A Tale Of Two Falls For Sarah Fisher

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To borrow a line from some guy named Dickens; “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” may be the best way to describe this fall season for Sarah Fisher. The emotional roller coaster she has been riding for the past seven weeks would be enough to test the mettle of some of the toughest characters you could ever come across – much less the young woman we’ve watched evolve from a teenager.

On September 13, Sarah and her husband Andy O’Gara experienced the highest of highs when their daughter, Zoey Marie O’Gara, was born. Although it has been over twenty-two years since I experienced becoming a father for the second time, it is still one of the most unforgettable things that can happen to a young couple. Of course, the word “unforgettable” can also apply to the teen years that come later, but we’ll let Sarah and Andy find that out for themselves.

While still riding that high, Sarah was brought crashing down to earth just a couple of weeks later when she learned that Dollar General, her sponsor since 2008, would be leaving at the end of the season. Although Dollar General is based in Nashville, IndyCar racing allegiance trumps hometown loyalty in my book. I tend to support all of the sponsors that support the IZOD IndyCar Series. Therefore, I’ve spent my last dime at Dollar General – at least for a while.

Faced with the unenviable task of going sponsor hunting in the offseason, Sarah’s outlook on life improved dramatically on October 2, when Ed Carpenter delivered Sarah Fisher Racing their first IZOD IndyCar win at Kentucky. There is no way to understate how big of a win this was. This was huge. This was a small team even among the smaller teams that beat the Penske’s and Ganassi’s at their own game. It was a popular win among fans and throughout the entire paddock. It was good to see Sarah crying tears of joy after watching her shed tears for other reasons in previous years.

But her celebration was somewhat tempered as she announced Dollar General’s decision in victory lane. Although others may have known it, that was the first I had heard of it. Still, it was good to see two of the most popular figures in the series – Ed Carpenter and Sarah Fisher – get the first win for both; Ed as a driver and Sarah as an owner.

Two weeks later, Sarah Fisher witnessed the tragedy at Las Vegas that erased any good feelings that she or anyone else had coming out of Kentucky.

As things began to sort of get back to normal after Las Vegas, Sarah was faced with another blow. Last week, her driver Ed Carpenter announced he was leaving Sarah Fisher Racing in order to form his own team; Ed Carpenter Racing with sponsorship from Fuzzy’s Vodka. You can’t blame Ed. This is an opportunity to set himself up for not only the remainder of his driving career, but also his career as an owner. Still, it leaves Sarah with quite a quandary.

In a seven-week period, Sarah Fisher has experienced two of the highest high points of her life and three very low points. I don’t say these were the lowest of all lows – I think the lowest point of her professional life may have come in the month of May in 2008. First, there was the fiasco when ResQ, the sponsor of her fledgling team, didn’t materialize. She was left scrambling to find any sponsorship she could in a couple of weeks. She made the grid on a shoestring budget, but she was collected when Tony Kanaan crashed into her after Marco Andretti pushed him up high, while taking the lead. Sarah was inconsolable in the TV interview afterwards, because her struggling team couldn’t even afford spare parts.

Now Sarah is faced with another tall task. She is heading into an offseason where new cars must be purchased by all teams. She currently has no driver and no sponsor, but must lay out a huge sum of cash if she wants to run in 2012.

One of the biggest mysteries for the past decade has been Sarah’s difficulties in attracting sponsors. Even in her first stint with Dreyer & Reinbold, after she left Derrick Walker, she was constantly on the hunt for sponsorship and was constantly getting doors slammed in her face. Why she cannot get a major company to commit to her is beyond me. She has proven she will out-work and out-schmooze just about any owner in the paddock. She is personable and very, very popular with fans. She has built her team slowly, doing everything the right way. Now, she has proven that her team can win on the track against the best, yet she still cannot find adequate funding.

Now that Sarah is no longer driving and strictly a car-owner, it looks as if she must go the route of most team owners and hire a driver who brings funding. Last night, Curt Cavin suggested Sarah may take a strong look at Ana Beatriz. Obviously, this would not be due to her forgettable results from 2011. Instead, it would be the large backing Bia has from Brazilian oil conglomerate Ipiranga, that would catch Sarah’s eye.

Unfortunately, I think the chances of Sarah Fisher Racing not being able to field a car are greater next year than they have ever been. That being said, I still think they will have a presence on the grid at some races next year – whatever ovals are run and select road/street courses. I guess if someone comes with a big enough check, they will be able to run all the races next season, but I don’t see that happening.

It’s a shame to see Sarah Fisher faced with yet another financial battle. But she’s been there before and weathered the storm. I think she’ll manage to do it again. I just hope things level off a bit for her so she doesn’t deal with such highs and lows as she did this fall. It was definitely a tale of two falls.

George Phillips

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15 Responses to “A Tale Of Two Falls For Sarah Fisher”

  1. Oilpressure hates Sarah Fisher.

  2. Another option would be Sarah could come up with a good sponsor and hire a good driver.

  3. Best of times and the worst of times is why Sarah is such a fan favorite. She will get back up and start over and at some point the edge that SFR has had to balance on will become a more stable place for her. She deserves so much more than Danica or EJViso, Vitor Miera and many other buy ride drivers. Hang in there Sarah you are the star that shines bright!

    • Oilpressure Says:

      I agree with what you said, but must take exception with one point…Vitor Meira has never been a ride buyer. Every ride he has had in the series has always been completely funded. But you’re right. Sarah deserves much more than the others yoou mentioned. But that’s the nature of the business in this era, so you can’t blame her for taking their money if sitting on the sidelines is the only other option. – GP

  4. I am not so sure that DG was that big of a surprise. Those 2012 budgets are made a lot earlier than August and when you consider their NASCAR budget it would seem to me that SFR got what was left. There is nothing at all wrong with that because it was enough to put her in the winner’s circle at Kentucky. One more point about DG that I want to make. In my opinion, INDYCAR isn’t their market, but it was great to have them as a part of the series. I think that Srah made a compelling pitch and DG used those dollars for a rifle approach. Of course, that is my opinion and I base it on the many years that I sold SEC Sports, MLB and NFL broadcast packages.

    • I agree John. I always thought that Sarah was a good fit for DG, but DG in general was not a good fit for Indycar. IndyCar skews higher income than DG’s target market. With Sarah in the car, you can work around that with Sarah’s personality and roots, but w/o her in the car it becomes difficult.

      I keep waiting for something other than in store autograph appearnces to come out of the Izod/Macy’s connection, but to date…nada.

      • I’d guess about 99% of the people are in Dollar General’s target market now.

        Oops. Politics. I’m going to put myself in time-out now…

        • No need for time out!

          In theory, DG would love to have anyone walk through the door and spend money, but if you look at the location of a majority of their stores, Small rural towns or blue collar urban, the demos of people living there skews to a lower relative income.

          The IndyCar fan base is a more suburban/urban group which is why Target works so well, most their stores are suburbanly placed. Other reatil that is generally suburban? Macy’s and if you followed the brief twitter outburst this morning from Pippa – JCP.

          • Chris Lukens Says:

            Why don’t you guys come right out and say it. DG’s marketing campaign targets a demographic that you would prefer didn’t attend Indycar events. No elitism here.

          • Chris, what a crock of sh*t. I could care less who DG targets nor do I have a preference one way or another. However, DG does and that is why they aren’t any longer here. If you don’t like the point then dispute the point, but refrain from talking out of your @ss on a topic that is, obviously, over your head.

          • Chris Lukens Says:

            I thought the point was that BG wasn’t a fit for Indycar. What I picked up was that BG is gone and now they can take their redneck fans from Podunkville with them. If that’s the reception BG got when they went to the races, it’s no wonder they left.

            Do you think 7-11 was a good sponsor? Did 7-11’s customer base fit Indycars new demographics?

          • The point is that Indycar’s core audience is not in DG’s target audience. As for DG bringing their customers over to INDYCAR because they have a sponsership, well, it doesn’t work like that. If so, then IICS should pay DG a fee. :)
            As for 7/11, seeing that they have stores in every part of a town where they do business as well as the suburbs AND carry essentials like milk and beer, what would make anyone think they couldn’t have a successful marketing campaign that included IICS?

  5. My sneaking suspicion is that Beatriz is headed to Panther in a second car.

    My Feeling on SFR? That there may be some sort of partnership between her Shop/crew and the RLLR Indy based team. It would take the engine drama out of the eqn for SFR as RLLR already has Honda power. Service Central has been involved with both SFR and RLLR the past two years and I could see some agreement that involves all three. That ride could back Pippa Mann or Jay Howard. A second ride would be easier between the two cooperating teams, merit based for Baguette or financed for someone like Sato (note again the Honda connection).

  6. Sarah’s always managed to pick herself back up after falls. The question now is not whether she’ll do so again; she’s got the strength to do just that as often as she needs to. The question is, will a point come to where she won’t see picking herself back up as being worth doing so.

    Racing hasn’t been as kind to her as it has been to others; she’s had to work her patootie off just to get a car going, whereas others get pursued and surrounded by support. But her love for the sport has been what’s kept her coming back. Which is why I make the point I just did: Will the sport of Indycar lose her due to indifference? She’s loved and respected, but the money’s not going where the mouths are, and that’s screwing her over pretty thoroughly.

  7. You could do a lot worse than Bia. If she brings cash, I say hire her. I’ve seen her drive the wheels off some cars. She is not much for ovals yet, but if they can get the road course package right, I say it is a win-win. I saw her beat multiple international racing stars in a karting race in Brazil. She’s got talent, but she’s needs a little time to develop it at this level.

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