On July 19, Lyn St. James participated on ‘Breaking Barriers: Motors, Tracks and Stereotypes,’ a segment which was broadcast on the VoiceAmerica Empowerment Channel.
The segment was part of the ‘Women and Sport: The Long Road Up’ show – which traces the pathway of women’s place in sport from the 1950s when girls and women were limited to play days, milk and cookies after “light competition,” to the impact of some of the most driven, talented, and charismatic figures who re-defined and transformed sport itself. Few people know these incredible women.
Many, indeed all, guests on this Series have braved the step into virtually ‘all male’ domains. I am not sure there could be any more daunting than ‘the garage’ at the Indianapolis 500 Motor Speedway. As recounted in her book “Lyn St James: An Incredible Journey” Lyn describes how she first had to don her driving suit in the public Ladies Restroom at Indy. She says she had only one rule ‘no signing autographs in there’. Lyn went on to qualify for the 500 seven times; once qualifying with a four lap speed above 225 MPH. Our guest today made Indy 500, Le Mans, Watkins Glen, the White House (among scores of other iconic locations) HER TERRITORY. Welcome Lyn St James to The Long Road Up.
In anticipation of the 100th running of the famed Indianapolis 500, Yahoo Sports recently interviewed Lyn St. James and Sarah Fisher concerning the race’s dwindling number of women drivers. Take a moment to read Larry Fine’s piece here:
May 26 (Reuters) – Two female trailblazers of the Indianapolis 500 are not alarmed by the dwindling number of women drivers at the famed Brickyard, saying the talent and opportunity are still there.
Britain’s Pippa Mann is the lone woman competing in Sunday’s 100th running of the Indy 500, down from a record four in each of 2010, 2011 and 2013, but former drivers Lyn St. James and Sarah Fisher say it is just a matter of timing.
St. James, who followed 1977 pioneer Janet Guthrie as the second woman to drive in the fabled event in 1992, and Fisher, who at age 19 became the third in 2000, still see the iconic race as a beacon to race drivers.
Six more women have followed them.
“It’s clearly the most well known, significant, historically important, longstanding motor race in the world,” St. James, 69, told Reuters. “You aspire to it.”
St. James noted that this year other top female drivers have other commitments or are racing other circuits such as NASCAR’s Danica Patrick, who has the top Indy 500 finish among female drivers with a third place in 2009.
“What I love about the girls that are competing, that followed, whether it be Danica, Simona (de Silvestro) and all the others is that it isn’t such a big deal anymore and that was what our goal was,” said St. James.
“That we could just be a racer and show up.”
St. James and Fisher, in their own ways, have encouraged and inspired those that followed.
“After ’92 and ’93 I was overwhelmed by the amount of fan mail that I got. Much of that fan mail was not just wanting an autograph, but wanting advice,” said St. James.
“It was not just about me. I realized this is a responsibility if I can help others achieve success in racing or in their lives, this was a responsibility for the gift that I was given.”
St. James established the Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation in 1994 dedicated to professional development for young women in racing.
“Danica came into my program when she was 14, Sarah Fisher came into my program when she was 15,” St. James said.
Fisher has been an inspiration with her own career arc.
After becoming the youngest woman to qualify for the race and first female IndyCar podium finisher, Fisher became the circuit’s first female owner and its youngest boss in 2008.
“I was a car owner, successfully running only off of sponsorship and prize money for four years starting in 2008 and we were really proud of that,” Fisher, 35, told Reuters.
She later formed an IndyCar team partnership but when that broke apart, Fisher changed gears and with her husband last month opened the massive Speedway Indoor Karting near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“It’s an opportunity for parents to bring their kids in and experience racing behind the wheel and see if they actually do want to do it or not,” she said, adding she was eager to help committee youngsters take the next step in the journey.
A journey St. James said remained special. “It is still a sport that women and men compete on an equal level. There are very few of them,” she said.
St. James singled out a pair of drivers to watch for in Ayla Agren of Norway, 22, and 15-year-old prospect Courtney Crone.
“The chances are there for success. The sport wants it, I know. I talk to the leaders. I know they all would be very excited to see women successful in their type of racing,” St. James said.
“It’s a win, win, win. It’s a win for the drivers, it’s a win for the league and the series and it’s a win for the fans. We don’t need any special pass. We’ve got to get the right ingredients, the right timing and the right people.
“I feel it in my bones. I certainly hope I’ll still be able to watch the first woman to win the Indy 500 and see women win more.”
Lyn has been voted as one of Sports Illustrated Top 100 Athletes of the Century! During her career as a race car driver, Lyn holds 31 national and international speed records. In 1992, she won the title of Rookie of the Year, setting the bar for women in the sport of auto racing.
Lyn St. James graciously opened the inaugural SAWF Annual Event in Nashville in 2010. Her generosity helped start this amazing organization that has awarded more than $170,000 in scholarships for Girls Pursuing STEM degrees in the past five years. Because of her inspiration, SAWF has hosted forums for professional development for women in automotive careers. Her devoted support of SAWF is a testament to her leadership in helping women reach their full potential.
Lyn St. James, Mark Dinsmore and Pete Halsmer are the latest veteran drivers to receive entries in the Indy Legends Pro-Am during the Brickyard Invitational.
All three drivers will once again be on the gird at the Brickyard for the feature event of the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association weekend – the Indy Legends Charity Pro-Am.
“All three of these winning drivers will feel right at home with the SVRA I guarantee you,” said SVRA President & CEO Tony Parella. “They have all raced in our previous two Indy Legends Charity Pro-Ams and Lyn and Pete have competed in some of our other events through the years as well.”
St. James, a seven-time starter in the Indianapolis 500 and the event’s rookie of the year in 1992, raced in 15 Indy car races in her career. While many fans know St. James best for her Indianapolis 500 achievements, she is an accomplished road racer and has earned numerous laurels at the wheel of a variety of race cars. She is a two-time competitor in the 24 Hours of Le Mans (1989 and ’91). She was even more successful in 62 IMSA GT events, amassing a record of six wins, 17 top-five and 37 top-10 finishes.
Her 1985 GT victory at Watkins Glen remains the only time a woman has scored a win in that series driving solo. She raced in the 12 Hours of Sebring nine times, winning the GTO class in 1990, and was a two-time winner in the GTO Class at the 24 Hours of Daytona. St. James raced in 53 Trans-Am races with seven top-five finishes. She has held 31 international and national closed-circuit speed records and is a member of the Florida Sports Hall of Fame.
A two-time starter in the Indianapolis 500, Halsmer competed in 33 Indy car races from 1980 to 1985 with a best finish of second. He had a highly decorated career in sports car racing, winning six Trans Am races, two International Motorsports Ass’n GTO championships and three class wins in the 24 Hours of Daytona. He drove for Jack Roush from 1986 through 1989 enjoying his Trans Am success as well as the 1989 IMSA GTO championship. Halsmer won his second GTO championship in 1991 while driving for Mazda. The following year he was invited to compete in the prestigious IROC series.
Dismore came back from a devastating accident at IMS in 1991 to nearly win the Indianapolis 500 ten years later before gearbox failure dashed his chances. He captured the attention of the American open wheel community in 1990 when he dominated the Toyota Atlantic (Pacific Division) championship, winning eight of ten races on the schedule. Just two years after his devastating injuries at Indianapolis he won overall at the 1993 24 Hours of Daytona driving Dan Gurney’s All American Racers Toyota prototype with Rocky Moran and P.J. Jones.
He returned to Indy car racing in 1996 with Team Menard and eventually became a star driver for Kelley Racing where he won the 1999 Texas Motor Speedway 500 kilometer championship race. Throughout his career he competed in 64 Indy car races and in addition to his victory in Texas he won four pole positions. His success earned him the opportunity to represent Indy car in the elite IROC series in 2000 and 2001.
The Hagerty Education Program (HEP) at America’s Car Museum is co-hosting an Arizona Regional Summit Meeting on Wednesday, May 4 at the East Valley Institute of Technology’s (EVIT) Mesa, Arizona, campus.
Legendary racecar driver Lyn St. James will serve as the guest of honor during the summit. To RSVP and register for the event – which includes the meeting/program/facility tour ($30 per person) – please click here.
The summit will explore how EVIT—an award-winning vocational high school—can support the booming Arizona car restoration industry and help fill the need for young talent at local shops. According to SEMA, in 2015, the automotive restoration industry reached $1.44 billion in product sales alone—an increase of 6% from 2014. HEP’s Arizona Regional Summit Meeting will bring together industry luminaries, including legendary race-car driver and HEP ambassador Lyn St. James, along with experts, SEMA members, local shop owners, instructors, administrators and students to discuss the expansion of EVIT’s curriculum to include restoration programs, which will lead to filling more jobs in the industry. The summit will explore how trade schools and education programs can ensure growth for the collector-car industry by working together to train skilled craftsmen.
Ryan Levesque, 26, who recently completed a HEP apprenticeship at Precision Motor Cars in Allentown, Pennsylvania, will speak about the impact the program has made in his life. Upon completion of the program, Levesque received help from HEP to secure a job at Kip Motor Company in Dallas, where he works with restoration manager Randy Bush to further develop his skills.
“As collector cars grow in rarity, automotive auction houses including Barrett-Jackson, Mecum and Sotheby’s are selling vehicles well in excess of one million dollars. One-of-a-kind and completely restored classics are at the top of the trading block and their prospective buyers’ lists,” said HEP National Director Diane Fitzgerald. “Last year, the automotive auction industry surpassed $1.8 billion in collector cars sales nationwide. There are 12 million cars predating 1981 and we believe this represents a good opportunity for industry growth and job creation.”
Since 2005, HEP has awarded nearly $3 million in program/project grants, scholarships and apprenticeships.
Last week, Lyn St. James took a spin in a 1964 Alfa Romeo TZ 1 – talking about her past and present endeavors while behind the wheel.
Chronicled by writer, car collector and classic car broker William Hall, the article beautifully captures the spirit of the powerful little classic Italian GTO – while the two try and hold a conversation over the screaming engine.
Lyn St. James climbs into the cramped cockpit of the 1964 Alfa Romeo TZ 1 and takes a few moments to familiarize herself with the instruments and switches. She wants to know everything; she explains that her learning process is visual as she methodically programs herself for driving. We are only going for an hour-long spin on desert roads in this borrowed race car, but the preparation is the same as if she were back on the grid at the Indy 500.
Of all the race cars she’s driven – GTPs, GTOs, Indy cars, Formula Atlantics, Le Mans, SCCA sedans – this is her first Alfa. First introduced in prototype form at the 1962 Turin Motor Show, it went on to homologation for Grand Touring racing. The drivetrain is an Autodelta-tuned version of the Giulia GTA engine and transmission, but that’s where the similarity ends. Legendary Milanese carrozzeria Zagato handled the rest, utilizing a custom lightweight chassis, independent rear suspension, and a Kamm-tailed aerodynamic body to dramatic effect.
Lyn St. James’s racing resume reads like a bucket list for every aspiring racer. A winner at the 24 hours of Daytona and 12 hours of Sebring, St. James also competed at the 24 hours of Nurburgring, the 24 hours of Le Mans and qualified for Indy 500 seven times, winning Indy 500 rookie of the year in 1992.
Lyn was the first woman to win the award, doing so at the age of 45, the oldest driver ever to do so. She finished 11th that year, her second best finish before coming 6th in 1994. Though her talent behind the wheel was apparent, St. James did not begin racing competitively until her mid 20’s. The former secretary and piano teacher’s racing career started with a splash, but not the kind that would land her in the winner’s circle.
In honor of the fast approaching 30th anniversary of the National Girls & Women in Sports Day (NGWSD), The S.H.E. Network recently published a Q&A piece featuring Lyn St. James.
As per the article, NGWSD began in 1987 as a special day in our nation’s capital to recognize women’s sports. The day united premiere organizations and elite female athletes to bring national attention to the promise of girls and women in sports. NGWSD has since evolved into an event acknowledging the accomplishments of female athletes, the positive influence of sports participation and the continuing struggle for equality for women in sports.
Lyn St. James, a seven-time Indianapolis 500 driver and former WSF President, was present for the first, along with many other, NGWSD celebrations in Washington, D.C.
She took the time to chat with us and share the memories she holds dear and why she feels NGWSD is an important day for our nation to celebrate.
What was it like to be at the very first National Girls and Women in Sports Day in Washington, D.C. in 1987?
It was my first time being in Washington, D.C., not just as a tourist there to see sites and such. We were visiting but we had access to the halls of Congress and a number of different areas. NGWSD was the first time I got to meet the President or be in the Oval Office. The importance of being able to be inside the halls of Congress and go down those hallways and be in the offices of our representatives and talk about Title IX and have people talk about it in the media was huge. When you’re able to have a face-to-face you really feel like you’ve accomplished something. I felt the most impactful by being able to truly communicate the importance of Title IX and the importance of girls and women in sport. It just really felt good.
What is your most meaningful memory from a National Girls & Women in Sports Day that you have attended in D.C.?
When I was President of the Women’s Sports Foundation, I actually received the flag that flew over the White House from Senator Bill Bradley. I still have that flag. Obviously, meeting all of the Presidents, First Ladies and members of government over the years was incredible, too. Just tremendous opportunities and memories. Getting the flag from Senator Bradley though, was a surprise. I didn’t know that was coming and so that was just very a meaningful memory.
This year will be the 30th annual NGWSD. What is the significance of this day to you? One of the more significant parts of National Girls & Women in Sports Day is that it’s a collaboration of the Women’s Sports Foundation with other girls and women-serving organizations. There are other organizations out there that we lock arms with to spread the message of women and girls in sports and Title IX. It’s an impactful way of implementing change.
Having been a part of NGWSD from the beginning, what are some strides you’ve seen made for women and girls in sports that you find particularly powerful?
I think the thing that is the most rewarding is just the huge numbers. We continue to make that our message. Because of Title IX the increase of girls and women playing sports of all ages has grown and that’s impactful. The proof is in the pudding. So that’s great to see. There are all these girls out there who want to participate so how can anyone question that this is an important thing because it is.
The other piece of it is to encourage other states and other cities throughout the whole month and timeframe to pick up the ball and create NGWSD programs and luncheons and other events to celebrate and get involved. It’s a great opportunity to piggy-back off of what’s happening with our national government.
If you missed it the first time around, the book, Lyn St. James – An Incredible Journey is still a fresh read and puts you behind the wheel of a fire-breathing Indy Car. The book chronicles Lyn St, James’ career from a SCCA club racer in the early-1970s to her final year in competition at the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The introduction provides one of the best descriptions of what it is like driving an Indy Car in anger. Describing intimates details that the novice to the seasoned veteran-racing fan can appreciate. I loved her description of an Indy Car engine, “Sitting in a custom-molded race seat a few inches off the ground, the most dominant sound you hear is a constant high-pitched wait, a noise that is at once as beautiful as a concert piano and as unnerving as a sonic boom.”
Lyn describes in detail her first race car, a 1973 Ford Pinto that was converted to SCCA racing, and her humbling encounter with a Florida ‘gator hole.’ The book flashes between her rise through the ranks of the SCCA and into professional road racing, IMSA in the 1980’s’s into the 1980’s and her attempts to get the sponsorship needed to drive in the 2000 Indianapolis 500 for Dick Simon Racing.
Lyn does a great job chronicling her struggles and challenges to break through the male-dominated sport. You relive her triumphs of her wins in IMSA and record-breaking runs at Daytona and Talladega and her frightening crashes at Riverside and the Brickyard. Lyn has an uncanny ability to take you behind the scenes, walking with her when she’s meeting with her crew, testing a new race car or chatting with potential sponsors at a corporate meeting.
Chapter 11 was an eye-opening chapter for me as Lyn takes you behind the scenes at Jack Roush Racing at Daytona International Speedway for the prestigious 24 Hours of Daytona. You live her frustrations of a potentially career damaging situation and the change of heart of she had. Thus, the aptly name of the chapter, Controlling Your Moment …or It will Control You.
Her credentials are impeccable as Lyn was the first woman to win the Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Award, a two-time class winner of the 24 Hours of Daytona, and a two-time competitor in the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans race who has made over a dozen Indy Car starts and was named by Sports Illustrated for Women as one of the top 100 Women Athletes of the Century.