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Friday, December 13, 2002
A whirldwind week
By Sarah Fisher
Special to ABC Sports Online
Throughout the 2002 IRL season, Sarah Fisher is writing a diary for ABC Sports Online. Sarah will make her season debut this Sunday in the Firestone Indy 225 (ABC, 1 p.m. ET).
This past week was one of the most memorable of my life on several accounts.
First, my former team owner Derrick Walker and I decided to part ways. The two seasons I spent driving for Derrick will always be very special to me, but I decided to ask to be released from my contact last Monday so I would have an opportunity to race in the IRL, which we hadn't been able to do yet this season due to a lack of sponsorship.
Then, on Thursday, I got a call from Team Purex to substitute for Robbie Buhl in the No. 24 Purex/Aventis car at the Nazareth IRL race, AND I also was able to drive in the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race at Long Beach on Saturday as well.
Wow, where to begin …
Let's start with the Toyota Pro/Celebrity race. The entire experience with Toyota was wonderful. Every single person on the staff went above and beyond the call of duty to make the weekend a successful and enjoyable one. Everyone treated the pros and celebrity drivers like kings and queens.
Going into the weekend, I just thought of it as another race. But the reality was quite different and one I will never forget. This event was one of the few that I begged my PR person to take pictures of. Some of the people I most enjoyed were Darra Torres, who has charisma shining every moment of the day and became the first woman to ever win the race in its 26-year history, and Patrick Stewart who never gave up on winning.
One thing that was very interesting to me was the way that the celebs would come and ask for driving tips. It was neat that they were so competitive. The one guy who quizzed me the most was Chris Masterson from Malcolm in the Middle. He was always looking for an advantage and he finished the race in second place. Another one who asked a lot of questions was Jacob Young (Lucky from General Hospital), who wanted to know anything to help him beat all of us.
As far as race strategy goes, the pros wanted to race their own race, but I found that racing with all the others was just as fun. It was a race where I could just let myself go and enjoy being in a race car again.
It has been a long time since I have been on a road course racing, 1994 was the last time. Plus, I haven't been in a race car since October of last year. Road racing is truly fun and challenging, and I ended up fifth overall at the end of the race, which was great, considering the pros had to start the race 30 seconds behind the celebrity field and the race only lasted 10 laps. But I will never give up my love for ovals.
While I was at Long Beach getting ready for the Pro/Celebrity race, I got a call from Dennis (owner Reinbold). WOW! I had been talking to them a little before and was completely surprised and honored to get the call for the Nazareth race. I feel that this is the start of a new opportunity. I've spent two days together with the Team Purex guys and I feel very comfortable already with this tight-knit team. They worked all day Sunday until 9 p.m. that night on the backup car alone. It's wonderful to be with such a positive team that I think would make a perfect home in the future.
I'll be testing on Tuesday at Nazareth Speedway in preparation for Sunday's race and my goals for race day are to finish. It will be a tough weekend with a new type of car and new people. So my main objective before I even see the track is to bring the No. 24 Team Purex/Aventis Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/Firestone car home in one piece for Robbie going into Indy.
I'll be substituting for Robbie this weekend as he continues to recover from an accident during qualifying at California Speedway on March 23rd. While I wish this ride wouldn't have happened under these circumstances, I am very honored and excited to be asked to drive Robbie's car. Robbie will even be at the test on Tuesday to help me adjust to the new car, track and his team. That will be a great advantage with all of his successful winning experience at this track. We have a lot in common as far as feedback and I am excited to see what we have in store for everyone.
I practically grew up racing sprint cars here in Pennsylvania, so its awesome that the first opportunity I have to get back in the car this season is in a state where my roots were planted.
Wish me luck -- and make sure to buy lots of Purex Laundry Detergent and Allegra allergy medication.
|Dara Torres celebrates her victory in the Toyota Pro/Celebrity race.||
Sarah Fisher details her racing future with ESPN's Marlo Klain.
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