Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Kathryn Nunn, Lyn St. James & Sam Hornish, Jr. September 28, 2004 MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. We'd like to thank you for joining us on today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We'll start with...
Indy Racing League
Kathryn Nunn, Lyn St. James & Sam Hornish, Jr.
September 28, 2004
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. We'd like to thank you for joining us on today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We'll start with some exciting news from the Nunn Motorsports camp. We are joined to start the call today with Kathryn Nunn, the only female team owner in the Indy Racing League, and Lyn St. James, a seven-time starter in the Indianapolis 500. We'll be joined later by IndyCar Series driver Sam Hornish, Jr.
But first, Kathryn Nunn and Lyn St. James made an exciting announcement yesterday in regards to their plans for the 2005 Menards Infiniti Pro Series season. Nunn is the owner of the current two-car team in the Pro Series, with brothers P.J. Chesson and James Chesson behind the wheel. However, next year the Chesson brothers could be joined by a female driver as Nunn and St. James have teamed in an effort to identify several female drivers to participate in a Pro Series test. The test will be at Texas Motor Speedway Nov. 8-10.
Ladies, thank you very much for joining us today. Kathryn, let's start with you. You've already had an amazing year in 2004 with success, really almost right off the bat in your Pro Series program, but this new adventure must be an exciting one for you as you prepare for the 2005 season.
KATHRYN NUNN: Yes, it is very exciting. Lyn and I met maybe a month and a half ago and somehow came up with the idea for the test. Lyn came up with about 10 drivers right off the bat, and since then, we've had lots of queries and we're up to about 14 now, aren't we Lyn?
LYN ST. JAMES: Yes.
Q: Is this something that you and Lyn put together, and then went after the female drivers? Or because you are a female owner in the IRL, did some of the top-notch female drivers come to you and say, 'Put me in the car, and give me a chance?'
KATHRYN NUNN: No, they really haven't. I have had queries from young women drivers over the last few months. But it wasn't until Lyn and I met and talked about some of the drivers that she's been developing in her Driver Development Program that we came up with the idea to have an Open Test, realizing how many young women are out there struggling to get their careers kick-started. And, you know, I've always thought I'd like to run a woman in a Pro Series car, so hopefully, I'll be able to do that in 2005.
Q: Lyn, since your retirement from Indy-style racing, you've been on the forefront of developing young female drivers from around the country. When Nunn Motorsports announced that Kathryn would be heading up a new Pro Series team in the IRL, you must have been pondering this idea from the start when you heard that news.
LYN ST. JAMES: Well, actually I've been doing my driver development program for 10 years. My driver development program really started as a result of the fan mail that I got over the years, and particularly, after my rookie year at Indy. It was not just autograph requests, it was real. (Young women) wanting advice about how they could pursue a career in racing or go-kart racers or how they could do what I have done. And I realized I could not just send them an autograph and thank them for writing me, and I couldn't travel all over the place to find out how well they really raced.
So that was really the planting of the seed of me doing my Driver Development Program. And so the last 10 years, I've tested or had in my program over 160 drivers from 34 states and two countries. Eighty percent of those have been females. And the first couple of years, the average age was probably 30 or 35, and now I'm evaluating resumes for my program this year, and I've got an eight-year-old and 12-year-old and a 13-year-old, and 14 and 15.
So the whole -- the whole society and the whole population of racing has changed dramatically, particularly at a grass-roots level. I'm convinced it's because moms and dads are saying it's OK for my little girl to do what my little boy has always been able to do. So far, half the competitors are girls, and over half of the junior drag racers, probably 25 percent are go-kart racers, and close to 50 percent of quarter midget racers are girls.
So we have this sort of happening, which is a real positive I think. But at the same time the top end of the pyramid it's maybe not quite as dramatic.
And so, I'm really pleased that Kathryn is doing this. It's an initiative that has a lot of focus, and maybe it's media hype, but it's not just hype. It's got some tangible goals and objectives of what she wants to accomplish, and these drivers are preparing the best they can, but you know, they need opportunities to show their talent, and this is just an opportunity to do that. So, it's just a very positive, tangible, real thing that I think drivers, particularly women drivers, now have an opportunity to do that.
Q: Logistically, have you thought about how the test will work? Will it be a competition?
LYN ST. JAMES: No, it won't be a competition. But this is a real test. We'll have the entire crew there, and Brian Welling and Jerry Gordon, the engineers for the Chesson brothers, will be there evaluating the drivers. They will each get close to half a day in the cars, and, you know, we're very excited. In addition to that, Butch Meyer, the technical director for the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, will be down there observing. So this will also serve as a rookie test for these young women. So should another opportunity come up during the season, they are ready to get that car.
Q: I was recently involved in a project which will be on Discovery Channel in November, and it regarded one of the women racers over in the Grand American Sports Car Series, which IRL has at times raced with on weekends. And I of course had to recount the difficulty that women have had in getting into seats, despite their being talented as Ms. St. James has demonstrated with her drivers over the years, particularly in sports cars, as well. Why is it that women have found such obstacles placed in their path?
KATHRYN NUNN: Go ahead, Lyn.
LYN ST. JAMES: First of all, if we probably knew the answer to that, then we probably would have more women racing. It's not a simple question to answer. I mean, even myself who raced for 30 years, still is a bit mystified with that. I guess I could take a guess at it and say part of it is it's just a cultural change. And when you have predominately males in an arena, in a competition in a whole organization, sometimes people just aren't -- they are not ready for change. They just kind of look at it and go, wait a minute; it's not supposed to be happening. Not that it's wrong, but it's just different and change. That's a part of it.
The other part of it is we still know that funding is what really drives our sport, and women have had a hard time generating the funding. I've approached it these last 10 years is women don't know enough about what they need to know to be successful. And there are a lot of men that are not racing today because they don't know what it takes to be successful. It isn't just getting the job done in the race car; that's the first and most important thing is you have to get the job done in the race car, but there's a lot more to it. I've never seen a book written about it. I see an article from time to time where Derek Daly or some of the other drivers have shared this, but there's no real school that you can go to find out what it takes to find all of the skills, which it takes to be a race car driver, which is what we focus on in my driver development program.
It takes a whole package of knowledge and expertise, physical fitness, mental preparation, business, you have to have a business acumen, you have to understand how the business as a sport runs and not many drivers, men or women and particularly of minorities or underrepresented populations, they probably don't have a handle on that, as well. So, it's a very competitive, but not just competitive in the cockpit, but also competitive every place you operate in the sport. And it's a business.
Q: Kathryn, Ms. St. James raises a good point about funding. It's not inexpensive, the IPS of course is a developmental series, but they still have some pretty hi-tech cars out there. I know you guys at Mo Nunn Racing have been throwing your resources in that direction, and they have certainly proved beneficial. Where will the funding come for the female that you hope to place into a car?
KATHRYN NUNN: Well, actually, I've already had a lot of interest in this from some existing sponsors and from new sponsors out there. So they are waiting to see what happens. I am very positive about this. I think we'll have some good news by the end of the year.
LYN ST. JAMES: I just want to add to that is it's not just a woman driver we are talking about, but a woman owner and the whole leadership. This is a different opportunity than I think we've ever had before. So it's a woman team owner with a woman driver. So it's a program that really has a strength and depth about it that I don't think has ever existed.
Q: As we know, this has been tried many times before with other series, and obviously having Kathryn on board helps a lot because it's two women trying to get this done. But what makes you think that you can succeed where others have failed before in getting the development program to the point where we do have viable women drivers, not just eye candy?
KATHRYN NUNN: Well, maybe the time is right now. There are some very, very good young women drivers out there running in other series, sprint cars and World of Outlaws. Maybe the opportunities have not been there for them. I really believe in the Pro Series, or I wouldn't be in it right now. And I think to have a young woman in the car, who is already good, who already has a lot of talent, and to help develop her to drive in this series, and then hopefully move her up into the IndyCar Series, I just think it's very exciting, and I don't see any reason why we can't do it.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much, ladies. We appreciate it very much and we look forward to Nov. 8-10 at Texas Motor Speedway. Kathryn, Lyn, thank you for joining us today.