Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
Lyn St. James
February 27, 2008
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with our final press briefing on this exciting news days and media day here for the IndyCar Series. Sarah Fisher is here with us to announce her 2008 plans. Sarah has been part of the league since 1999. She has 67 IndyCar Series starts. Became the first female to start on the pole position and is the fastest female qualifier for the Indy 500.
Sarah, why don't we get started with you. Tell us what you're going to tell us.
SARAH FISHER: Thank you. Well, it's a proud day for all of us today. Not only did the merger happen and get announced, but we can announce our team today, as well.
Along with John O'Gara, I've started Sarah Fisher Racing. Going into the off-season this year I kind of looked at all my options and evaluated sort of where I wanted to go and what my plans were big picture-wise. The best option for me was to start my own team because I think in the long run, that's a better plan for us and for myself going forward.
It didn't start just one day in January that we decided we were going to start Sarah Fisher Racing. It's been in the plans and it's been in the works since around August. I didn't just wake up one morning and do it. I consulted a lot of the partners that I have in the league. I have consulted a lot of the partners in marketing that I've worked with and said, Do you think this is going to be a good idea? Am I crazy for doing this or is this something that everybody thinks would be a good plan?
I had absolutely no negativity going forward. I was very excited to continue on those plans.
Right now our plan is to run Indy. Indy is our first race. We're trying to build outwards from that. We have things in place. We're in final negotiations contract-wise with our primary sponsor. I would love to announce that today, but that's going to be here in a couple days instead.
Things are looking really good. We're trying to build out from there. We would love to run Texas, Chicago and Kentucky. Kentucky is a very favorite place of mine. I'm sure we'll be there. But we're filling out. We would love to have some more opportunities, and we're working on those constructively.
As a first-year start-up team, we know it's small. We want to build the right way. Our 2009 program actually looks a lot better than our 2008 program. That's real exciting to us and hopefully we can be in a lot more races come that time.
Today I'm really honored to have a couple really special guests of mine. Lyn St. James and Janet Guthrie, they've both been supporters of mine in the IndyCar Series. They both said they wanted to say some stuff.
Lyn, do you want to go first?
LYN ST. JAMES: Well, I just wanted to congratulate Sarah. I told her just a few minutes ago when I saw her, Don't stress out, don't try to do it all. I actually tried to form my own team in this league and found out the thing I wasn't maybe meant to do in racing. So you all know there is something I'm not meant to do in racing.
I really want to highlight. We all know the ingredients it takes to be successful in this sport, which of course is talent, experience, it takes the equipment. Everybody talks about the sponsors. But I think the one thing, and Sarah has had some of those opportunities to get all those together, but the other key ingredient we don't talk much about in the media, I don't think we talk that much externally in the sport, is team chemistry. That's what really makes a team I think successful. It's very hard to identify. It's a tangible that's an intangible. I'm hoping that this is something that will exist.
I sense that it is. Family can be a very good part of chemistry. It cannot always be good, but in most cases it is. I sense that that will be an added element that should make this a very strong effort.
If it takes a while, that's okay. Remember that. The key is to keep it all together and pull all the elements together as much as you can.
There's a lot of other talent out there. I've always said the car doesn't know the difference. Doesn't say a chick's driving, and it's not going to give me all my horsepower. We have a lot of other talent coming up. I will be always available to have a positive statement here or there, or sometimes a negative when I've pointed out a few things that I've seen, that will help make this team strong.
The league obviously has committed to the support of it. It has demonstrated the fact this is a gender-neutral sport. I congratulate her and wish her well.
SARAH FISHER: Thank you, Lyn.
THE MODERATOR: Janet.
JANET GUTHRIE: It's hard to believe that 30 years have past since I was in Sarah's shoes doing what she is doing, grappling with the mind-boggling complexities and details of forming and managing my own team for the Indianapolis 500.
Well, times have changed. Technology has changed. The rules of the game have changed. Back then we didn't have onboard telemetry, spec chassis or spec engines, and differences between the cars were much greater back then than they are now. Now one turn of a spring purge can make you uncompetitive. But back then, races would often end with only one or two cars on the lead lap, and the rest of the field strung out a good many laps behind.
But drivers haven't changed. It still takes a ferocious desire plus concentration, judgment, emotional detachment, not getting angry or excited behind the wheel of a car, and concentration again and again. Sarah Fisher is a driver, as she has demonstrated beyond any doubt. She's the one who in the 21st century broke the records that I set before she was born, qualifying on the pole at Kentucky, finishing second here at Homestead.
As an owner/driver, she has her work cut out for her. It's probably five times as tough to be an owner/driver as it is to drive for somebody else. But it's also an unparalleled opportunity. I was so excited and delighted when I heard about it.
It would be unrealistic to expect that a brand-new, one-car team could win the Indianapolis 500 or, in fact, even finish in the top 10. But as I found in 1978, sometimes unrealistic expectations can be met. I think that Sarah Fisher has what it takes to do that. Good luck.
SARAH FISHER: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Janet, Lyn. Also here with us is John O'Gara, who will be serving as team manager of Sarah Fisher Racing. John has about 27 years of racing experience.
JOHN O'GARA: It's actually closer to 30. Through the years I've had the pleasure to work with A.J. Foyt, Dan Gurney, Team Menard with Tony Stewart. But this by far is the most exciting. Chance to work with Sarah, my oldest son, and hopefully Janet, we can take some of the pressure off of Sarah and put her back as a driver, let us manage the team, be a little bit easier on her.
We do have a fully functional shop at Indianapolis. We took delivery of our first chassis last week. It's going through updates right now. We've had a meeting with Honda. Everything's going forward. It's just an exciting time, especially with the merger. I think it's going to be a great Indy 500 and we're looking forward to it.
THE MODERATOR: Before I open it up to questions, the same question I've asked everyone all day, Sarah, comment on the unification announcement.
SARAH FISHER: Oh, the unification is awesome. I am thrilled that our team, the formation of our team, serves in the first year of it.
It's something that as a driver everybody has wanted to see. You know, we don't say when you win the championship of the IndyCar Series that it's the IndyCar Series, it's of open-wheel racing now. Now we're competing against everyone, everyone including the best drivers in the world for open-wheel racing. It will bring it to an unparalleled level for fans, for sponsors, for partners. The partners that we already have are excited and thrilled about it because the notoriety of being one series is going to be huge. They're going to gain a lot of attention. Like Helio said, the new fans he brought into the sport, they're going to tune into the first year of a very exciting season.
As a team owner, I'm very excited about what he's done in the off-season. As a driver, I hope to do as much - hopefully more - going forward and growing new fans as well.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Sarah, we're obviously going to need a couple extra cars going to Japan to win two series in two different places. Any chance you might debut there?
SARAH FISHER: There could possibly be, yes. We're open for anything. As a start-up team, a small, one-car operation, we're updating our cars right now. So that would be a possibility for us. We're planning if that were to happen. We would love to. We love Honda. We love the partnership they've had with us from past teams and myself as a driver, would love to support going over there.
Q. Where are you getting your cars? I assume they're used cars. Do you have a one-car effort at Indy? Do you have a technical or engineering alliance with any bigger teams?
JOHN O'GARA: We do have one car going through updates right now. It's getting the anti-intrusion panels fit. It is a used car. We have a line on other cars. We can't say right now whether it will be one car at Indy. Right now it's one car. But we could be up and running to go to Japan. That's a possibility.
Q. Specifically where is the shop and how many employees do you have?
JOHN O'GARA: We are on Rockville Road. We're about three doors south of Marty Roth Racing. The shop, like I said, is fully functional. We took deliver of the mill, the lathe, all of our welders are in, all of our cabinetry, all of our shop basis set up. We do have fit equipment. We'll be ready.
Q. Car number yet?
JOHN O'GARA: I'll let Sarah talk about that.
SARAH FISHER: Our car number was really exciting to choose. As an owner, I got to choose it. I love No. 9, because that was the number I ran in Sprint cars, but there was no way. I went with No. 67, because that's the number I ran in USAC midgets. We won an awful lot of races then. Hopefully that number will carry on some good tradition from the past.
Q. Speak a little bit about how important Lyn and Janet are to this effort.
SARAH FISHER: Well, they're huge supporters. To have people, the women that have been involved in the past, be supportive of women going forward is very important. There's been few that have been there. When we can all stick together and support each other, help each other, that's pretty key. You know, I'm very honored that they could be here in support of our program, that they bring up some really good points. I'm appreciative that they can be here.
Q. Given what you've accomplished in Indy racing, somewhat disappointing it never worked out to get with one of the main teams?
SARAH FISHER: No, it's not disappointing because I have the opportunity to do my own. We had our own teams in Sprint cars, midgets, traveled across the country, and we were successful at that. I think it's a very unique opportunity. All the people that we've talked to are thrilled and excited about it. It gives me an opportunity to work with my family again. I've had a lot of people that are concerned about that.
Well, Johnny O and Andy and I have worked together since 2002. So it works for us. Going forward, having my own team, I have the opportunity to do that again. That was a really cool, really honored thing I could do. In fact, my dad is at home right now sizing up a lot of engine carts, gearbox carts that we'll see. He's setting that up right now. It's really neat to have the opportunity to work with my family.
By doing my own thing, I know it works, so that's what I'm going to do.
Q. John, how much is a complete season going to cost in this new era?
JOHN O'GARA: What would it take to run the full season?
JOHN O'GARA: I think a one-car team such as us could do it for around $5 million. I mean, that's being realistic. We do have three employees we left back home that are working every day along with Sarah's dad. He's a major player in this. The guy is a world-class fabricator. Some of the stuff he's built in the last few days is awesome.
Q. Is he official or unofficial?
SARAH FISHER: What do you mean by that?
Q. Does he work for you?
SARAH FISHER: My dad and I have worked together for, what, 16 years, 17 years. Yeah, he's official.
JOHN O'GARA: We actually had a couple of employees that said, What can he do? It's now like, What can't he do? He came in and built a few stands last week. They said, He's an artist.
THE MODERATOR: Sarah, thank you very much.
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