As you can tell from the frenzy of media excitement last week, Sarah Fisher’s return to the Indy Racing League generated a buzz unlike any other this year. To the unwitting observer, there would seem to be little reason for all the fuss. She’s never won a race, she was hardly competitive when she left the IRL, and she doesn’t have any racy magazine spreads to flaunt.
Well here’s the deal: Fisher is likeable – it’s that simple. She’s not a flashy rock star, not a conceited jerk, and not a soulless robot. She comes across as a person, and one who is not only approachable but also enjoys racing. She drives Sprint Cars, Stock Cars, Go-Karts, IndyCars, and I bet she’d race Shopping Carts if there was a league for that. The reason she was annually voted the league’s most popular driver is because she reminds fans more of who they are than who they aren’t, and “down to earth” Midwesterners is largely who they are.
So since her return – hopefully for more than just two races – Fisher has been besieged with attention from fans and media alike. Judging from the hundreds of signatures on her helmet this past weekend her popularity remains intact, so all that remains on her agenda now is to secure sponsorship and a ride for next year.
Oh, and she also has to prepare for that season finale in Chicago. But while she readies her Dreyer and Reinbold #5 for improvement upon last week’s 12th place finish, Sarah was able to take a few moments for us. And so, it is with great pride that we welcome Sarah Fisher to the My Name Is IRL arena of Five Quick Questions.
Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.
1. Was your move away from the IRL because you didn't have a ride for the upcoming season or did you feel you wanted to drive NASCAR more than IndyCars?
The story is that Richard Childress invited me down to drive a stock car and see what it was like. I love Indy Cars as well and before the 04 Indy 500, Richard and I already had plans laid out. Obviously if Tom Kelley wouldn't have closed up my team after the 500 and ran the remainder of the season, I would have stayed and moved stock car plans to the winter time. Either way, it would happen. I love driving everything I get in. All cars present different challenges and the more techniques you learn, the better of a driver you become. Those cars presented a challenge that I wanted to learn and appreciate.
2. When you first came into the league, you and Sam Hornish Jr were promoted widely as the future of the league. Did you feel any additional pressure, or did you welcome all the attention?
The attention was great for our sponsors and for Dennis Reinbold. I wish I could have done an even better job promoting, etc. Raybestos and Tag Heuer did a lot to help promote my brand through commercials, billboards etc. and I greatly appreciated it. If there is a return, I would like to see even more of it from the corporate side. It would grow the league and myself as a driver.
3. What current or former drivers are you do you still count among your friends?
Its hard to say. I will always be friends with Al Unser, Johnny (Rutherford), and Al (Unser) Jr., Vitor Meira too. But, at the end of the day, we are all competitors and friendships run a lot stronger in bowling leagues! :)
4. Your fiancée is the son of a current owner. Would there be a conflict of interest if you were driving for a competing team?
Correction - he is the son of the Team Manager at D&R. There would be no conflicts because we would make it right ahead of time.
(Oops! If I may quote Rick in “Casablanca” in explaining that he moved there for waters, “I was misinformed”.)
5. Lyn St. James and Ford have noted you were a once a participant in their Woman Driver Development program. Was this program helpful to you and if so how was it most helpful?
Lyn is a great person who means nothing more then to help everyone. I was a participant in ‘95, but I was only 15 and running Sprint Cars. It was good to have an indication as to what expectations would lie ahead from marketing and PR angles. Other then that, I forget really.
One other reason for Fisher’s popularity: she says quote-worthy things like “friendships run a lot stronger in bowling leagues”.
Now, if I were looking for gossip I would note her mention of Vitor Meira, he of the Panther Racing team. With Penske, Ganassi and AGR probably done accepting applications for the 2007 season, the Panther team may be the best bet for any “free agent” driver next year. But gossip isn’t my thing so I won’t read anything into that. Besides, everyone loves Vitor.
Thanks again to the EXTREMELY busy Sarah Fisher and the equally busy D&R Team Publicist Klint Briney. Best of luck to the team with Ryan Briscoe making the right-turns next week and with Sarah’s trip to Chicago next month. You might want to bring along a clean helmet though, because I’m sure there are plenty more fans in Illinois ready and willing to give you their autographs.
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