In 1978, Lyn St. James examine an post about the Ford Mustang in Car and Driver. The tale had a sidebar about Ford’s fascination in marketing the Mustang to girls by supplying aggressive and racing alternatives.
St. James experienced been racing for enjoyment for many years and earned her level of competition driver’s license at age 27. She was completely ready to get far more severe and was looking for a sponsor. “I wrote letters to absolutely everyone at Ford who was quoted in that report, inquiring them to sponsor me,” she suggests. She got a letter again from Ford, congratulating her on her racing achievement and telling her to retain them informed about her job. So she did. She raced when she could and despatched her outcomes to the Ford team. Right after a dogged pursuit, in 1981, she turned one particular of the first woman race vehicle motorists to acquire a comprehensive-year sponsorship.
Her subsequent tale is legendary: St. James was the 1st lady Rookie of the Calendar year at the Indianapolis 500, in 1992 — and she had six a lot more Indy 500 starts after that. Her 20-year racing profession bundled 21 global and countrywide shut-circuit speed records. She was named a person of Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 Girls Athletes of the 20th Century. And she is one particular of six people today becoming inducted into the Automotive Corridor of Fame on July 21.
The recent consideration has been gratifying, St. James claims. “The planet was spending interest to me in the ’80s and ’90s. Then the environment wasn’t spending notice,” she states. “This past 12 months in specific I have been aghast — people today want to listen to from me yet again.”
That may possibly be due to the fact her tale is so powerful. She grew up in Ohio, the only kid of a father who was a sheet steel worker and a mom who had polio. Since her mother could not walk considerably, St. James states, “For her, a car was almost everything. She taught me how to push — and taught me that a automobile talks to you, how to realize the significant smells and seems.”
As a teenager, St. James worked component time at a service station. One particular year, her co-staff were being headed to the Indy 500, and St. James and her mom tagged alongside. “After that, I would go to the drags with the men. 1 evening I introduced a trophy house, and my mother was not pleased,” she states. “It was the very first time I experienced competed in a race. It was exciting, and really obtained my juices likely.”
But, St. James claims, “Until I was in my mid-20s, I did all the things culture explained a lady really should do. I received an education and learning, got a job, acquired a car or truck, fulfilled a male, followed him to Florida and obtained married. I helped him establish a company. But then we started