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Friday, December 13, 2002
So many people to thank
By Sarah Fisher
Special to ABC Sports Online
Throughout the 2002 IRL season, Sarah Fisher is writing a diary for ABC Sports Online. Sarah made her season debut last Sunday in the Firestone Indy 225, where she came in fourth.
What a week!
After I got the call from Team Dreyer & Reinbold to substitute for Robbie Buhl in his No. 24 Purex/Aventis car, I headed to Nazareth for a private test on Tuesday. It was my first time ever in a G-Force chassis and with the Infiniti engine, and in addition, my first time in an IRL car in seven months. It was tough at first. All the sensations a driver takes time to feel comfortable with and gets used to all came back in one big rush.
The best part about the private test was that Robbie came and we spent a lot of time going over the track and getting me familiar and back up to speed again. The Purex/Aventis team was awesome with their positive support, as we ended up being the fastest car there at the end of the day.
Plain and simple, Robbie has to be one of the best teachers around. When I described the way the car handled, you could see it in his hands and eyes that he was actually feeling what I was telling him. The language transition wasn't a big barrier at all. Just from working one weekend with them, I learned more about being a better communicator.
Also, the entire Dreyer & Reinbold team is, without exception, a group of excellent people. After only two days, I felt very welcome, even though they are a tight-knit-team. They also made my parents feel at home, which is important to me. These guys are a special group -- a group I would like to be a bigger part of.
On Wednesday, I went with Robbie to the New Jersey headquarters of his sponsor, Aventis. They make the leading non-sedating allergy medication, Allegra. That trip was fun for me, since I was behind the scenes. The best part was watching the shouts and cheers arise from all the employees when Robbie was doing burnouts and pit stops in the parking lot. Tyrone and his group from the professional side of Aventis were really into the racing bit and were really excited about their association with this team.
On Thursday, I went with Robbie to an elementary school visit in New Jersey for his charity, Racing for Kids. I thought I was good at school visits, but I learned a lot from Robbie during that one. Robbie has a great knack at communicating with kids. He got them involved in the presentation and even passed his helmet around to let them see it. It was good that I had the opportunity to join in with this visit. For me, school visits are the best part of the week leading up to the race.
Perhaps the best karma we gained all weekend came from my visit to the Statue of Liberty later that same day. Yes, I was a dorky tourist for a day, but rarely, if ever, do I get to do fun things like that when we are on the road. I am glad that I got to see it at the age I am. It's hard to appreciate such a symbol of our country at a younger age. The Statue truly gave me goosebumps when we approached it on the ferry. I think I took about 40 pictures of it, too.
On to race weekend …
The only thing I had to adjust to was traffic, and it helped that Team Purex/Dial/Aventis has the best spotter I've ever had. Once again, the whole team made my transition so easy and stress-free. The G-Force car is very different to dial in since it takes one-quarter of the usual Dallara adjustment to get the same change. But they had it under control and helped me understand everything that was going on.
On Race Day, I was more stressed then even last year's 500. Over the past seven months, I have put so much pressure on myself to prove that I am the race car driver my dad brought me up to be, that it all boiled down to one day to prove it. Dad came over and just talked to me about how good I was and that I only needed to enjoy where I was and my natural ability would come out. Thank God he was there because I don't know how I would have stayed sane. Owner Dennis Reinbold and Robbie helped too.
Plus, there was the additional pressure of as many people shooting photos and video in front of the car as there are at Indy. It was an unbelievable press response. My focus on the race was at 110 percent, though, because I only pictured the race and can't even remember the singing of the national anthem.
There were so many thoughts that went through my mind after I finished fourth in the race. I know I can drive race cars, but the proof in the pudding shows on the track. So, for me to finish so well at a difficult track like Nazareth, with all the new aspects around me, was very rewarding. I needed to prove to myself that I am who I am and nobody can take that away from me.
We are working really hard to put together a good program for Indy. Obviously, there isn't anything solid yet, but the Nazareth race on Sunday should help that out. My first choice would definitely be to drive with Dreyer & Reinbold racing. Hopefully, I can even make it my future home.
My heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who helped make this past weekend possible, from my dad and mom, who have never stopped believing in me, to Dennis Reinbold, Robbie Buhl, the entire Purex/Aventis team and crew, the IRL, the media and, most of all, to the fans, who never stopped believing I am the real deal. Thank you, and I hope to see you in May!
|Sarah Fisher is tied for 24th in the standings after her fourth place in Sunday's race.||
Sarah Fisher details her racing future with ESPN's Marlo Klain.
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