Sarah Fisher, a Commercial Point, Ohio native, was just 19 years old when she became the youngest woman to qualify for the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” – the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. Her driving ability, combined with a steely focus, quickly paid dividends. Fisher became the first woman to win a pole position for a major open-wheel race when she qualified fastest for the 2002 Belterra Casino Indy 300 at the Kentucky Speedway. Her lap of 221.390 mph remains the fastest lap on record at that track.
After compiling the most Indianapolis 500 starts of any woman in history, Fisher struck out on her own as a team owner in the IndyCar Series when she formed Sarah Fisher Racing in 2008. The team scored its first victory in October 2011 with driver Ed Carpenter, and Fisher became the first female team owner to win a race in the series.
Following the 2011 season, Fisher and businessman Wink Hartman partnered to create the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team. Earlier this year, her team merged with Ed Carpenter Racing--creating a multi-car program that is known as CFH Racing.
We caught up with Fisher recently to talk about her experience as a woman in racing and how technology has changed the racing experience—for drivers, team owners and the fans of the Verizon IndyCar Series.
How has technology changed for the drivers and for the teams since you first entered the sport?
The changes have been considerable. Today, the sport is a more complex “puzzle” because we have so many innovative options. These options lead us to demand more from our manufacturers, leading to higher performance. In addition, our pit crew has more resources, tools and information at their fingertips, which has helped in advancing safety.
How has technology employed by IndyCar improved the racing experience for the drivers?
The biggest improvement has been around safety through innovations in technology in the cars and at the tracks. The availability of this technology enables us to “push the limits” and take the Verizon IndyCar Series to the next level.
How about the impact of advances in technology on the fans?
Fans get a better package when it comes to their IndyCar experience. Through technology like the in-car cameras, fans are encouraged to get involved and to feel more a part of the Series--whether watching it live at the racetrack or at home on their connected devices.
What has been the biggest difference between being a driver in the sport and an owner?
As a driver your focus is on the race and the Series from an athlete’s perspective. That includes working closely with your crew, reviewing performance data and training to ensure you’re in top physical condition.
What has been your experience as the first and only female team owner in the Verizon IndyCar Series?
Not much different than being the third female driver in the Series. The support from everyone within the industry, including other team owners, has been phenomenal! We all are highly competitive. Yet we are, in a sense, a family and help each other out.
When we created our team in 2008, it was a real family affair. Ultimately, it boiled down to earning respect by demonstrating results, managing what we knew we could handle, and doing it well.
Do you think the Verizon IndyCar Series has created opportunities for female drivers?
The Series has definitely led the way in creating opportunities for women through open-minded thinking. Big change doesn’t occur overnight. This is a movement. Not all sports organizations have embraced the concept yet. But, IndyCar is definitely there.
How has your team gotten stronger since combining with Ed Carpenter’s team?
Definitely and I attribute that to collaboration and the increase in quantity and capacity. Having more brains working together is awesome. We’re still very much the “David and Goliath” story, but with our combined teams, we’re more than ready to take on the competition.
What’s your favorite piece of technology as a team owner?
I love being able to stay connected to the action via the INDYCAR 15 app and indycar.com-- anytime, anywhere. Being able to see real time information directly from my phone, like precisely which laps my drivers are on, is invaluable. As an owner, you are running a business and must be more attuned to the whole picture.
What is your favorite technology solution outside of racing?
As a mother of two, whose oldest is three years old, I know just how important it is for kids to learn about technology and to feel comfortable using it. Probably my favorite aspect of technology is the cloud where I can store content for my daughter to view whenever and wherever without worrying about exceeding my storage limit on my device.
Verizon became the title sponsor of the IndyCar Series last year. What impact does their sponsorship have on the sport?
Verizon has provided the Series with the platform to engage a new, mainstream audience. Both Verizon and IndyCar are technology-driven and continue to look for ways to bring innovation to the Series. These aligned goals make for a great partnership.
What is your favorite memory of the IndyCar Series?
Probably when we almost qualified in our first attempt in 2008. My husband, parents and I had put everything we had into our new team and car. It was an amazing experience.
You have juggled so much in your career as a driver then business owner, and as a wife and mother. What’s been your most challenging experience?
Being a mother! Motherhood is a heck of a lot harder than racing!