An Interview with Sarah Fisher
Sarah, you've got a very unique role as a driver and a team owner. Let's kind of focus first on the driver side of things. Tell us a little bit about how excited you are to get back in the car this weekend at Kansas.
SARAH FISHER: I'm very excited. You know, it's like you stare at a car all winter long and come in here every day and just make things happen, and there's so much more to running a business than I ever knew existed. So looking forward to this weekend, and knowing that I'll be in that race car. That's probably my most relaxing time as an athlete. I just really enjoy that.
I really enjoy working with Tom Brown, our engineer, and of course my husband, Andy (O'Gara), who runs our team. It's just the most rewarding time, and I can't wait.
Q. Without really the chance to do any really off‑season testing, how have you as a team and really as a driver been getting ready for the race?
SARAH FISHER: That's kind of tough. We haven't done any rolling tire testing, if you want to call it that, but we have been doing a lot of R & D in other areas. The part that suffers really is just that on‑track relationship between myself and my engineer and that on‑track experience that's just so valuable.
But in other areas, areas that we can afford I guess you'd call it, we try to make the best of what we have, and we try to do a good job making sure that those areas that we can make better are the best we can provide.
Q. You've raced at Kansas four times previously but not last year, 2007 being the most recent year there. What are some of the keys to doing well there?
SARAH FISHER: I think you've got to have a car that goes everywhere. I studied quite a bit the 2008 race, and (Scott) Dixon just could go anywhere he wanted. That car could go. Granted, he was able to do that all year long, but just having a good basic strategy and trying to be up front all day but making sure that that car can go anywhere on that racetrack.
Q. Kansas is the first oval on the schedule this year and the only oval before the Indianapolis 500. Even though the tracks aren't at all similar, why is it so important really to run at Kansas as a way maybe to lay the groundwork for the month of May?
SARAH FISHER: Well, I think last year during the month of May, even though we didn't have the funding up front that we needed to really put on track a thorough car, everything that we did was as prepped as we possibly could with what we have. But when you're able to run a race before the Indy 500, you're able to get all the pit stop qualms and the on‑track, day‑of mental challenges that you deal with, you're able to sort that out ahead of time and sort of get into a rhythm before you reach that big race.
So this is going to give all of our guys, myself, my engineer, a chance to sort of figure things out, get in a roll, be in that rhythm leading into the month of May.
Q. And I would take it, too, this month there's a couple less practice days that first week even leading into qualifying. I would guess it's even more important to kind of get the car shook down and everything gelling together heading into that first weekend of qualifying.
SARAH FISHER: Absolutely. I think practice has changed quite a bit overall in the series this year. Looking at the Kansas schedule, there's only, I think, an hour and a half for us. We have an additional half hour or so, being that we're not in the top 10, which is to our advantage, and then you qualify. And then there's a warm‑up, which never used to be in place; well, maybe like five years ago. So the practice format has changed all around, including Indy, and there's much more limited track time.
You have to roll off the track prepared, and you have to be as ready as you can be. Staying at the shop until 10:30, 11:00 o'clock last night getting some setup stuff done, and just making sure we're as prepared as we possibly can be to take advantage of that full amount of time.
Q. Going to the ownership side of things a little bit, you're a year plus into the ownership side. What are some of the biggest things that you've learned over the past year?
SARAH FISHER: Time management. I think a lot of people think I just sit around all day and do nothing, but my schedule is completely full. And it's just a balance of what is the most important thing that you have to get done that day and then taking that hour, hour and a half to work out and keep yourself in shape because that will mentally prepare you for all the rest of the stuff. Whether it's business stuff that you have to handle or a personal appearance that a driver would normally do, I do all those things. Yesterday it was helping get the bus ready and making sure that everybody in the shop has something to eat that day. We're short‑staffed, so everybody has to be all hands on deck right now, and that includes me.
Q. Last year was very emotional for you and your team at Indy, a lot of ups and downs throughout the month. What are your expectations for the month of May this year?
SARAH FISHER: We're as prepared as we ever have been today. As we said, and as I look down from the balcony at my car, it looks one piece, if you know what I mean. It's just a very nicely prepared car. Everything on it is ‑‑ we know 100 percent about and are just completely prepared for. We've done our homework in the offseason, I believe, as much as we can, and looking forward to Indy. I think we're going to have a good result, and I would be pretty upset if we were outside of the top 10. I fully expect us to do that well even as a small team that doesn't compete full‑time.
Q. For several years obviously you've had a struggle to recruit the sponsors and get a full‑time ride, and obviously this year not quite a full‑time ride but a number of races. What keeps you going through all that? What keeps you pressing on to continue to build your team?
SARAH FISHER: Well, right now I'm really excited. I can't really talk for the past because I didn't have a whole lot of control over a lot of the things that happened in the past. But right now what we're doing, we just got off of an extremely wonderful PR advance last week in L.A., and Dollar General is just really excited about some of the things that we're doing off track for them. On track for them, they see us getting in the game. They see all the things that we're doing and what we're going to look like at Kansas. Nobody else has seen it yet, and it's just very rewarding.
So to have been able to have impressed them enough to be able to double the amount of races we did last year in a secure manner, that's very encouraging. We see the growth of the program. We've seen in‑house how it's blossomed, how it's just really opened up and started to develop into the capabilities of a full‑time race team. We're selling every day, and we've got wonderful feedback. Every day to get fan mail or whatever it is, just that encouragement, keeps me going. And to know that Dollar General is behind us 110 percent, we know we're doing the right things and we've just got to continue to improve.
Q. And speaking of growth there that you mentioned, the Indy 500 entry list went out Monday, and very noticeably there's a second car entered for Sarah Fisher Racing. Is there anything at this point that you can tell us about that?
SARAH FISHER: Well, there were some things brewing, but for us we don't ever want to put anything on track that isn't capable of doing as well as the primary car. I've been in team B situations, and frankly, it stinks. So I would never want to expect a teammate of mine here at my race team to have to go through that. So we're kind of approaching a cutoff deadline here as far as those things go. We're past the full month of May program, but maybe a second week program. It's just all open for different opportunities, but it certainly has to be the right one.
Q. And final question for us today, last year at the Indianapolis Zoo you got the chance to give an elephant a bath. Is that the strangest thing connected to your racing career that you've had the opportunity to do, or has there been anything stranger than that?
SARAH FISHER: Oh, man, no, that was fun. I actually rode the elephant back to his little facility there. That was pretty scary because they're big animals.
I don't know, that was pretty much top of my list. I have several pictures of that.
MODERATOR: Thanks, Sarah, for joining us today. We appreciate that, and we're looking forward to seeing you at Kansas and at Indy.
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