Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sarah Fisher- Racing Queen

People who know me know what a huge race fan I am. I thought I might write occasional sketches or bios of people in the world who interest me, and as I said, to those who know me then it's no surprise that I would start with Sarah Fisher or with a racer in general. The following is an essay that a friend of mine says he wrote, though I know him well enough to think it may have come from elsewhere. (If it's yours and can prove it say the word and I'll take it down, I don't want any copyright issues here!). Because I think she's gorgeous and cute as a button (and married and probably too young for me, dang it), I have a picture here that I took from her wikipedia article.

Sarah Fisher was born October 4, 1980, in the small town of Commercial Point, Ohio, to parents David and Reba Fisher. David, already a go-kart enthusiast, began taking Fisher to the local track early in her life, where she enjoyed a first-hand look at the competition and mechanics of racing. She began competing in quarter-midget race cars, a similiar, smaller version of the go-kart, when she was only five years old, learning the basic skills and talents over a decade before she could legally drive a car.

When Fisher was eight years old, she graduated from the midget-racers to go-karts like her father raced, and from there, early success soon followed. Fisher took several wins over her six years in go-kart racing, and won the World Karting Associatio n Grand National Championship two years in a row, in 1991 and 1992, and the Points Champion in the WKA in 1993. She also won the Circleville Raceway Park Championship in 1994. It was during this time that her real love for racing developed, and she began to look elsewhere for new challanges. Growing up racing on the loosely-packed dirt tracks in Southern Ohio spurred the young Fisher, now 14, to establish her career in other dirt tracks, wanting the challanges she couldn't get from a smooth, asphalt-paved circuit.

In 1995, Fisher entered the Winged Sprint Car World of Outlaws League and for the next three years blazed another new trail of success, winning the 1995 Dirt Track Racing Round-Up Rookie of the Year Award, and a 1997 nomination for the National Spri nt Car Hall of Fame Rookie of the Year Award. Also in 1997, she received one of the highest sprint car honors, a chance to compete in the 62-race series, the All-Stars Circuit of Champions, finishing as high as second place at Eldora Speedway along the wa y. However, the lure and challenges of dirt-track racing had now faded, and Fisher knew she had to move onwards and upwards.

In 1998, Fisher raced in three different types of racing cars for asphalt circuits, the ARCA Sprint cars, the NAMARS Silver Crowns and the USAC Midgets, collecting five feature wins and two track speed records in 23 starts. In August of the followin g year, she became the youngest person to pass the requirements for the Indy Racing League Rookie test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

On October 17, 1999 she competed in her first IRL event, the youngest driver in the over-50 years of the league to do so. On the Texas Motor Speedway, Fisher qualified in the 17th position and ran a strong race throughout, before mechanical difficul ties with a timing chain forced her out on lap 66, finishing 25th overall. Still, the experience and her skills were enough for Fisher to land a driving position with team owner Derrick Walker, driving for the 2000 IRL season. It also led to her greatest moment; a shot at the most prestigious event in auto racing, the Indianapolis 500, where she qualified 19th in the field as the youngest woman, to compete in the event. An accident early in the race sidelined her and she finished 31st.

A little over a year after getting her IRL license, Fisher made history again, becoming the first woman to place in an IRL sporting event, on August 27, 2000, at the Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway. After starting fourth from the pole, she finished in third place and led nine laps, the first of her career, and becoming the youngest driver to lead. At the Las Vegas Speedway, Fisher was running a strong third half-way through the race before an accident finished her in 17th position. Despite a few disap pointments, Fisher started eight of the nine races she qualified for, and placed third in the Bombardier Rookie of the Year standings at the end of the season.

The year 2001 was a new beginning for everyone, and Fisher was hungry for more success after a little less than a year on the IndyCar circuit. On April 8th, she was off and running, taking a second-place finish home from the first race of the season , in Miami-Homestead.

The following month, she qualified again for the Indianapolis 500, starting 15th from the pole, but was taken out in the seventh lap after an accident. She collected one other top-ten finish that year, at Pikes Peak International Raceway in Colorado , but her performance in all 13 races, with a combined 1,675 laps run, netted her more than $700,000 that year, making her a millionaire in only two short seasons.

At the start of the 2002 Indy season, troubles with her sponsors, and the inability to find others left Fisher without car. But on April 21st, at Nazareth Speedway she substituted for injured driver Robbie Buhl in a Dreyer & Reinbold Racing entr y. On the starting grid, Fisher was 19th, and proved a strong contender all through the race, finishing an amazing fourth place, the best finish of the season.

The next month, at Indianapolis, she teamed with Buhl again, in a second Dreyer & Reinbold Racing entry, and broke a record with the fastest qualifying speeds ever by a woman, at 229.439 miles per hour. Those speeds were good enough to secure ni nth position on the pole, an incredible achievement. In her third consecutive appearance in the Indianapolis 500, Fisher finished the race four laps down, in 23rd, giving her $163,315 in winnings. These remarkable races were enough for the owners of the Dreyer & Reinhold cars; Fisher was kept on-board as Robbie Buhl's replacement to run the last eight races of the season.

Here's some updates from the wikipedia article not in my friend's essay.
In 2005, Sarah captured four top-ten finishes in her first full season in the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series in 2005, capturing the stock car racing series' Rookie of the Year title. She finished the season running in 12th in the chase for the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series title which made her eligible to compete in the 3rd Annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale Speedway. She finished 11th in that race. She also was voted the Most Popular Driver in that series making her a four-time Most Popular Driver award winner.

IRL 2006
After Fisher was unable to put together a full NASCAR program, Fisher decided to move back to Indianapolis and refresh her name in the IndyCar Series and prepare for a full-time 2007 program. Her desire to run the 2006 Indianapolis 500 went unfulfilled; however, she participated in a match race at Stafford Speedway in Connecticut on July 11, 2006, her first race in 9 months, finishing last among the cast of 4 "All-Star Drivers" including her mentor Al Unser, Jr.

On August 3, 2006 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing gave Fisher the opportunity when she landed a two race deal to drive in the August 13 race at Kentucky Speedway and in the September 10 race at Chicagoland Speedway. With the entry of Danica Patrick for the race, it marked only the second time two women have competed in the same IRL race. The first time was the 2000 Indianapolis 500 where both Fisher and Lyn St. James competed. [2]. Fisher finished in 12th place out of 19 cars at Kentucky and 16th at Chicago for the low-budget Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team.

IRL 2007

Sarah Fisher after qualifying for the 2007 Indianapolis 500.
Practicing for the 2007 Indy 500On January 30, 2007, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing announced that they had signed Sarah to drive for the full season along with new teammate Buddy Rice.

Fisher placed 11th in the season-opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway after running as high as eighth. She placed 15th in her first road-course race of her career on the Streets of St. Petersburg the following weekend. She had a two week layoff then jetted to Japan to finish 14th at Twin Ring Motegi after a poor handling race car. She then finished 12th at Kansas by staying out of trouble and benfiting from crashes and mechanical woes other teams had.

Fisher qualified for her sixth Indianapolis 500, starting on the outside of Row 7. She finished in 18th place (seve positions ahead of her teammate, 2004 Indianapolis 500 champ, Buddy Rice, one lap off the lead. Along with Danica Patrick and Milka Duno, Fisher made "500" history by being part of the first trio of women drivers to start at Indy.

On June 2, 2007, Fiser qualified for the ABC Supply Company A.J. Foyt 225 presented by Time Warner Cable. She qualified 16th in her first visit to the Milwaukee Mile. Fisher went on to finish 14th after struggling with clutch issues, hampering pit stops.

On June 8, 2007, Fisher qualified at her favorite track on the IndyCar Series circuit, Texas Motor Speedway for the Bombardier Learjet 550. Teammate Buddy Rice qualified in the 17th position while teammate Fisher qualified in the 19th position in the 20-car field. Fisher stated that, “We’ve been looking for speed all weekend so we are definitely trying. We’re picking our brains for everything after all; this track is all about the speed of the car. We had it trimmed out but we didn’t have it to the point where it was sliding all over. It wasn’t pushing and that's the best the car's been all weekend. As far as the time goes, that's all she had as I was going out easy. I was flat out. We’re just looking for speed and I don’t know where it's at.” Fisher ended finished the race 10th.

On June 23, 2007, Fisher qualified for the first time for the inaugural, Iowa Corn Indy 225 presented by Ethanol. Frustration continued for the struggling Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Fisher qualified 18th while teammate, Rice, qualified 17th. Fisher stated after qualifying that she, "I drove sideways for both laps so I'm sure that lost a lot of speed for us." Fisher finished the race seventh after a crash-fest at Iowa Speedway.

On June 29, 2007, Fisher returned to Richmond International Raceway, where she sat on the front row two out of three appearances at the track. A late downpour washed out early evening qualifications at RIR on Friday evening in preparation for the SunTrust Indy Challenge presented by XM Satellite Radio. The starting field for the Saturday night event was instead determined by the IndyCar Series driver point's standings. Fisher was 16th in the points standings and started 16th. Fisher's car still lacked speed and was quickly down a lap, finishing in the 16th position.

On July 7, 2007, Fisher made her second qualifying attempt on a road course. Fisher crashed during qualifications as she came into Turn 8 and got up into the rumble strips getting loose and sending her into the wall without a qualifying speed. Fisher hit the wall straight-on with both tires hitting the wall. There was left-side suspension damage to her No. 5 AAMCO Transmissions machine. Her crew then had to swap her Honda engine before the final practice session. Fishe went on to finish 16th. Fisher stated, "I'm happy to have had the experience I got in the car today. Not many people get a turn with this little experience. I learned a lot today and quite frankly, the whole weekend we just kept learning. We’ll carry all this into Mid Ohio for our next road course."

On July 13, 2007, Fisher returned to Nashville SuperSpeedway for the Firestone Indy 200. Fisher qualified 17th with her teammate qualifying 16th as the team continued to struggle on the mile and a half ovals. After a poor handling race car hampered her day, she finished 15th while teammate Rice finished 17th.

ON July 21, 2007, Fisher took to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car course for the first time and for her third qualifying attempt on a road course. Fisher qualifyed 17th. Fisher stated that, "We’re just learning as much as we can and trying to get faster and faster every time we hit the track. Back when I started driving these cars in 1999, everything happened so quickly but as you get use to it, you start to understand the cars and things start to slow down and you start to pick up more. I'm at that stage again now on the road courses. I'm starting to pick up things on the road courses that I didn’t pick up before so with that said, there is a lot more to learn still. I'm just thankful to have the opportunity to be in it.” Fisher went on to finish 15th which was the first time she finished above cars that were still running at the finish on a road course.

On August 4, 2007, Fisher qualified at Michigan International Speedway in the 16th position while her teamamte Rice, qualified 17th. During the race, the Firestone Indy 400, Fisher spun and crashed on Lap 83 du to a part failure causing her machine to make heavy contact with the wall between Turn 1 and Turn 2 leaving her in the 16th position--unable to continue in the race due to vehicle damage. This marked just her first retirement of the 2007 season.

On August 10, 2007, Fisher returned to Kentucky Speedway to qualify for the Meijer Indy 300. It was a year ago today that Sarah Fisher set the track qualifying record at Kentucky Speedway with a lap qualifying average of 221.390 mile per hour. Fisher qualifyed 14th while teammate, Rice, started 16th. Fisher finished 14th in the race stating, "we had no speed."

On August 25, 2007, Fisher qualifyed for her fourth road course at Infineon Raceway. After completing 77 laps, the busiest driver on the IndyCar Series circuit during practice due to running both practice sessions on Saturday morning, Fisher continued to improve her road course racing abilities with a best speed of 103.435 mph and a time of 1:20.0503. During practice sessions, Fisher worked on continuing to challenge the car through the corners. During qualifications, Fisher was on the brakes too long as she turned into Turn 9 causing her to spin; and forfeited her time--she would start last. During the race, Fisher's day ended on the 28th lap due to a failure of the fourth gear of her gear box ending her day early for just the second time this season. During the second pit stop, she complained she was having trouble shifting from third to fourth gear. On Lap 22, she again complained she was having trouble with fourth gear. Her engineer, Chris Finch, radioed for her to pit on Lap 28 to try and correct the problem after refueling and getting four new tires. The team determined the mechanical issue was her end to the day which sidelined the team; the No. 5 car's first mechanical woe of the 2007 IndyCar Series season.

On September 1, 2007, Fisher made her first visit to the Belle Isle for the Detroit Indy Grand Prix qualifications. Fisher stated, “I just started my road course career this year, so qualifying today on a road course is only my fifth time. We’re basically just learning. That qualifying lap wasn’t amazing but we just wanted to get it in the show. Our last two qualifying attempts haven’t been that great so we weren’t going to go out there and try and set the world on fire. It's definitely really bumpy here but I really like the course. I only have St. Pete to compare it to as a street race but we’re learning.” During the race on, September 2, 2007, at The Detroit Indy Grand Prix on Belle Isle, Fisher's day was short-lived as she was involved in a multi-car crash involving Sam Hornish, Jr., Danica Patrick, Vitor Meira and Darren Manning. It would only end Fisher and Meira's days as the rest continued on in the race. During the Lap 28 incident, Fisher broke her right rear-rear suspension. It was her third early exit from a race this season. Fisher stated, “Sam came alongside and he wasn’t up to my side pod but I think he just got to my right rear; I didn’t even see him that far. I waited till the last minute to turn in and we got together. I’ve been giving these guys as much respect as possible the whole weekend and throughout the first part of the race and letting them go. I really wanted to give them as much room as possible because I’m here to learn and that was my goal.”

On September 8, 2007, Fisher qualified for the final time of the 2007 IndyCar Series season for the season-ending Peak Antifreeze Indy 300 presented by Mr. Clean. Fisher qualified 17th while teammate, Rice, qualifyed 19th. Fisher finished the race 12th while teammate, Rice, finished ninth. After the race Fisher stated, “You know, it was a tough year for us. We never quite got it together to be competitive week in and week out. We never quite established a means of communication between my engineer and I and that's critical for success. I would really like to thank the crew for their dedication and hard work they offered throughout this tough year. Despite the ups and downs, I’m looking forward to my wedding this next weekend. I have really enjoyed returning to IndyCar racing this year. And with that, I’m looking forward to 2008.”

IRL 2008
Her plans for the 2008 season are unclear as of the last race of the 2007 season at ChicagoLand Speedway. She was signed to a one-year contract at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in 2007 but along with her teammate, Buddy Rice, struggled through a disappointing season.

I wish her the best best best luck for 2008!!

1 comment:

Rachael said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog!
No one ever does, so it's such a rare treat to actually get a comment :) Happy Holidays!