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Driving ambition

At 19, Sarah Fisher is 'the real deal' in racing circles

Sarah Fisher has her sights set on the checkered flag at the Indianapolis 500. She is the youngest woman to race in the Indy Racing League  

September 21, 2000
Web posted at: 12:31 PM EDT (1631 GMT)

In this story:

A lifetime of racing

Parents are her 'crew'


ATLANTA (CNNSB) -- Sarah Fisher is no ordinary teenager. At 19, she has already accomplished what many adults have only dreamed about.

A member of the Walker Racing team, Fisher is the youngest woman ever to race in the Indy Racing League. And she has set ambitious goals, including winning the Indianapolis 500 and eventually the IRL championship.

A Commercial Point, Ohio, native, Fisher reached the IRL after 15 years of racing, having begun with quarter-midget cars at age 4. She became the youngest person ever to pass the IRL rookie test in 1999 and now competes against experienced racers such as Kenny Brack, Eddie Cheever Jr. and Buddy Lazier.

CNN Student Bureau's Jamie Curott reports on the young racer

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At the Midas 500 Classic on July 15 in Atlanta, Fisher started fifth -- the highest starting position by a woman in Indy racing history. However, her engine died with only 14 laps remaining, sending her car spinning into the wall. Fisher walked away with minor bruises, a jarred ankle and the determination to do better next time.

Fisher said she knows she has plenty to learn. Her positive attitude on and off the track, coupled with her desire to become a better racer, make competitors such as IRL driver Scott Sharp believe she is "the real deal."

"She stands on the gas just as any guy does, whereas maybe that hasn't been the case so much in the past," Sharp said. "I think Sarah's in that car because she has the mobility to go out and win races."

Fisher said she knows that she has two things working against her: She is young and female. But she isn't letting either get in the way of her racing. "If I have the talent, the ability, the dedication and the desire to race, by all means put me in the race car," she said. "But if I can't do any of those four, throw me out because I don't belong."

A lifetime of racing

Fisher began driving competitively in 1985 at age 4, racing quarter-midget cars for three years. At 8, she moved on to go-karts, which she raced successfully for six years. Fisher said that she developed her real love for racing on a competitive dirt track in southern Ohio.

For three years in the early '90s, she won the World Karting Association Grand National Championship. Fisher also was the 1993 Circleville Points Champion and the 1994 WKA Grand National Champion.

Winning her first WKA national title in 1991 was her most memorable racing experience, Fisher said. "We were big underdogs at that race, and we won," she said. "I remember passing almost the entire field on the outside of turn one. That was a really great racing and family experience for me."

Fisher continued to race midget cars in high school, winning five of the 23 races she entered in the North American Midget Auto Racing Series. While her peers might have spent their free time shopping at the mall or going to dances, Fisher spent much of her childhood at the racetrack. Having a boyfriend who also races helps, since he understands the exhausting schedule, she said.

Parents are her 'crew'

But it's her family that Fisher most treasures being with, she said. Her parents, Dave and Reba Fisher, have been her "crew" and have attended all her races.

"My parents have always been there for me from the very start as well as other immediate family members," she said.

Fisher said her parents stressed the importance of education. The racer graduated with honors and ranked seventh in her class at Teays High School in Commercial Point. She was inducted into the National Honors Society and belonged to several other student organizations.

Though she has just started her career in the IRL, Fisher said she intends to split her time between the racetrack and the pursuit of a mechanical engineering major. This fall, she will enroll at Butler University in Indianapolis.

Off the track, Fisher isn't much different than any other teen. A big fan of the TV show "Friends," she listens to country and rock music. The 5-foot-3-inch racer also enjoys doing cardiovascular and weight training, watching hockey and spending time with her dog, Alby.

Although she spends much of her time reaching speeds of 215 mph on the racetrack, off the track she drives the speed limit in her Mitsubishi Eclipse. But Fisher admits to spinning tires out of habit.

Fisher said she hopes for a long road ahead in racing. She plans to take what she has learned this season and apply it to each race. Ultimately, her sights are on the checkered flag at the Indianapolis 500. Winning that race, Fisher says, is her No. 1 goal. "The luck has to be rolling our way, and hopefully we can do that sooner than later."

University of Colorado junior Marie Kennedy contributed to this article.

Popularity soars for Fisher in rookie season
Thursday July 20, 2000
St. James, Fisher wreck each other on lap 74 of Indy 500
Monday May 29, 2000
Fisher, 19, eyes Indy 500 title
Saturday May 27, 2000

Indy Racing League
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