,” said Fisher, whose best finish at Kentucky Speedway was third and came in 2000 for Walker Racing. “Not only the track record, the pole, the podium, but the people. There are some special people in that area of the country. Friends, family, they all enjoy being at Kentucky. From what I remember, Kentucky is a very bumpy track. But, the line there shouldn't have changed much from before. We'll just have to see and hopefully we get over those issues early.”
The five-foot-two inch racer grew up on the dirt tracks and short tracks in the Midwest, prior to racing in the IndyCar Series. She was exposed to life at the track at an early age. Her first racing experience came as a five year-old when her parents fitted her for her first race car – a quarter-midget. She raced quarter-midgets and go-karts until she was a teenager, winning the 1991, 1993 and 1994 World Karting Association Grand National Championships and the 1993 Circleville Points Championship.
By the time she was 15, Fisher was racing Winged Outlaw Sprint cars winning the 1995 Dirt Track Racing Round-Up Rookie of the Year. While in high school, she was racing sprints beating Mark Kinser and Sammy Swindell. At just 18, she was racing Ryan Newman, Jason Leffler, and Kasey Kahne in the USAC midgets winning five of the 23 main events.
With her achievements on the track, Sarah’s fan base grew which brought guest appearances on a variety of television programs including, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Live with Regis and Kelly, Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, Good Morning America and CBS This Morning.
“I miss my fans so much—you have no idea,” said Fisher, who is giving away a pair of tickets to the Kentucky race on her official website to one lucky fan. “I think I appreciate them more then I ever did. Two years later and I still have people that remember more than I do about my past experiences. It is a life changing experience to realise that you impact people and how much responsibility that is and what a good person you need to be for these people to look up to.”
The 25-year-old Fisher, who is attending Ellis College on a part-time basis pursuing a business undergraduate degree, currently resides in Indianapolis with her fiancé, Andy, and is the fourth driver to take to the helm for the Dreyer & Reinbold team in 2006; Buddy Lazier drove in eight events, Al Unser, Jr. drove a second entry for the team at the Indy 500 alongside Lazier and Aussie Ryan Briscoe is competing in four events for the team, including the final road course of the season at Infineon Raceway.