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.
Indianapolis, INDIANA (December 10, 2015) – The Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF), the leader in promoting sports, health and education for girls and women, made a pit stop at the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Trade show to recognize two up and coming racers.
Courtney Crone and Makala Marks were recognized under the WSF Women in the Winners Circle Project Podium Grant designed to help young racers overcome the business challenges unique to motorsports. The original project, created in 2007, was the work of Lyn St. James. St. James, a former Indy 500 competitor has done more to help promote young women in racing than anyone else. In 2013 St. James teamed up with the Women’s Sports Foundation to extend the program reach, and to remind America that a racecar does not know or care if the driver is a man or a woman. In motorsports, the fastest racer wins, regardless of gender.
Women racers were encouraged to apply for matching funds to advance their career though a formal application and review process. Motorsports professionals reviewed the applications, did their own homework to research the applicants, and discussed their observations Crone and Marks were selected.
Courtney Crone, age 14, from Corona, California started racing at four-years old and 2015 is her 11th season of racing. In 2016 Crone will race in the Perris Auto Speedway Young Gun series, expand her sprint car racing to several other tracks including some USAC West Coast 360 events, start racing USAC midgets including the Turkey Night Grand Prix and testing a Formula Mazda to start her road racing career.
Makala Marks, age 13, from Indianapolis, Indiana, was born into a racing family on qualifying day of the Indy 500 in 2002. Marks was always ready to compete against the boys in whatever activity they were doing and began racing karts at age eight. In 2012, she won nine races and over 20 podiums in her Junior Sportsman rookie year. For 2016 Marks is looking to challenge for the Yamaha Junior CAN championship at the New Castle Motorsports Park.
Crone and Marks will each receive $2,500 in support for their 2016 season racing. Each will also have access to the WSF Motorsports Mentors to assist them during the year when outside expertise is needed.
“It’s amazing to think that this all began with an idea and a donation from Paul Newman’s Foundation. The applicants this year were quite diverse and the judges spent considerable time in getting the list down to our final two. Our next objective is to increase our corporate support to help the best and the brightest and to bring more talented women into the sport in 2017 and beyond”, noted Lyn St James.
About Women’s Sports Foundation
The Women’s Sports Foundation, founded in 1974, is the leader in promoting sports, health and education for girls and women. With Billie Jean King as its founder and ongoing visionary, the Women’s Sports Foundation continues to have a profound impact on female athletics, from its vigorous advocacy of Title IX legislation to providing grants and scholarships, grassroots programs for underserved girls, and groundbreaking research. An agent for change, the foundation has relationships with more than 1,000 of the world’s elite female athletes and is recognized globally for its leadership, vision, strength, expertise and influence. For more information, visit: www.WomensSportsFoundation.org. Follow the Foundation at: www.Facebook.com/WomensSportsFoundation or on Twitter(@WomensSportsFdn).
This magnificent exhibit will feature the past, present and future women of motorsports and highlight their impressive careers. Included in the first line-up of racers are legends Lyn St. James, Cindi Lux, Betty Burkland, Michelle Miller and Courtney Force.
To kick off the exhibit, Cindi Lux will join World of Speed from 10 AM -3 PM to celebrate the exhibit’s unveiling and will lead a Q&A following her gallery talk.
In anticipation of the opening, Lyn recently did a Q&A session with World of Speed – check it out here.
Be sure to keep up with World of Speed on Facebook over the next few weeks, as they will be profiling each of these amazing women and inching ever closer to the incredible opening day!
If you’re in the area, bring your family and friends to witness this historical moment at the World of Speed Museum on Saturday, November 21, 2015.
Says CarsYeah host Mark Green: “I will take you on their journey, get under the hood, and provide some inspiration. You can find over 300 shows on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, YouTube, or on the Cars Yeah website Podcast pages.”
A particular highlight, Lyn joined the Parnelli Jones family at Jay Leno’s world-famous garage. Jay has shown his commitment to the future of automotive restoration through his endowed scholarship programs as McPherson College and the Pennsylvania College of Technology – both of whom also receive support from HEP.
Please take a moment to review the August/September newsletter; and be sure to check the website often for additional Hagerty Education Program at America’s Car Museum newsletters.