A Tale Of Two Falls For Sarah Fisher
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.