IndyCar owner comes out of retirement to play on dirt at the Chili Bowl Nationals.
TULSA – If Sarah Fisher was searching for a good time at the Chili Bowl Nationals, she certainly found it.
As one of the 330-plus racers that took to the clay on Monday, the former IndyCar driver, who started racing quarter-midgets at five, truly enjoyed the experience of driving a midget.
“It was a lot of fun,” Fisher said. “But I tell you what, I never ran a midget on dirt before, I’ve only run a midget on pavement. So I come from the winged-World of Outlaw cars and All-Stars – and that much flip angle, I’m not used to it. Having run IndyCar for 15 years that much flip angle hurts a lot in an IndyCar. Just trying to get used to it.
“But it’s a lot of fun and I’m learning real quick. I feel like the cockpit of the car is home, it feels like my office already. I’m so excited and I can’t wait until Thursday to get back on the track.”
On Thursday, Fisher will run the No. 67RW for RW Motorsports in the John Christner Trucking Qualifying Night event.
After watching her brother-in-law Kyle O’Gara compete in the 2014 event, Fisher was intrigued. So she tested a midget and elected to join the field this year. She’s relied on O’Gara’s help to get up to speed and other peers including her 2014 Chili Bowl victor Bryan Clauson (who has raced for Fisher in the past) and fellow teammate Dave Darland one of just five drivers to earn the USAC Triple Crown – Silver Crown, sprint car and midgets.
“My brother-in-law Kyle O’Gara has run here the last couple of years, so I talk to him a lot about it,” Fisher said. “Certainly talk to B.C. Talked to him about an hour the other day about everything. He’s going to run Indy again this year – I’m trying to help him with that. And then talking to him about the midget.
“Believe it or not, when he was driving for me, I kept teasing him because he had never been in a winged sprint car before. And I said, ‘Man, you don’t have any balls if you don’t go run one of those once’. I kept chiding him and chiding him and he finally did it. He really those cars. He started a new chapter in his open wheel career in the winged-sprint cars.
“It’s just fun. There’s so many people here from different areas, it’s just neat to be a part of. Chris Dyson, is here giving it a shot and having a good time. It’s just great to be a part of.”
But her expectations remain realistic, particularly since Fisher has been out of the seat competitively since 2010. While she’s had her hands full running a race team, Fisher understands the drivers that race full-time in a series have a distinct advantage over the rest of the field.
“This place is hard,” Fisher said. “It’s just like Indy. All the drivers that run here and run these cars on a regular basis, they are talented and knows the cars and the technique well. So to come and race them and expect to go out and beat them is just asinine.
“For me, at the end of the week, if I can finish in the top half of the entry – because this year is a record with 330 – so if I can finish in the top half, man, that would be tremendous. That would really be an achievement for me. I’m not setting high standards, I’m just going to go out and see what it’s like the first time, my first run at Chili Bowl and just have a good time.”
Before Fisher committed to running the Chili Bowl, she was already back in workout mode. With two children under five, certainly Fisher has her hands full but was easing back into a fitness routine.
“I have a seven-month-old son and we were done at two,” Fisher said with a laugh. “I just started working out to get back in shape after having kids and being pregnant for what seemed like five years. It wasn’t really intentional, but I got in shape again and there are benefits for sure.
“You resort back to all the old ways of training for some of the big car stuff and I think that indirectly pays off for that.”
At just 34, Fisher hasn’t ruled out a return to IndyCar racing. Currently, she is the youngest and only female IndyCar team owner. In August, Sarah Fisher Racing joined forces with her former driver Ed Carpenter to form CFH Racing. Carpenter competed in six of 18 races last year.
Although she hasn’t been behind the wheel of an IndyCar, Fisher is well aware of the challenges of competing at that level.
“I never say never to opportunity but it would just have to be the right situation,” Fisher said. “Honestly, those guys in the IndyCar world, they are trained athletes. They focus on that 100 percent and they do a great job because of it. There’s only a handful of them and there’s only a slim handful of real good ones. To put myself up against that without having 100 percent focus like they do, that wouldn’t be fair to them.
“So we’ll see. I’m just having fun. I love midget short track racing. I put two open wheel drivers in my cars - between Ed Carpenter and Bryan Clauson. I just love this part of the sport. So, for me to be here as a driver, it’s all about having fun and really connecting back with those fans."
Despite coming from a different discipline of racing, Fisher says the old guard has greeted her with open arms. She believes it's beneficial to have a variety of drivers from other series introduce their fans along to other forms of racing.
And while she's having a blast, now, the onus is on Fisher to go out and perfrom.
“You think indoors, you think Chili Bowl, you think dirt, you think subpar equipment, but I've showed up and the boys have put me in great equipment," Fisher said. Bryan Clauson planted this thing. The pressure is on, but I have a really great ride and I’ve got a great team. It's nice to have that."