Sarah Fisher: Racing driver

Sarah Fisher won't be satisfied until she is known as a race driver, not a female race driver. She would rather be known for her youth and ability, rather than her gender.

Sarah Fisher: Racing driver

The 20-year-old driver from Commercial Point, Ohio has gone a long way towards crossing the gender barrier in racing. Her second-place finish to Sam Hornish Jr at Homestead, Florida was the highest of her brief Indy car racing career. While others mentioned the fact it was the highest finish ever for a female race driver, Fisher cringed.

"I try to get away from the whole woman issue," Fisher said. "I really want to be here by being a race car driver, that's the only reason. Being a woman is an attribute I can accentuate at times. It seems that is all they want to focus on."

When she finished second to Hornish at Homestead, Florida last month, she had to pass Eliseo Salazar of Chile late in the race. It was one year ago at Las Vegas that Salazar blasted Fisher after the two were involved in a crash saying she belonged in "powder-puff racing."

When Fisher passed Salazar with a bold move in the third turn, his team owner, AJ Foyt, radioed a biting message to his driver. "You just got passed by a girl," Foyt said.

Actually, he got passed by a real racer - someone who isn't afraid to mash the accelerator and go wheel-to-wheel with any competitor on the race track.

Fisher enters her second Indianapolis 500 better prepared for what to expect than last year.

"I think in my second Indy 500 I will have a better idea what to expect," Fisher said. "Last year, I had no clue as to the amount of media we were going to get or the appearances and all that comes along with the month of May. This year, I have a better idea which is going to help us better prepare but this month is going to be so tough with all the competitors coming in."

Fisher has taken a serious approach to the most serious race in the world, running lots of laps at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in preparation for Saturday's Pole Day for the 87th Indianapolis 500.

"I've never been through a three-week Indianapolis 500, only a two-week Indy 500," Fisher said, referring to the more traditional month of May schedule at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "I know there will be more pressure and it will take more strategy to do that, but with Derrick having as much experience, we will have a better approach to it."

Team owner Derrick Walker has had to split time between his CART program with driver Tako Taguri and the IRL team with Fisher. He spent last weekend at the Nazareth CART race and will leave early on Monday for Japan for CART's next race at Twin Ring Motegi.

The team owner from Scotland is very impressed with the maturity of the young Fisher, who started racing go-karts when she was 5 years old.

"She is a lot more aware of how to deal with all of the issues at once," Walker said. "She has the demands on her and knows how to deal with that and see the big picture. She also has much more confidence dealing with the engineers. She has only done 12 races in the IRL and the IRL is not where she has come from. She is on track and doing a great job. She has to say focused on that."

Fisher's youth and racing ability has made her one of the most popular drivers in the IRL. Many believe when she becomes a race winner, it will help the Indy car series become more popular with a broader segment of fans.

"Among the fans, I may be popular and that's great to see that I have such support at such a young age," Fisher said. "As far as our program, the difference between this year and last year is unbelievable. We have some new team members and engineers and it's taken a while to gel with them, but other than that, our growth and focus on the team is unbelievable."

Fisher has had to juggle a great deal in her life. In addition to racing full-time in the Indy Racing League, she is also a full-time student at Butler University in Indianapolis, studying mechanical engineering.

"It's unbelievably hard," Fisher said of the balancing act. "It's taken the biggest toll on my time. But then again, it's about time management. As long as you go in there with the idea racing is No. 1 and that is my most important priority. School is important, too, but racing is No. 1. I manage my time to where racing rises above everything but school work and I still do the school work."

Fisher is mature beyond her 20 years of age. She doesn't crack under pressure, as evidenced by her coolness under fire during an 11-car crash at Atlanta Motor Speedway on April 28. With debris flying through the air from the carnage in Turn 4, Fisher was able to slow down and save her race car from further damage.

Although she ran over some debris, her crew was able to repair the car and send her back into the race.

"It all started when I saw one of the Galles cars get sideways," Fisher recalled. " I slowed the car down and then saw the debris flying everywhere. It reminded me of the ending scene in Terminator II."

Fisher's contemporary in the IRL is fellow Ohio native Hornish, who won the first two races of the IRL season with Panther Racing. The two raced against each other in karts when there were "under 4-feet high" according to Hornish.

"Sam is so strong this year, he is definitely the guy to beat," Fisher said. "You have to remember, several other drivers out there are really tough and have a lot of experience at Indy. I think Sam has done a good job of handling it. From what I've seen and read in the media, he is very appreciative of where he is at. Sam is out there and it looks almost easy. He is very patient and he'll be able to handle it.

"I really need to beat Sam. We need to get a win and hopefully we will get it in the month of May."

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