Ask Patty loves to interview great women doing great things in the
automotive industry and Lyn St. James is no exception! Ask Patty sat
down with Lyn to talk about her career in motorsports and the Lyn St. James Foundation.
ASK PATTY: Tell us a little bit about your career in motor sports.
LSJ: I was a fan and spectator from my teenage years - first drag racing, which I tried a few times and actually won some in street cars at a local drag strip. After moving to FL I went to the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring and found out about SCCA (Sports Car Club of America), became a member of the local FL Region, bought a Ford Pinto and equipped it with a roll bar, 5 point seat belt, fire extinguisher (all of which was required) and enrolled in SCCA driver's school to get my competition license. I never looked back after that and have never wanted to do anything else since.
ASK PATTY: What made you decide to get into motor sports?
LSJ: I love the sounds, smells, challenge, friendships, work ethic, creativity, everything about it. Plus it was something I could do well (at least sometimes), yet never seemed to conquer.
ASK PATTY: What is your favorite part of racing and being behind the wheel?
LSJ: It's the most physically and mentally demanding activity, yet you cannot activate your emotions. It requires such a commitment in every way; it's like you're in another world.
ASK PATTY: What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a woman in the automotive industry?
LSJ: I think it was my passion for cars and my obvious commitment to being the best, bringing my best to whatever I did that earned respect from others, regardless of gender. I never really allowed myself to focus on the gender difference and focused on the results regardless of the activity. Whether I was racing cars, test driving cars, attending business meetings, working with engineers or business executives, doing car clinics, being a keynote speaker, whatever, my focus has been on the subject matter and not on gender. A dear friend gave me a piece of advice a long time ago; "focus on the donut and not on the hole". I would remind myself of that often, especially when others would try to change the focus.
ASK PATTY: Tell us about the Lyn St. James Foundation and what it does.
LSJ: After racing in the Indy 500 I received so much fan mail asking for advice and I felt I could not just send them an autograph, and without knowing more about them I wasn't able to really give good advice. So I thought if I could invite them to a program where I could meet them and assemble experts in various aspects of racing, then we together could provide guidance and give others the tools to realize their potential and dreams in racing. I have been active in the Women's Sports Foundation since the early 1980's, and was the president from 1990-92, so I really understood the power in getting people together to make a difference. So I established the Lyn St. James Foundation in an effort to make a difference for women in the automotive industry, with a focus on motorsports since that's where I felt I could make the biggest difference. In 1994 we created the first Driver Development Program and have been doing it annually ever since, graduating almost 200 women racers including some stand outs like Danica Patrick, Sarah Fisher, Erin Crocker, Melanie Troxel, Allison Duncan, Deborah Renshaw, just to name a few.
ASK PATTY: What exactly is the Driver Development Program and how would someone get involved with it?
LSJ: We accept resumes throughout the year and I work with all the sanctioning bodies to try to find the best talent out there that aspire to be successful in professional racing. I say "I'm looking for the cream of the crop". So between people contacting us and me reaching out and keeping track of what's happening we are able to assemble some of the best up and coming talented racers out there and invite them to our program. It's usually held in November or December, which is most racers off season, and it's a 4-day program that focuses on mostly off track areas that most people don't have much knowledge about, such as physical fitness, mental preparation, media training, and the business of the sport. We also include some type of on track program. We include all forms of motorsports. So just go to my website: www.lynstjames.com for more information.
ASK PATTY: Do you have to already have driving skills to attend the program?
LSJ: We only accept racers who have considerable experience and success on their resume. If someone wants to get started in racing there are so many terrific driving schools out there, so we steer them in that direction for beginners. We want experienced racers who aspire to achieve professional success in racing.
ASK PATTY: What advice would you give a young woman who was interested in getting into motor sports?
LSJ: Seek out information, which with the internet is so much easier today than ever, and get involved. Get started. Join a car club, volunteer, attend special events, just jump in! You'll find your niche!
ASK PATTY: What is the “Women in the Winner’s Circle” charity auction? And what are you auctioning (maybe tell us more about the calendar)?
LSJ: About four years ago I was really challenged on how to continue to raise funds for the foundation because I was no longer racing professionally and generating prize money and sponsorship money (I used to donate a percentage of both to the foundation). So we created the "Women in the Winner's Circle" luncheon, which I'm extremely proud to say has been a resounding success. The theme of the luncheon is to bring together women racers who have been in the winner's circle in all forms of the sport, and celebrate their success in front of an audience of movers and shakers. Since it's also a fundraiser, we added both a silent auction and this year an ongoing auction on eBay (www.womeninthewinnerscircle.org), and one of our featured items this year is our 2007 Women in the Winner's Circle calendar. It features 18 winning women racers from a variety of types of racing, as well as lists over 140 women racers on their birthdates, along with their websites. So you can contact these racers and wish them a happy birthday, and keep track of their progress along the way. We're selling the calendars for $14.95 and ALL the proceeds go to our foundation women in racing initiatives thanks to the support from ISC Publications, New Age, and Independent Printing.