Fourth Turn – Sarah Fisher

The employees and families of Milwaukee’s Direct Supply gathered for a company picnic last week to meet “their” Indy Car driver, Sarah Fisher. Fisher, who has started eight Indianapolis 500’s, is in her second season as a driver/owner on the Indy Racing League tour. Her racing team is sponsored by the firm and she was in town to thank her supporters there because, as an employee-owned company, they are really also her sponsors.

“Direct Supply is very proud to be involved with Indy Car racing as a part of our long history with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” said Bob Hillis, company Chairman and CEO. “We are proud to sponsor and welcome Sarah Fisher, who our whole company has rallied around as the first woman to own a race team, ( and drive the car), in Speedway history.”

Thanking sponsors is important to Fisher, who recently made a similar trip to Kentucky to “meet and greet” with her other major backer, Dollar General. “Bob (Hillis) is part of our family and I’m sure we’ll be working together even beyond having partnerships through the racing team. (That relationship with Direct Supply) started with Tony George at the Speedway. He came along in 2008 and we needed help when we lost our sponsor. We had this car and we had all these people and we wanted to race.”

The company has helped support Fisher’s team since that season, and she hopes that the team will be able to weather the hurdles that lie ahead. “First and foremost we’ve got to grow to the full series. And once we figure that out we’ll then look at doing a second car at Indianapolis,” said Fisher whose team has run a limited IRL slate since its inception. “We’ve looked at growing our business one step at a time. We’re not going to just jump in and do a whole lot and lose ourselves. So it has to be the right decisions that we make because we’re a small business and we can’t feed it from somewhere else: it has to grow on its own.”

While she spent more than an hour signing autographs and posing for pictures with the company’s employees, she also commented on various things going on in her team and in Indy Car racing.

*As to her new car that she recently received as a surprise from some patrons: “It’s incredible. It gives us a little bit better preparation in terms of how we approach the weekend and each race event. We’re running one of the oldest chassis in the series, but we’re making do with that. It’s a good car so I’m not disappointed in it . But it’ll be nice to have a 2009 chassis. I didn’t know that was coming. The Hartman’s of Hartman Oil (a family who gifted Sarah with the new chassis) were second in line behind Bob Hillis in supporting us. They came on board the second week of the Indy 500 in 2008, and they’ve been a part of our family ever since.”

* On owning her own team : “I think that having the decision making ability to react quick to whatever situation we have is important, especially the way the industry is moving. And to be able to pick and hand select those people that we work with is vital to our success as a small team, As a small team we have to do more than what’s expected in order to survive. We have a group of core people who take a personal interest and really enjoy being there and want to succeed.”

*On the IRL: “I do believe in Indy Car racing or, obviously, I wouldn’t have invested my whole life in a racing team that races within that series. “

*On planned 2012 IRL engine/chassis changes: “It’ll definitely be a big capital outlay that we’re going to have to invest in. So as a small business I hope we’re at the point where we can do that.

So this Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway, Fisher will strap into her old racer for the last time, as that chassis will move to backup status for her final 2009 event later in the year in Miami. The new Dallara will be dressed in pink livery in Miami, supporting the Susan G. Komen For the Cure breast cancer research project.

And while she’s in Chicago, and later Miami, there’ll be more meeting and mixing with her fans. She’s very good at that, and good at driving a racecar; something that continues to keep her sponsors and supporters happy.

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