Making It Happen: Lyn St. James Creating New Drivers, One Female at a Time
In the early to mid '90s, Lyn St. James was busy trying to make a name for herself in the Indy Car Series.
Becoming "Rookie of the Race" in the 1992 Indianapolis 500, St. James looked to be well on her way. In 1995, she set a world record for fastest woman in an Indy car—reaching over 225 mph during a qualifying attempt.
During her fifteen race Indy Car and CART career, she managed two top 10 starting spots and one top 10 finish.
Nowadays, St. James is looking to make a name for hundreds of other girls that share her dream: someday becoming a big name in the male dominated world of motorsports.
In 1994, the Women in the Winner's Cirlce Foundation was founded. It looks to educate and fund young, up-and-coming female drivers.
"I think the top is interested in having [females in NASCAR] happen but not necessarily making it happen," St. James told NASCAR.com in 2007. "I'm not sure there's a strategy in place, other than the Drive for Diversity program, but that's a pretty small niche for a big issue like this one. They need to have enough experience at a grass-root level first."
Partnered with the NASCAR Foundation, the Foundation has what they call a “Complete Driver Academy”, which focuses on female drivers getting mentally and physically prepared, gaining experience with the media and business, and learning about on track and technical aspects of professional motorsports.
Another major aspect of the program is "Project Podium", which donates over $50,000 a year to fund the young careers of drivers anywhere from go carts to drag racing to oval racing.
Graduates of the program include Indy Car superstar Danica Patrick and 2009 Camping World Truck Series rookie Gabi DiCarlo.
"They're not getting the best equipment or with the best programs and they need funding behind them," St. James later said in her interview.
The Foundation also holds an annual luncheon in Indianapolis to raise money for their programs.
St. James is also a member of NASCAR's Diversity Council.
"Today's racing world is more encouraging for female drivers than when we first held this event in 2003," she said. "More and more women are receiving opportunities to prove themselves on the track. And increasingly women are rising to higher levels of racing and earning their place on the podium."
If you'd like more information on the Women in the Winner's Circle Foundation, including how to donate to the program, please be sure to visit www.lynstjames.com.
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