Sarah Fisher: Teen Spirit

SARAH FISHER BECOMES HIGHEST FINISHING FEMALE DRIVER IN INDY

Sarah Fisher: Teen Spirit

When the second- and third-place finishers were brought to the post-race interview following Sunday's Belterra Resorts 300 Indy Racing Northern Light Series race, Scott Goodyear couldn't help teasing the driver who finished third, as Bruce Martin reports.
"First of all, I've never been on the podium with someone who couldn't legally drink," said the 41-year-old Canadian.

With that, 19-year-old Sarah Fisher could only laugh.

She takes great pride in the fact that a teenager finished third in an Indy car race. But, she doesn't like to be referred to as a female race driver.

Undeniably, however, there is no gender gap involving Fisher on the race track. The IRL rookie established Indy car records on Sunday by becoming the first female to ever lead a race and the highest-finishing female driver in Indy car history.

Prior to Sunday, Fisher's best finish was 12th place at Texas Motor Speedway on June 11.

"I finished go-karts at 18 and took a driving school at 19," Goodyear said. "I was scratching my head trying to figure out how I cold be racing at 20. This year at Indianapolis, Sarah qualified for the Indianapolis 500 at 19.

"They are certainly starting younger now."

So young, in fact, that Fisher enrolled at Butler University in Indianapolis last week where she will attempt to earn a double major in mechanical engineering and business.

"I went to my first class last Wednesday and they gave me a list of the assignments for the semester," Fisher recalled. "I had to tell my instructors, I won't be in class on Thursday or Friday because I have to go racing."

Fisher was an accomplished midget car racer in the United States Auto Club before she drove in her first IRL race at Texas Motor Speedway this year. CART team owner Derrick Walker was impressed with Fisher's potential and hired her to be his driver when he started an IRL team this season.

Trying to race an Indy car at 19 is probably as difficult as medical school for some students, but Fisher has been able to stick with the program, despite a few learning mistakes throughout the season.

In Sunday's race, Fisher led nine laps and earned a finish that can define her season.

"You betcha," Fisher said. "It's been a really sharp learning curve jumping from a midget to these types of cars. You can jump from a midget to these types of cars. You can jump from a midget to these types of cars and be successful right off the bat, but it could be a just a one fluke deal.

"There is a lot to learn in Indy cars. They are not easy to drive by any means. It has taken me a while to learn the ins and outs of them. I am not done by far. I'm willing to learn it all. This shows if you put up enough effort, it's going to pay off one of these days."

Fisher made sure when there was an opportunity to pass in Sunday's race, she made sure it was the right one. Her midget car mentality is to stuff it in any hole she could find. But in Indy cars, a driver has to use patience and make sure each pass is clean.

By using a pit strategy that got her out of sequence with the rest of the field, she was in the lead on lap 162. She stayed in front for the next nine laps before she had to pit.

"I'll tell you what, I got goosebumps," Fisher said. "I had to keep calmed down because it wasn't the end of the race by far and we were out of the pit sequence. That is what gave us the edge.

"It was great to be able to lead some laps and I'm glad I was able to do that."

The 19-year-old drove with all the calm demeanor of a veteran. Earlier in the season, she displayed the impatience of a teenager.

Sarah Fisher has grown up this season.

"The drivers have told me to have some more patience, to take some more time," Fisher said. "I've put my car in positions it shouldn't have been involved in. Today, I used patience and it paid off.

"Being a rookie team in the IRL and being a rookie to rear-engine cars, there is a lot of to learn."

On Sunday, Fisher was given an "A" by her team owner, Derrick Walker.

"She has matured bloody fast," said Walker, a native of Scotland. "She has really come a long way. I've missed some of her races because I've been at the CART races. For me to see her now, she has really come a long way.

"She is getting ready to win a race."

Before the race, Fisher met former Cincinnati Reds star Pete Rose, who was the grand marshal for the race. Even race drivers have their heroes because Fisher is grew up in Central Ohio and is a fan of the Reds.

"That was really neat," Fisher said. "To meet a legend like him was really cool. He said, `Why not be the first woman to win this?' I said, `I'd rather be the youngest driver to win.'

"To get my first podium in the IRL is great. I'll be 20 in a few weeks and I think this is great to do this and great for the series."


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