Sara Senske Sebring Preview

LADY LYNX STARTS HER SEASON IN THE SUN Most auto racing stories are about men... but not this one. Sara Senske, 20, of Kennewick, Washington, won her first race at age 8 and is now one of the...

LADY LYNX STARTS HER SEASON IN THE SUN

Most auto racing stories are about men... but not this one.

Sara Senske, 20, of Kennewick, Washington, won her first race at age 8 and is now one of the fastest-rising stars in auto racing where she drives for Lynx Racing, a championship-winning team owned by two women, Peggy Haas and Jackie Doty.

Lynx Racing's mission is to seek out young drivers with the potential to make it to the top of the sport, and provide them with the resources, funding and training to realize that potential. Past graduates of the Lynx Racing program include Patrick Carpentier and Alex Barron, both of whom now drive in the CART FedEx Championship. Senske, 21, has traveled from her rainy home to begin her season in the sun this weekend in the Star Mazda Series support race at one of auto racing's most legendary events, the Superflow 12 Hours of Sebring. A field of more than 40 cars is expected to take the green flag for the start of the 45-minute Star Mazda event at 1:00 p.m. Friday, March 19. The Star Mazda Series utilizes single-seat, open-wheel 'formula' cars that are similar, though smaller and less powerful, to those that run in the CART or the IRL. Their place in the big picture of racing might best be described in baseball terms -- if CART and the IRL are the major leagues, driving in the Star Mazda Series is the high school varsity team. The next step up is college varsity, the U.S. F2000 series, followed by the triple-A KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship. Lynx Racing has affiliated teams at each level, and Senske is being groomed to rise through the ranks, with the ultimate goal of becoming the first female driver to win an Indy-car race and championship. "My father was a driver, and he encouraged my dream starting when I was very young," says Senske. "I started in karting, as virtually every big-name driver today did, and won my first race at age eight. Ever since then, my focus in life has been to become a successful professional driver and to use that success to help other women get into the sport. And driving for Lynx Racing is a major step toward that goal. Lynx has a reputation among racers and teams for signing the top drivers and teaching them to be champions, and in my heart, I've always felt like a champion." Early in her racing career, Senske won three karting Grandnational events, won the International Karting Federation Region 6 Gold Cup Championship in 1988 and again in 1989, and was the regional champion three years in a row, 1990-1993 in the Junior II 4-cycle class. After making the switch from karts to cars at the Skip Barber Racing School in 1996, she scored five podium finishes and one victory in the Skip Barber Western Race Series, and was voted 'most improved driver.' Senske signed with Lynx Racing and took a step up to drive in the final six events of the 1997 Star Formula Mazda Championship, and a full 12-race season in 1998, finishing 8th overall in the championship. "We chose Sara not because she's female, but because we saw in her that special something that we've come to recognize as championship potential," says Lynx Racing co-owner Peggy Haas. "We've always wanted a woman driver on the team, but we weren't willing to sign someone for that reason alone. Lynx drivers have to be capable of taking the opportunity and knowledge we give them and rising to the top levels of the sport, and Sara has that quality." When not behind the wheel of her racing car, Senske is a student who pursues her interests in communications and sports marketing at Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington. Her hobbies include ice skating, rollerblading, skiing, biking, writing poetry and listening to contemporary Christian, jazz and classical music. She counts the Bible as the greatest influence on her life, and Indy 500 driver Lyn St. James as her 'racing hero.' Her favorite TV show is "I Love Lucy," her favorite food is Thai and the thing about her that would surprise people is that she can juggle. If she couldn't be a racing driver, she'd like to be on the Olympic Women's Hockey Team. Senske is one of two Lynx Racing 'road scholars,' including Buddy Rice, 23, of Phoenix, Arizona, who drives in the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic series. He was the first rookie in the series' 25-year history to put his car on the pole in his first Atlantic race... and then won his second race, on the Nazareth oval, also from the pole. He finished seventh in the championship. Rice will drive a full, 12-race Atlantic schedule in 1999. The most recent Lynx graduate, Rice's 1998 teammate, Memo Gidley, won three races and finished third in the championship. He is currently in discussions with several CART, IRL and NASCAR teams about opportunities for the 1999 season. Sebring Schedule:

Thursday, March 18 8:50 a.m. - 9:20 a.m. Practice Thursday, March 18 10:50 p.m. - 1:35 p.m. Qualifying Friday, March 19 8:00 a.m. - 8:15 a.m. Warm-Up Friday, March 19 1:00 p.m. Race Start (45 min.)

Television: ESPN2 (please check local listings for air time)

First Broadcast - May 7 Repeat Broadcast - May 11

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About this article
Series Pro Mazda
Drivers Memo Gidley , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Barron , Lyn St. James , Skip Barber