When Sarah Fisher became the youngest woman to compete in the
Indianapolis 500 at the age of 19 in 2000, it seemed like nothing could
stop the Ohio native.
In combination with being just the third woman to compete in the Indy 500, she also became the first lady to stand on the podium at an IRL event; finishing third at Kentucky Speedway in 2001 and second at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
In 2002, she made another mark in the auto racing annals, by becoming the first woman in North American motorsports history to win the pole position for a major-league open-wheel race. Things for Fisher in the IRL began to sour after that season.
Team and sponsor issues in 2003 and 2004 saw Fisher move to NASCAR in 2004.
McAnally Racing signed Fisher to the a three-year contract in the
NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series. In 2005, Fisher captured
four top-ten finishes in her first full season in the NASCAR Grand
National Division, West Series and earned the Rookie of the Year
She was unable to put together a NASCAR program for 2006 and headed back to the IRL driving for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Without much success or the ability to match the media juggernaut of Danica Patrick, Fisher announced in January of 2007 that she was forming her own team.
The effort, with her husband Andy O'Gara and father-in-law John O'Gara, made make its IRL debut in May at the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500, but she was was taken out of the race when Tony Kanaan spun in front of her on Lap 106.
What do you hope to accomplish by running your own team this year?
I really just want to have a good solid year to start building upon for the many years to come. It would mean a great deal to us to keep growing our program so that the team is stable by itself. We are not looking to be a one year deal. We are in this for the long haul.
What does it mean to have the support of racing legends, Janet Guthrie and Lyn St. James behind you?
They are incredible ambassadors not only for our sport but for women in sports. To have them both behind our program gives me great confidence that we are doing the right things with the watchful eye of two legends. Both are friends and are great people that mean a lot to our team as well as personally. It’s humbling to have their support.
Would you ever consider going back to one of NASCAR's divisions, or is your heart in the IRL?
My career started in open-wheel racing so of course it means the most to me personally. But you never close doors to opportunity. For now our focus is IndyCar racing.
Many people thought, based on your successes that you'd be the first woman to win in IndyCar -- was Danica's win bittersweet for you?
Danica’s win was a flurry of emotions for me. But just as Janet Guthrie proved a woman could qualify for the Indy 500, I proved that we could also start an open-wheel race from the pole position and Danica proved that we can also win races. These are progressive barriers that needed to be put behind us so we can continue to move forward as racers. These accomplishments are huge for women in racing and for that, we all have something to celebrate.
What are your goals this season?
We hope to compete at Kentucky and Chicago and continue to grow our program.
How is married life going? Are you making the adjustment -- is it fun to be on the road with your husband?
Married life isn’t much different that it was before I was married. Andy and I had been dating for awhile and living together already. I guess we fight a little bit more but I guess that comes when you also work with your husband. It’s great though. I couldn’t have dreamt it any better.
What was it like meeting Hillary Clinton -- what does it mean to you to have had a woman running for such a major office even if it doesnt appear that she will continue on to the nomination?
I was very impressed by Senator Clinton. She was so polished and knowledgeable about our sport and my accomplishments. I was honored to host her at the speedway and the hoopla around her appearance was really crazy. Her staff and the international and national press completely took over Gasoline Alley and our entire garage. I don’t think any of us realized the impact of her attendance until that after the fact. Senator Clinton said something that really hit home with me.
She said she would not quite the race to the nomination with 50 laps to go just as I wouldn’t quit during the Indy 500 if I was in second place with 50 laps left in the race. You go to the end and take the checkered flag regardless of where you finish as long as you do your best.
What were your expectations for Indy? How big of a disappointment to your efforts this year was that wreck?
A top-12 would have been a big accomplishment for our little team on a shoestring budget. Unfortunately, we got taken out of the race on Lap 106. It was simply a racing incident and I had nowhere to go. But that’s racing and you just have to move on.
by Linda Przygodski