On Dec. 9-12, 16 young and unique female race-car drivers will attend the 13th annual LSJ Foundation Driver Development Program in the Phoenix area, including the Bondurant High Performance Driving School at Firebird Raceway, for four days of intensive physical, psychological, media and business training to help prepare them for a future in professional motorsports.
Past graduates of this program, founded in 1994 by Lyn St. James, former Indy 500 competitor and motivational speaker, include Danica Patrick, Erin Crocker, Melanie Troxel, Allison Duncan, Sarah Fisher, among others who have gone on to succeed in their respective auto-racing categories.
The drivers in this year's class come from 13 states (Arizona, Indiana, North Carolina, Illinois, New Mexico, Idaho, Texas, New York, Ohio, Maryland, California, Washington and Florida), along with local 15-year-old Cassie Gannis of Phoenix. Their resumes include competing in go-karts, mini sprints, jr. dragsters, quarter midgets, winged sprint cars, sports cars, and bandeleros.
The program begins Dec. 9 and 10 at Athlete's Performance in Tempe, Ariz., where the drivers will work on physical fitness and mental preparedness under the guidance of Dr. Jacques Dallaire of Human Performance International. On Dec. 11, they will head to the Bondurant School in Chandler, Ariz., for media training, under the direction of media specialist Judy Stropus, and a class discussing the business side of racing with financial expert Linda Conti of A.G. Edwards in Indianapolis. They will then work with Alan Rudolph at the Bondurant Karting program in the afternoon. On Dec. 12, Mike Loescher of the Finish Line Racing School in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., will lead them through a chassis set-up class.
"There's no school to learn how to become professional race-car drivers," says St. James, whose LSJ Foundation has promoted women in racing since 1994. "There are no training camps, no scouts, no advance curriculum in colleges and universities that provide the expertise and resources to develop the tools and skills in whatever type of racing is available based on their geography, financial capability, age, and sometimes gender.
"There are schools and programs available to learn to drive a race car and even to compete," St. James continues, "but what do you do next? Even if you've won championships, set track records, and earned a bookcase full of trophies and awards, more often than not, that's as far as a driver gets. Team owners don't know they exist, and other than family and friends and some local fans, as well as other important people like the media and sponsors, also don't know they exist. And if they are given an opportunity to perform at a higher level, they often are not prepared for the world they so desperately seek."
St. James made a decision in 1994 to try to change that. Her goal was to provide information and expertise to up-and-coming racers, in particular female racers, by pooling together experts in such fields as physical fitness, mental preparation, nutrition, media training and the business of racing. She also strove to provide technical instruction, as well as a variety of on-track activities, in an effort to provide the necessary tools to become successful in the professional ranks of the sport.
"This program isn't about going fast," adds St. James. "It's about learning what to do after you've learned to be the best on the race track in whatever type of race car you race. It's about being prepared to become a professional champion. It's all about being prepared to succeed!"
Information on this program is available by going to www.lynstjames.com or calling 602-952-9243.