Once Stewart and Vasser had qualified, Ganassi gave his rookies the opportunity to make the field, which they did. On race day Ganassi focused his energies on Stewart, who fought off stiffness in his right foot to finish sixth. Vasser came in fourth, Junqueira fifth and Minassian, who had gearbox problems, 29th.
Following the race, Ganassi schmoozed in his hospitality tent before packing his Lear with employees, friends and business associates for the 55-minute flight to Concord for the NASCAR race. He choppered to the track 100 laps into the race. After spending three hours in Sterling Marlin's pit, it was back to the chopper. (Marlin came in 15th for Ganassi; teammate Jason Leffler was 30th.) On the flight back to Indy, which would have him in town in time to catch the local news at the hotel, a yawning Ganassi, whose cars had won a combined $846,765 in the two races, looked back on his whirlwind day. "Any time you have six cars racing and you can roll them all onto the trucks at the end of the day," he said with a smile, "it's a good day."
IRL's Leading Lady
Fisher Is Making Her Mark
As something of a bookworm at Teays Valley High in Commercial Point, Ohio, Sarah Fisher seldom, if ever, heard anyone describe her as popular. It was funny, then, that at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last Thursday, Fisher found herself facing a screaming throng of fans—men, women, boys and girls—and a gaggle of reporters. One writer asked her, tongue in cheek, if she was the Tiger Woods of auto racing or if Tiger Woods was the Sarah Fisher of golf. "Oh, Jesus, no," she responded.
Fisher drew plenty of interest at the Brickyard last year, when she was a true novelty—a 19-year-old female rookie with no chance of winning. (She finished 31st in mat race, only the fourth of her career in winch she had to make pit stops.) "Last year [the interest in me] was completely because of my gender," says Fisher. "I don't think it had to do with racing talent at all."
At that point Fisher's best-known on-track exploit had been earning the ire of Brazilian veteran Eliseo Salazar after a wreck in Las Vegas the previous month. "This is not powder-puff racing," fumed Salazar, who also suggested that Fisher "go race with girls." She continued to race with the boys, however, and two months ago exacted a measure of revenge at the Grand Prix of Miami, passing Salazar en route to a career-best second-place finish and prompting Salazar's boss, A.J. Foyt (a man's man if there ever was one), to scream at his driver over the radio, "You just got passed by a girl!"
When Fisher returned to Indy this year, she did so with two top five finishes in her previous five IRL races, making her a serious threat to run up front. On Sunday, however, her hopes ended on Lap 9, when she drove too low on the track, spun out and crashed. Still, Fisher remains just what the IRL needs—a recognizable face. The one billboard near the Indy track featuring series points leader Sam Hornish Jr. identifies him by name, unlike the dozens scattered about town bearing Fisher's image.
With her success has come a newfound respect. "I can't think of a driver who doesn't talk to me or respect me as a driver," Fisher says. "Even Eliseo respects me now. What's better than that?"