Remarkable Women in Motorsports

EYES ON THE PRIZE FIVE REMARKABLE WOMEN STEER YOUNG RACING DRIVERS ON THE FAST LANE TO SUCCESS Auto racing stories are usually about men, but the intertwined tale of Lynx Racing, the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship and DSTP ...



Auto racing stories are usually about men, but the intertwined tale of Lynx Racing, the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship and DSTP Motorsports involves five remarkable women who make a career of steering young racing drivers on the fast lane to success.

The women involved -- Peggy Haas, Jackie Doty, Vicki O’Connor, Dede Rushton and Pam Griffith, all operate at the team owner/team manager level, and so have a unique influence on the lives and careers of the drivers who fall under their watchful gaze.

Created six years ago by Peggy Haas and Jackie Doty, Lynx Racing is one of the top teams in auto racing, the reigning champions in the intensely competitive KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship -- a historic and prestigious racing series that has produced many famous drivers... and is owned and run by a woman, Vicki O’Connor.

One of the reasons we chose to compete in the Atlantic series is that its run by a woman who’s viewpoint, goals and methods are in concert with our own," says Haas. "Lynx Racing’s mission is to seek out young drivers with the potential to be champions. We provide them with funding, the best equipment, grooming in the social and corporate skills and instill in them a humanist, grounded attitude. The challenge of actively assisting a few extraordinary individuals to achieve their full potential is something all five of us find irresistible."

Atlantic is a "training" series that serves the same function as Triple-A baseball -- a place for young champions-in-the-making to hone their skills and working to be noticed by a major league team.

Patrick Carpentier, the movie-star handsome young Canadian who was Lynx racing’s driver in 1996, shattered every record by winning nine of twelve races during the season -- eight of them in a row -- and has signed with the Bettenhausen/Alumax team to run in the 1997 CART/PPG Championship.

"We’ve seen many of today’s top drivers come through the Atlantic series on their way to Indy cars and Formula One," says O’Connor. "and we knew that Patrick would turn out to be something special, both because of his skill with a car and because the women of Lynx Racing helped nurture the part of him that meditates and thinks in spiritual terms about racing. As for myself, running the KOOL/Atlantic series is very much a corporate job with major sponsors and international media exposure, but I work hard to instill a sense of family among all the teams and drivers. And every time one of them succeeds I feel a sort of maternal pride, as though a child I helped raise just graduated from college."

Lynx Racing has chosen two new drivers for the 1997 KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship; Memo Gidley, 26, and Alex Barron, 25. Both come to the team as champions, top factory drivers in the fast and furious world of karting who have also proven themselves in the equally competitive USAC FF2000 series, the first professional step up the ladder to a career in auto racing.

In addition, Buddy Rice, 20, an instructor at the Bob Bondurant Racing School, has been signed for a Lynx Racing ‘Junior team’ fielded by DSTP Motorsports. His 12-race 1997 FF2000 season will be orchestrated by team co-owner Dede Rushton and team manager Pam Griffith.

"DSTP Motorsports is our way of fulfilling the dream that my little brother, Mac Rogers, had but never lived to see," says Rushton. "He died of heart failure at 27, and when something like that happens, it makes you realize how short life is and that if there’s something you want to do, you’d better do it now. I’m not a spiritual person by nature, but I definitely feel that something special is watching over us with approval when our drivers, including Buddy and my husband, Ric, are out there on the track."

DSTP Motorsports team manager Pam Griffith, who’s husband, Jim, is the engineer for both DSTP and Lynx Racing, observes, "Women in auto racing aren’t as much of a novelty as they used to be, but most of them are involved in either public relations or sponsor events and hospitality. What’s unique in our situation is that all of us are in either ownership or top management jobs directly involved with the drivers, cars and teams. And I think the secret of our success is that we run our teams like a big family, with a blend of discipline, logic and love."

And, in answer to the inevitable question, With all these women in charge, where’s the woman driver?", Lynx Racing is working with a 19-year old college student named Sara Senske. currently running in the hotly-contested "Student series" for graduates of the Skip Barber Racing School. The team’s 5-year plan: turn her over to DSTP for two years of training, bring her up to the Atlantic team for two more years of finishing school, and then rock the auto racing status quo by producing the first race-winning/championship-potential female driver in the history of Indy-car racing.

"Working with these carefully-chosen young drivers who demonstrate such extraordinary potential is very fulfilling for us," says Doty. "Its a complex process that involves helping them to recognize and overcome a variety of physical, emotional and mental challenges. We work in concert with DSTP and the Atlantic series to create a ladder for them to climb. Along the way, we provide them with the best equipment, coaching and education, as well as a combination of psychological support, meditation techniques and common sense advice. All of which is designed to help overcome the barriers, both physical and mental, that stand between the fast young dreamers they are in the beginning and the champions they have the potential to become."

For further information, contact: Peter W. Frey (818) 909-0985

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Patrick Carpentier , Alex Barron , Bob Bondurant , Buddy Rice , Skip Barber