Saturday, May 29, 2004

Fisher trying to get her IRL career back on track

The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS - Sarah Fisher arrived in the pits to take a spin in an old-style roadster, another of those incessant photo ops that must be fulfilled in the days leading up to the Indianapolis 500.

Unfortunately, the car stalled before it ever got off the line.

Sort of like Fisher's career.

Feted when she arrived in the Indy Racing League as a teenager - and still the most popular driver on the circuit - Fisher has yet to do much behind the wheel. She doesn't even have a full-time ride for the rest of the year, though she will start her fifth straight 500 in a car provided by Kelley Racing.

"It's tough," the 23-year-old Fisher said. "I don't have a job."

She has shown flashes of potential. Fisher finished second at Homestead, Fla., in 2001, the best showing ever by a woman in an Indy-car race. The following year at Kentucky Speedway, she became the first woman to capture a pole.

But Fisher has only two other top-five finishes in 47 career starts. She has failed to finish 21 races, including three wrecks at Indy.

Fisher might even lose her distinction as the only IRL woman driver in 2005. Danica Patrick, currently in Toyota Atlantic, will be promoted to Rahal Letterman Racing if sponsorship can be secured.

Patrick took a shot at Fisher's lack of success this week and implied that it has stymied opportunities for other female racers.

"She's done good things, but then there are some bad things," Patrick said. "She struggles, I think, with the racing part of it."

Fisher responded: "I'd like her to get in that ... car and see what she can do."

Fisher takes umbrage with anyone who suggests she hasn't fulfilled her potential.

"I am looking forward to that first win," she said. "That will eliminate what a lot of people are thinking."

NEXTEL CUP: Ryan Newman and the rest of the drivers get 3 1/2 hours of practice for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Concord, N.C., all during the day. Yet NASCAR'S longest race is run almost entirely after the sun goes down.

"It is pretty crazy to be practicing when we're practicing," he said. "We'd be better off not practicing."

In qualifying Thursday night, Newman went out fourth, while Jimmie Johnson was the last of 52 drivers to try. The track had cooled about 20 degrees, leading to better grip for Johnson. He set a track record of 187.052 mph.

Jeff Gordon, who went out late, gained nearly a second from his best practice lap and qualified third.

"It's amazing how much this track picks up and how much grip it has when the sun goes down," Gordon said.

BUSCH SERIES: Greg Biffle won his second NASCAR Busch Series pole of the season, outrunning Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne in qualifying for the Carquest Auto Parts 300 at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Biffle ran at 183.545 mph, about 0.015 seconds better than Busch. Kevin Harvick, Joe Nemechek and Tony Stewart followed Kahne.

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