Sarah Fisher, who made her mark in IndyCar races, has embarked on a new business venture with her husband that is also closely related to open-wheel car racing. Among others, Fisher was the youngest woman to qualify for the prestigious Indianapolis 500.
Fisher and husband Andy O’Gara held a special VIP preview the evening of March 30 for their new business venture, Speedway Indoor Karting. It is located along the growing development area of Main Street in Speedway, Indianapolis, less than the frontstretch’s distance from Indianapolis Motor Speedway and not even the IMS short chute away from the race team shop she co-owned until early this year.
The karting facility features a state-of-the-art, two-level road course and separate banked small oval, as well as a two-floor restaurant/bar with conference/meeting room capabilities and outdoor seating available on both levels. It opened to the public April 1, but media and an excited contingent of IndyCar drivers were invited to the sneak preview.
“It’s kind of our first big diversification outside of racing as a driver, team owner or something like that,” Fisher said. “But it’s still connected to racing, so it’s really exciting to see. The facility has been really well received by the community and people that I wouldn’t have thought would receive it so well. It’s not just from the racing fans, it’s from all different types of people and groups that can’t wait to see it in action.”
Fisher, 35, has been breaking barriers for years. She was the youngest woman to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 at age 19 in 2000. Later that year, she became the first female IndyCar driver to collect a podium finish. In 2002, Fisher added the accomplishment of first woman to win a pole position in IndyCar racing, with a track record at Kentucky Speedway that still stands.
AS RACE TEAM OWNER
Fisher launched her own race team in 2008 and moved into a new facility on Main Street in 2012. Fisher and partner Wink Hartman merged their team with Ed Carpenter Racing in 2015, but following financial uncertainty in Winkman’s oil business, he and Fisher stepped away from the racing team earlier this year.
It has allowed Fisher and O’Gara, who served as team manager for the race team, to focus on launching the karting operation, though she has since taken on the duty to drive the pace car at most Verizon IndyCar Series events this season.
“This is a racing town and I feel like we needed something like this,” Fisher said of the Town of Speedway. “To have it on Main Street is definitely an opportunity. Taking a break from car ownership for the year, it only made sense that this was the right timing to do it.”
Fisher joked that her husband, whose family operates a tavern in the Indianapolis suburb of Beech Grove, just wanted to open another one.
“I told Andy I never wanted to own a bar, so he attached a karting center to it to make it happen,” she said with a laugh. “Andy has always dreamed about having a karting center and having a restaurant. I’ve always wanted to connect more with the community and this is definitely connecting with the community.”
Among the special features of the facility are the many vantage points to watch the racing, including a mezzanine that allows patrons to directly overlook the tracks; top-of-the-line CRG karts; the sunken oval with 14-degree banking; the 1911 Grill with full-service bar and food; and a ventilation system that can evacuate and replace the air in the entire facility in less than three minutes.
“The cleanliness part of it was really important to me as well,” Fisher said. “It just adds to the experience.”
Demand has already been strong to schedule corporate and private events. Discussions are ongoing with sanctioning groups to host national-caliber events. But most of all, Fisher believes the average fan off the street will love the experience.
“Karting is such a basis of racing that you have so much fun with it,” she said. “It can apply to anybody who’s interested in racing. When you get into a kart, it’s just so much fun!”