Seven-time Indy 500 qualifier Lyn St. James visits Dearborn for symposium
Lyn St. James made her seventh and final Indianapolis 500 start in 2000, and the thrill remains more than two decades later.
“Driving under that tunnel and coming out onto the field still gives me goosebumps,” said St. James, 75. “When the army came into the pit lane, it took my breath away. I remember being on that grid, strapped into that car, clearing my brain so I could prepare for the fight because it is a fight. It’s a fucking battle.
“It’s something that resonated with me when I went there as a teenager to watch the race and continues every year that I return, whether as a spectator, competitor or visitor. It’s a special place.
While St. James retired from professional action 22 years ago, she continues to have an active voice in the sport. St. James is coming to Dearborn next week to participate in a symposium June 1, 2022, 4-9 p.m., at the Automotive Hall of Fame, 21400 Oakwood Street.
“Racing at The Automotive Hall of Fame: Barrier Breakers” will feature a screen of “Boundless: Betty Skelton,” featuring panelists St. James, Beth Paretta, Cindy Sisson, Pam Miller, Taylor Ferns and Laura Wontrop Klauser. Ferns’ USAC Silver Crown car and one of St. James’ former race cars will be on display.
“We’re really excited because it’s a mixed-gender activity,” St. James said. “We are going to show a documentary on Betty Skelton. It’s a great documentary that came out on Fox, and we’re going to show it. It’s a bit of a history lesson.
“And then we’re going to jump right into this panel discussion with some amazing women who are behind the scenes that people don’t know about. We’ll have Laura Klauser, who is an engineer and represents General Motors in the motorsports industry. She is the go-to person. Beth Paretta has taken a very strong leadership position as a team owner in IndyCar racing with a female forward initiative. We have a young driver, Taylor Ferns, from Michigan, who I’ve known for over 10 years who came to my pilot development program Cindy Sisson who helped produce the documentary and also created this particular symposium.
St. James’ professional career spanned two decades and included single-seater and sports car experience. She made her Indy 500 debut in 1992, started 27th and finished 11th, which turned out to be the best of her Brickyard career. She was 45 in 1992, making her the oldest rookie in the race. Jimmie Johnson, 46, qualified 12th for Sunday’s 106th race and is expected to beat that mark.
Ms. St. James said she was pleased with the progress made by women since her retirement.
“There are more women running and more women striving for the lower ranks to get to the higher ranks,” she said. “For the two decades I raced, drag racing was the exception. Drag racing has had women competing professionally. I definitely believe it’s because they have a junior drag program, which is open to kids. I’ve heard over the years that 50% of those kids are girls. They had understood it. The other motorsport categories, the doors wouldn’t open, and your voices fell on deaf ears.
“But today you have women racing in ARCA and aspiring to reach Cup level, there are a handful of very good capable female racers at IndyCar and IMSA level and sports cars. a handful in USAC at this level. There is representation, and not just one. There is a handful. A handful is not enough, but I understand. But a handful is better than one.
For more information on the symposium, Click here to visit the website. A virtual presence option is available.
“We have a lot of stories and interactive opportunities for people to come and ask questions, learn, and better understand what those roles really are and how they got those jobs,” St. James said. “It’s not just about telling stories, it’s also supposed to be a kind of symposium where people can learn from it.
“I’m here to celebrate as much as I’m here to promote and push. I want us to be a platform and a portal to celebrate successes and elevate successes and encourage new people to come see what our sport is all about. This will help develop the sport and help those who already participate in it. It can’t get much better than that.