Driving Through the Glass Ceiling: Sarah Fisher

Jen PrestonSenior Analyst IMay 19, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS, IN- MAY 06:  Democratic presidential hopeful U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) (R) looks on as race car driver Sarah Fisher shows her the steering wheel of her Indy race car as she visits the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on primary day May 6, 2008 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Sen. Barack Obama, (D-IL) and Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) hope to win the state on May 6 as the Democrats battle for their parties' presidential nomination.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

“Janet told me to be smart today."

With her own race team and legendary female racer Janet Guthrie supporting her, 28 year old Sarah Fisher will break the record of seven Indianapolis 500 starts by a woman this Sunday, when she makes her eighth.

Her story is one of persistence, dedication, and living a dream the developed on the dirt tracks of her native Ohio.

Sarah Fisher was born Oct. 4, 1980 to parents Dave, who would even crew chief for his daughter, and Reba, who made sure their daughter grew up at the dirt tracks her father raced at.

When she was five years old, Sarah began her own racing career in quarter midgets, which she did for three years.

Racing in go-carts until her teen years, Fisher was quickly becoming an accomplished champion, winning the World Karting Association (WKA) National Championship in 1991, 1993 and 1994, along with the '93 Circleville Points Championship and '94 WKA Grand National title.

"My real love for racing developed when I was about 10 years old. We would race go-karts at a very competitive dirt track in Southern Ohio. This helped 'drive' my motivation to win."

Fisher would continue her success when she moved to the World of Outlaws series, collecting a second place finish at what is now Tony Stewart's Eldora Speedway, and even holding a track record at Winchester Speedway, just 90 miles outside Indianapolis.

Fresh out of high school and a stint in ARCA, USAC and NAMARS, Fisher moved to the Indy Racing League (IRL) in 1999, becoming the youngest driver to ever compete in an IRL race when she competed at Texas Motor Speedway.

The young driver would compete in eight Indy Light Series events for Walker Racing the following year, but that certainly wasn't all. That May, Fisher became just the third female and one of the youngest drivers in history to start the famed Indianapolis 500.

Her history making 2000, though, wasn't over yet. Later that season Fisher became the youngest woman to ever stand on a podium, after finishing third at Kentucky Speedway.

Fisher's second place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2001 would be the highest finish by a woman in series history until Danica Patrick's Indy Japan 300 win seven years later.

Things, however, from 2002 to 2004 were filled with changing teams, sponsorship shortages and a lacking performance, her best finish being fourth at Nazareth Speedway.

All news wasn't bad news for Fisher, who became the first female to ever sit on a major open-wheel series pole, when she started first at Kentucky Speedway.

After just competing in one race, the Indy 500, in 2004, Fisher left open-wheel racing due to lack of sponsorship and funds, and headed for NASCAR. She signed a three-year deal to race in the NASCAR Grand National Division West Series.

Her first couple of starts plagued by mechanical and radio issues, Sarah would rebound her official rookie year in 2005, winning the series Rookie of the Year honors, along with collecting four top ten finishes. Fisher also won the Most Popular Driver vote, and finished eleventh in the third annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.

While she was finding mild success in NASCAR, another attempt at gathering funds and no full time program would send Fisher back to her open wheel home in 2006.

Since the return Fisher hasn't stopped making history. Despite constant team struggles, in 2007 she, Milka Duno and Danica Patrick became the first three women to ever all start the Indianapolis 500. Fisher made history the next year by becoming only the second female driver/owner to ever compete in the event.

Which brings us to this Sunday, when Sarah Fisher will try and better her average 26.57, and a best finish of 18th.

"It is very hard to be a female leader. While it is assumed that any man, no matter how tough, has a soft side...any female leader is assumed to be one-dimensional." -Billie Jean King


Be sure to tune in to CBS this Friday at 11/10 AM eastern time when Sarah Fisher stops by The Price is Right.

Thanks to CatchFence.com, SarahFisher.com, IndyCar.com, Thinkexist.com and RacerChicks.com for the information and quotes used in this piece.