SPARTA, Ky. (August 2004) As IndyCar Racing Series fans settle into their seats for the Belterra Casino Indy 300, they may begin to wonder the same question: Wheres Sarah?
Two years ago at this event, Sarah Fisher of Commercial Point, Ohio, became the first woman in IRL history to capture a pole position by winning the top spot at Kentucky. In doing so, she set a track speed record of 221.390 mph. She led the first 26 laps also an IRL first and finished the race in eighth place.
Last year, she started the race in ninth place and finished 14th, two laps off the leaders. She spent the better part of the morning signing autographs in the Kentucky Speedway infield as part of the IRLs fan session. Her lines were noticeably longer than the others lining up for driver autographs. But at the end of the season, she lost her ride after finishing in 18th place in overall points.
In 2000, her rookie year, Fisher placed third at Kentucky, a place to which she had grown fond, considering her experiences here. That year, she also became only the third woman in history to qualify for the Indianapolis 500.
Despite her average success behind the wheel, the 23-year-old continues to earn the second-highest number of votes just five votes behind Sam Hornish in the latest tally among fans as the most popular driver. That, despite only entering one event this season the Indianapolis 500, where she started on the inside of Row 7 and finished 21st for Kelley Racing. The popularity rating is an honor she also maintained throughout the 2001, 2002 and 2003 seasons.
Fisher led the popularity standings until July 2004, however, award rules require a driver compete in a minimum of three IndyCar Series races in order to be eligible for the award.
In five years of IndyCar racing, Fishers best career finish was second in 2001 at Homestead-Miami another first for open-wheel female drivers. Last year, her season-best finish of eighth came at Phoenix.
So what is she doing now?
According to reports in late July, she is just enjoying herself and keeping her skills sharp should she be offered the right opportunity to get behind the wheel. To sharpen her skills, she has been driving one of the IRLs Experience two-seater cars, which allows fans to feel the action up close.
Id rather be racing obviously, but its fun to see the joy that people get from riding in these cars, Fisher told the Associated Press in late July in Nashville, Tenn., where she was giving rides in the Menards/Johns Manville car. That experience with them is pretty cool.
Photo courtesy of the IRL
Sarah Fisher hauls in a marlin.
Fisher lives in Indianapolis and has had offers, but she says she is choosy after being criticized for moving up too quickly.
I dont want to go to a scenario where theyre having motor problems, or they dont have the right crew chief or right cars, or they would sign a sponsor if I signed on, Fisher said. Ive heard that I dont know how many times.
Meanwhile, Fisher is enjoying other sports, such as fishing. Recently, she was invited aboard an Oceanic Conservation Organizations research vessel to help catch, tag and release blue marlins. She retrieved a 350-pound marlin off the coast of the British Virgin Islands, then helped attach a satellite tag before releasing it.
It was kind of like being strapped into the drivers seat of my IndyCar Series car, and I wasnt getting out until that fish was beside the boats, she said of the experience.