Back in 2015, the theme was “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives.”
At the time, The Henry Ford celebrated by imaging Lyn St. James, or any other female race car driver, weaving her way through the pack of race cars to take the lead, set the standard and win the checkered flag…
Please take a moment to read the original text:
Race car driver, commentator, author, motivational speaker. Competed in seven Indianapolis 500 races in nine years, including six consecutive years. Two-time competitor in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s oldest endurance sports car race. Nine-time participant in the 12 Hours of Sebring race. Two wins at the 24 Hours of Daytona race. Owner of over 30 national and international speed records over a 20-year period. A courageous, determined, hardworking, record-breaking, and inspirational race car driver. A woman.
Are you surprised? We’re describing Lyn St. James, one of the most influential female race car drivers in history. From her first professional race in 1973, to her last in 2000, Lyn St. James continually showed the motor sports world that not only could women compete with men on the race track, but that they would outlast them, outsmart them, and outrun them. Lyn St. James was a pioneer who embodies the saying that sometimes “it takes a woman to do a man’s job.”
Throughout her career, Lyn helped other female athletes build successful careers just like she had. She serviced as the President of the Women’s Sports Foundation for 3 years, and established her own charitable foundation, Women in the Winner’s Circle, in 1994. Her work with the foundation even led to the formation of a traveling museum exhibit about female drivers, created with The Henry Ford, in 2010.
In 2011, Lyn St. James donated a collection of personal papers and memorabilia to the museum. Looking through the materials St. James chose to archive throughout her career, her passion for the advancement of women in sports in abundantly clear: a letter written to legendary athlete Billie Jean King, newspaper clippings about female race car drivers from around the country, notes of support for the America3 Women’s America’s Cup team. All of these underline her commitment to the cause. Looking through the memorabilia in the collection, we are filled with such esteem for the work she has undertaken to help women achieve everything they can in sports, and in life.
One artifact in particular spoke to us. At first glance, perhaps this checkered flag from the St. James collection in the Benson Ford Research Center doesn’t seem like anything extremely special. However, take a second look. Notice that each white square of the flag is signed by a different race car driver, and all of them were women. The signatures of Janet Guthrie (the first woman to race in the Indianapolis 500 in 1977), Erica Enders, and Erin Crocker can all be seen on the flag. These women, and all of the others who took a permanent marker and signed their name, have found success in racing and have proven their worth on the track and off.
Women continue to make strides in the world of auto racing. Take a look at Sarah Fisher, Danica Patrick, and Courtney Force Hood, just to name a few. Sarah has driven in the Indianapolis 500 9 times now, Danica is the only woman to earn a victory in an IndyCar Series event (the Indy Japan 300 in 2008), and Courtney currently holds the record for most wins by a female driver in NHRA history. Gender equality in sports means much more than just the opportunity for women to compete alongside men. It means that women are able to live in a society that believes in and encourages their dreams, and allows women to have the skills, confidence, and community support to take the lead in their field.
Lyn St James was recently featured in the latest installment of iconic Ford Performance drivers through the years. Please visit the Ford Performance website or read an excerpt here:
Lyn St. James’ racing career began in deep water and is ending at the top of the hill.
A pioneer in auto racing with an accomplished career across a wide spectrum, St. James will be inducted into the Sports Car Club of America Hall of Fame in a ceremony Jan. 21 in Las Vegas.
Such an occasion would have been the very last thing on St. James’ mind in 1974 when she made her rather ignominious — and quite soggy — auto racing debut.
The race was an SCCA Showroom Stock event at Palm Beach International Raceway in West Palm Beach, Fla. An SCCA driving school graduate, St. James had purchased a new Ford Pinto – cost $2,500 – from the showroom floor. She drove it to the track for her first try at competition.
She was slow. Quite slow. The race leaders roared up behind St. James on the way to lapping her. Surprised, she lost control of the Pinto, and it spun off the track and into a lake between Turns 2 and 3.
The car went underwater. St. James, though somewhat embarrassed, escaped without injury, and the car was pulled from the muck to race again.
“I lost control of the car because I wasn’t watching my mirrors,” St. James said. “It went into the body of water. We thought it was a pond, but turned out it was bigger than that.
“I was terribly embarrassed. Even though I was excited to finally race, I thought maybe I’m not supposed to do this. But my husband said, ‘How badly do you want to do this? You have to learn. How hard are you willing to work?’ ”
The Pinto, cleaned up and dried out, returned to race again and again, and St. James won the Florida SCCA regional championship the next year.
She had no idea then, of course, but the adventure with the Pinto would be only the first chapter in her eventful relationship with Ford Motor Company and Ford Performance. Ultimately, the Ohio native would race on some of the world’s top courses — Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Daytona International Speedway, Le Mans and the Nurburgring — and build a reputation as one of the best female drivers in racing history.
Her official relationship with Ford began in 1981, although, as St. James will admit, her “contacts” with Ford officials began much earlier.
She had established herself as an excellent amateur road racer in SCCA events, but her goal was to compete professionally. That wasn’t possible without a path that would lead to sponsorship and support.
The door began to open — ever so slightly — in 1978 when St. James read a magazine article about Ford’s push to provide equal employment opportunities for women. The article quoted Ford officials, and St. James started a letter-writing campaign to introduce herself.
“I went to car shows and talked to everybody who would listen,” she said. “I basically bugged the Ford people for three years. I think they might have hired me more out of not having to deal with me bugging them any more.”
Ford signed St. James and immediately boosted her career.
“I will say to anybody and everybody who will listen that without that happening I don’t believe I would have had a career,” she said. “I would have continued racing, but it would have been really sketchy. God only knows how long I would have been able to sustain that.
“The Ford deal turned me from being an amateur racer trying to be professional to being a professional race car driver. I had my first photo session. I did my first real interviews. I was representing Ford Motor Company and having a great time.”
St. James would move from the IMSA Kelly American Challenge Series into IMSA GT, where she scored six wins. She also ran SCCA Trans-Am. She scored two class wins in the 24 Hours of Daytona, teaming up with greats like Bill Elliott, Tom Gloy and Scott Pruett to win in 1987 and then she teamed with Robby Gordon and Calvin Fish in a Roush Racing Mercury Cougar to win the GTO class in the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring (1990).
Her greatest IMSA win may have been in 1985, when she became the first and only woman to win an IMSA race driving solo, taking the checkered flag in the September race at Watkins Glen.
She also raced Ford-powered cars in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1989 and 1991.
In 1988, St. James participated in speed runs at the giant Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, driving a Ford Thunderbird to a then women’s closed-course speed record of 212.577 miles per hour on the 2.66-mile track.
Racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway wasn’t a goal – or even a random thought — for St. James for much of her life, but doors opened and she walked through.
“I can get big dreams, but that wasn’t even a dream at all,” she said. “That was far out there past my abilities and resources. But the more I ran – the Trans-Am Series was often a support race for Indy cars. So I was around them a lot. They’re not so ominous when you’re actually at the track. They were fast and they were cool, but, in a way, they’re just another race car.
“I got this idea in my head that I wanted to drive an Indycar. I didn’t think I’d ever race one, but I didn’t want my driving career to end without at least sitting in one.
“In 1988, (car owner) Dick Simon called me and gave me the opportunity to go to Memphis to test an Indycar. I started out way over my head, but, at the end of the day I was turning some good laps. Dick said, ‘We can do this; we just have to raise the money.’ ”
St. James finally put together a sponsorship deal with department store chain JCPenney to run the 1992 Indy 500. “It was the 151st company I had gone to looking for sponsorship,” she said.
At 45 years old, St. James surprised many in the Indycar crowd by finishing 11th in her first Indy 500 and winning the Rookie of the Race award.
“I had a blast,” she said. “I was standing on the podium at the victory banquet, and everybody’s happy, and I realized this was a new beginning. It wasn’t the end. It wasn’t like I was capping my career. In my heart, I said I want to do more of this.”
St. James raced partial IndyCar schedules through the rest of the 1990s.
Along the way, she became very active in women’s sports groups, serving as president of the Women’s Sports Foundation and starting a foundation and scholarship program of her own.
And what about that original Pinto, the Ford that started it all?
“A guy in south Florida has it,” St. James said. “It’s changed hands several times. Now he wants to restore it. It was the beginning for me, yes, and it has memories, but nothing that particularly warms my heart.”
TOPEKA, Kan. (Dec. 5, 2016) – Eight individuals who have made significant contributions to the Sports Car Club of America and the world of motorsports have been announced as the Club’s newest Hall of Fame class, adding their names to a list of timeless superstars. Pete Brock, Dennis Dean, Larry and Linda Dent, Joe Huffaker Sr., Lyn St. James, Phil Hill and Jim Kaser comprise the latest class to join the select ranks.
As in years past, this group will be formally inducted to the Hall of Fame as part of the SCCA Hall of Fame and Awards Banquet. That event takes place Saturday, January 21 and serves as the capstone of the three-day SCCA National Convention taking place again in 2017 at the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Along with the accomplishments of the 67 previous inductees, these Hall of Fame members positioned the building blocks that have elevated SCCA’s stature in the motorsports world for more than 70 years.
Pete Brock At only 19 years old, Pete Brock was the youngest designer ever hired by General Motors. In November 1957, at only 21 years old, he drew the sketch which GM VP Bill Mitchell picked to become the Stingray. A native of the San Francisco Bay area, Brock also began racing with SCCA around that time.
Brock went on to work with Carroll Shelby. During his time with Shelby, he helped create the Shelby American brand logos, merchandise, ads, car liveries and more. He also designed the Shelby components of the Shelby Mustang GT350, as well as the iconic Shelby Daytona Cobra coupes that won the 1965 FIA World GT Championship.
In 1965, Brock started Brock Racing Enterprises which later became Datsun’s West Coast factory race team competing in SCCA D Production races with Datsun 2000 roadsters. In 1970 and 1971, BRE took on C Production with 240Zs and earned national championships. He followed that up in 1971 and 1972 with 2.5 Trans Am national championships in Datsun 510s.
Dennis Dean Dennis Dean began his involvement with SCCA as a tech inspector due to his interest in all things mechanical. Because of his insight as a tech inspector and his Navy training, his documentation with respect to tear down checklists and other procedures have kept many stewards out of trouble over the years.
At the Regional level, Dean provided Washington DC Region a wonderful set of standards that are still being used today. He later joined the SCCA stewards program where his unparalleled technical excellence served him and the Club well. But beyond that, Dean exemplified all the personal attributes that have been stressed to SCCA stewards.
After many years as an outstanding SCCA volunteer, he took on a new challenge in 1996 when he joined the SCCA staff as Vice President of Club Racing and Rally/Solo. And after his stint with the national office, Dean found time to further expand his impact with ever increasing involvement in the Runoffs, providing guidance and leadership to the Hall of Fame project, and serving on the SCCA Foundation Board. In each of these areas his impact has been felt both now and into the future.
Larry and Linda Dent SCCA members Larry and Linda Dent designed the SCCA Safety Steward program, a vital initiative that has improved motorsports safety as a whole.
Since 1967, Larry has been an SCCA Chief Steward. He also served the SCCA for nine years as a member of the Board of Directors. He was a member of the Executive Committee, serving as liaison to the Competition Board. He also helped as Chairman of the Board of the SCCA Foundation, serving three years in that capacity during which time he significantly improved the Foundation’s financial standing. And while Larry is the one that held the “official” titles, make no mistake that he and Linda worked as a team over the years to advance the Club.
In 2008, Larry received the Woolf Barnardo award, the top award for service to the Sports Car Club of America.
Joe Huffaker, Sr. For more than 30 years, Joe Huffaker Sr. was one of the most successful racecar constructors. In 1954, he was contracted to build an Austin-Healey Special. The car, known as the Huffaker-Healey, was a common site in the late 1950s on race tracks in Northern California. In 1959, Huffaker joined British Motor Cars in San Francisco to open a competition department. Known as BMC Competition Department, this effort spawned a very successful string of cars including the BMC Formula Juniors and Genie Sports Racers. During this era, BMC Competition Department became one of the largest racecar manufacturers in the United States.
From 1964 to 1966, Huffaker’s attention was turned toward Indianapolis 500 competition. He helped build the famous MG Liquid Suspension Specials, for which he received an engineering award for design and development. Huffaker also helped develop safety technology in the form of the deformable fuel cell.
Not forsaking SCCA racing, BMC Competition continued to build dominate production racecars such as MGBs and Jaguar XKEs. But in 1967, Huffaker left BMC and formed Huffaker Engineering where preparation of winning cars continued. These included SCCA championship winning MG Midgets, MGBs, Triumphs and Jensen-Healeys. In the 1980s, Huffaker Engineering built Pontiac cars for the Trans Am and IMSA series.
Lyn St. James Lyn St. James started in Florida as a racer in Showroom Stock classes, and was the 1976 and 1977 Florida regional champion. A two-time class winner at Daytona, a class winner at Sebring, and a class winner at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, she has also competed at Le Mans and was a 1988 record speed holder of 212.577 at Talladega in a Ford Thunderbird. James entered 53 SCCA Trans Am races and was a top-five finisher seven times. She also entered 62 IMSA GT races, and was a top-five finisher 17 times. She is the only woman to win an IMSA GT race driving solo, when she won in 1988 at Watkins Glen.
The Indy 500 Rookie of the Year in 1992, James went on to form the Women in the Winner’s Circle organization dedicated to the advancement and promotion of women in the motorsports industry. Outside of racing, she was also the President of the Women’s Sports Foundation during the early 1990s.
Phil Hill The only American-born racer to ever win the World Drivers’ Championship, Phil Hill was one of the first dozen members of the California Sports Car Club. He began his storied career wrenching on others’ cars and went on to compete in major SCCA races. He piloted assorted Alfa Romeos, OSCA’s and various Ferrari’s for wealthy car owners, and quickly gained a reputation as the man to beat in West Coast racing.
In 1955, Hill was the SCCA Champion in D Modified, driving a Ferrari to wins in 8 of 14 races, including the inaugural event at Road America. He began racing outside the U.S. that same year which later landed him a drive with Ferrari in Formula One. But beyond Formula One, Hill exhibited a great deal of prowess as an endurance driver. He was an overall winner at Le Mans and Sebring three times, and became Sports Illustrated’s 1959 Sports Car Driver of the Year.
Jim Kaser The original head of SCCA Pro Racing, James E. “Jim” Kaser oversaw the first SCCA professional racing series, the United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC). The success of USRRC led Kaser to organize a series initially involving two Canadian races, thus giving birth in 1966 to the Canadian American Challenge Cup, more commonly known as the Can-Am series. Soon after, Kaser’s Pro Racing department introduced America’s longest running road racing series, the Trans-American Sedan Championship, later known as Trans Am.
It was Kaser’s success with these series that resulted in the most significant change ever to the Sports Car Club of America. The organization turned from being an amateur’s club to a professional, international sanctioning body and organizer.
The new class of eight inductees join the list below of 67 previously-entered SCCA Hall of Fame members: 2005: Cameron Argetsinger, A. Tracy Bird, John Fitch, Arthur Gervais, Harry Handley, Vern Jaques, Bill Milliken, Sue Roethel, Art Trier, Rob Walker 2006: John Bornholdt, John Buffum, Mark Donohue, Denise McCluggage, Grant Reynolds 2007: Marge Binks, Marc Gerstein, Carl A. Haas, General Curtis E. LeMay, Theodore F. Robertson 2008: Roger E. Johnson, Don and Ruth Nixon, Kjell Qvale, Robert Ridges, Fred Schmucker 2009: Bill Chambres, Bill Johnson, Jim Kimberly, Paul Newman, John Timanus 2010: Nick Craw, Briggs Cunningham, R. David Jones, Burdette “Berdie” Martin, Wayne Zitkus 2011: Karen Babb, John Bishop, Jim Fitzgerald, Tracer Racing, Harro Zitza 2012: Charlie Earwood, Jim Hall, Gene Henderson, Dr. Peter Talbot, Bryan Webb 2013: Skip Barber, Bill Noble, Bobby Rahal, Carroll Shelby, Andy Porterfield 2014: Kathy Barnes, Robert “Bob” Bondurant, Dan Gurney, Dr. Robert “Bob” Hubbard and Jim Downing, Pete Hylton 2015: Roger H. Johnson, Oscar Koveleski, Ron Sharp, Dr. George Snively, Bob Tullius 2016: Hubert Brundage, Bob Henderson, Roger Penske, Randy Pobst, Alec Ulman
The SCCA National Hall of Fame was created in 2004 to preserve, protect and record the history and accomplishments of the Club by acknowledging those members who have made a significant impact on the development of SCCA, be it through service to the national organization, achievements in national competition, bringing national recognition to SCCA, or a combination of these factors. Nominations were submitted to, and reviewed by, the Hall of Fame Nomination and Selection Committees before the inductees were selected.
Online registration for the SCCA National Convention can be found here and includes the Hall of Fame and Awards Banquet. Additional information about the upcoming SCCA National Convention can also be found here.
The history of motorsports usually revolves around men who became heroes behind the wheel. But this year’s Arizona Concours d’Elegance features a panel discussion that looks into the exciting lives of women who have raced professionally.
Legends: Pioneer Women in Racing is one of three panel discussions that take place Saturday, January 14, 2017. The panel will include veteran race driver Janet Guthrie, the first woman to compete in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500 in the 1970s, and Miranda Seymour, an acclaimed author whose book, Bugatti Queen, explores the life of Hellé Nice, the famed French woman racing driver who competed in the 1920s and ’30s. The discussion will be moderated by another female racing star, Lyn St. James, also of Indianapolis 500 fame.
The discussion will include the following cars and drivers:
1925 Bugatti Type 35 (from the collection of Jan Voboril) driven by Elizabeth Junek – One of the most renowned female racing drivers of the period. She would often accompany her racer / husband Cenek Junek on his motoring exploits in their Bugatti Type 35. Her most famous race was the 1928 Targa Florio, which she led until the final lap before succumbing to mechanical troubles.
1927 Bugatti Type 37A (from the collection of Andrew Larson) driven by Anne-Cecile Rose Itier – From the late 1920s to the early 1950s, Anne-Cécile Itier was the most active female racing amateur in France. She participated in everything from Grand Prix racing to hill climbs and rallies. She entered Le Mans five times – a female record – and ran the Monte Carlo Rally seven times. Her peers were Hellé Nice and Elizabeth Junek.
1927 Bugatti Type 35 (from the collection of William “Chip” Connor II) driven by Helle Nice – A talented and beautiful race car driver, Nice was a true pioneer of the sport in her day. She owned and raced this Type 35 in the early 1930s, competing at prestigious international circuits like Le Mans, Reims and Monza. Nice would develop a close association with the Bugatti marque, leading to her nickname, “The Bugatti Queen.”
1955 Maserati 250F (from the collection of Bill Pope) driven by Maria Teresa de Filippis – The first women to have raced in Formula One. After her retirement, and as a sign of tremendous respects, she was awarded the title of Honorary Chair of both the Maserati Club and the Formula One Grand Prix Drivers Club.
1967 Ferrari NART Spyder & 1960 OSCA Formula Junior (from the Collection of Lawrence Auriana) driven by Denise McCluggage – Automotive journalist and race car driver, she is the first automotive journalist inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame.
The following schedule will be utilized:
Saturday, January 14, 2017
– The Grand Ballroom at the Arizona Biltmore – 10:00 am – Phoenix Automotive Press Association’s Auction Week Preview
Noon – Legends: Pioneer Women in Racing
2:00 pm – Driven: What Drives Successful Race Team Owners (also moderated by Lyn St. James)
For more information, visit www.ArizonaConcours.com. Tickets to attend all panels are priced at $60 and available through www.ArizonaConcours.com/ticket The Arizona Concours d’Elegance is a not-for-profit corporation registered with the State of Arizona, with federal 501(c)(3) status.
Motor racing reporter Marshall Pruett interviews today’s stars and yesterday’s heroes in his new podcast series: The Marshall Pruett Podcast.
In his latest installment, Marshall interviews Lyn St. James. In his own words, Marshall describes the podcast:
She raced and won in IMSA, scored a popular GTO class victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona, competed at the Indy 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans, called Bruce Jenner a teammate, overcame significant prejudice while developing her career, crawled through burning wreckage after flying hundreds of feet in a terrifying GTP crash, and broke new ground for women in boardrooms and sponsorship opportunities.
St. James, who followed in the wheel tracks of Indy pioneer Janet Guthrie, was the prototype for Danica Patrick, Sarah Fisher, Simona de Silvestro, and every other woman who has found success and prosperity in motor racing since her rise to stardom.
A badass in every sense, Lyn St. James shares her incredible life and story as a racecar driver with the Marshall Pruett Podcast.
The North Carolina Motorsports Association will host its Annual NCMA Membership Luncheon presented by IDG Racing on Tuesday, November 15, 2016 at The Speedway Club Ballroom (Charlotte Motor Speedway).
This year’s luncheon will feature an outstanding “Women in Motorsports” panel discussion featuring some of the most prominent women in world of motorsports. Among them: NASCAR’s Jill Gregory, JR Motorsports’ co-owner Kelley Earnhardt Miller, GM Performance’s Alba Colon and racing legend Lyn St. James. The panel will be moderated by Erin Evernham.
The luncheon is scheduled from 11 AM – 1:30 PM. Members of the NCMA receive one complimentary ticket, additional tickets can be purchased for $30. Non-members can purchase tickets for $50.
The all-female panel – scheduled for 8AM – 9AM on Friday, December 9 (Indiana Convention Center, Room 242) – will cover a host of topics related to opportunities for women in racing. The panel includes former IndyCar driver and 1992 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Lyn St. James; professional driver, fabricator and TV personality Jessi Combs; Roush Yates Engines Quality Manager Jennifer LaFever; and Jeanette DesJardins, owner and founder of Car Chix and Crank It Media.
In addition to sharing their own personal stories and experiences in motorsports, panelists will address subjects like career paths, business relationships, sponsor attraction, and more—all geared toward advancing female participation in the trade. The program will be interactive as well, with audience members encouraged to ask questions and solicit advice from these highly accomplished professionals.
PRI’s “Women in Motorsports” seminar, which is hosted by PRI Magazine Editor Dan Schechner, is offered free of charge to registered Trade Show attendees and exhibitors.
For additional information and details, please visit PRI’s website.
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.”