Lyn St. James Fuels Female Drive for Finish Lines
October 21, 2008
By Michelle Ferrier
Women from all over the
world who aspire to a professional racing career end up here, at Lyn St. James'
Complete Driver Academy, which brought nine women to the New Smyrna Speedway on
Oct. 10, 2008, for the final phase of their Complete Driver Academy.
The year-long program
coaches drivers through physical and mental preparation, business and media
training, and the on-track and technical phase -- which is by invitation only
Lyn -- former professional Indy car driver and perhaps best known to local
residents as a two-time team winner of the 24 Hours of Daytona -- established
the academy in 1994, through the Women in the Winner's Circle Foundation. It
identifies up-and-coming motorsports talent and equips students for high on- and
The goal of the academy for Lyn -- one of five women to successfully qualify for
the Indianapolis 500 -- is to provide "the most comprehensive educational and
training program for talented women race drivers," she says on her Web site. She
looks for established drivers with consistent high finishes, goals in
professional motorsports and at least three years of racing.
The nine women are at New Smyrna Speedway for two days of intensive on-track
coaching under the guidance of the
School, run by Michael and Krystal Loescher
of Edgewater. They will also get training in chassis setup at the school's
The women are: Tiffany Daniels of Smithfield, Va.; Natalie Sather of Fargo,
N.D.; Jessica Brunelli of Hayward, Calif.; Julia Landauer of New York City;
Trista Stevenson of Pocahontas, Ill.; Ashley Freiberg of Homer Glen, Ill.; Molly
Rhoads of Hastings, Minn.; Kristin Bumbera of Sealy, Texas; and Kristy Kester of
College Station, Texas.
Jessica Brunelli's been racing for six years, starting in the sport when she was
9 years old. At age 15, she is the youngest out on the track today.
Jessica says the school has been a tremendous opportunity to learn how to
succeed both on and off the track.
"It has definitely given me the opportunity to talk to various professionals --
nutritionists, mental coaches, physical trainers, on-track coaches, financial
advisors. Lyn's program, 'Mind Shaper,' is great because racing is only 30
percent on track and 70 percent off track."
Julia Landauer started in go-karts as a youngster.
"My dad got my sister and I into it when I was 10 and my sister was 7," she
said. "Now my brothers are racing go-karts."
While it's her first time in a stock car, Julia's confident she's in good hands
because she's heard good things about FinishLine Racing School and because she
was tapped by Lyn to attend this final phase of the academy.
She says that she's confident as a driver, even though some on the track will
see her as a woman first.
"I've had to prove myself more to teams to get on the teams for recognition,"
Julia said. "But when you're up front -- they recognize you as a driver."
The challenges she faces as a woman are more off-track. She says teams don't
take her seriously, and she endures comments off-track. She is thoughtful about
the role of being a "girly girl" on the track and its advantages and
"I think it goes both ways. It's a disadvantage being girly at first, trying to
get attention. But it's an advantage after you get established because you're
more marketable in this sport at this time because there are so few of us."
"When it comes to selling yourself to top sponsors, it depends on how you use
your female status," she said. "Unfortunately, sex sells, and I would hope that
that would tend to be less of the case in the future."
Some of the women training with the academy will go on to NASCAR's Drive for
Diversity program, an effort by the sport to increase participation in NASCAR
among Americans of diverse ethnic, racial, and gender backgrounds. Natalie
Sather, Kristin Bambera, Tiffany Daniels and Trista Stevenson have been invited
to participate in the Drive for Diversity program this year.
Molly Rhoads says the most important thing she'll take away from the academy is
the need for overall physical and mental preparation.
"It's about your whole self. You've got to be physically fit and your car has to
be tuned. And you can only control your car and what you're doing -- no one
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