LYN ST. JAMES on Indy, Driving Again & Advice for Today’s Drivers

Stephen Cox Blog Presented by McGunegill Engine Performance

Indycar fans fell in love with Lyn St. James in 1992 when she won the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year award and kicked off a decade-long open wheel career that would eventually include nine starts at the Brickyard.

She worked her way up through the road racing ranks, starting with a 1970’s Ford Pinto as her first race car. It took four years of sponsor hunting before she was able to land an Indy ride with Dick Simon Racing, which specialized in bringing new drivers to Indianapolis.
American Muscle

Although she’ll be the first to tell you that Indycar’s current “ladder” system excludes most aspiring drivers today and would have been an impassable road block for her as well, she still devotes a great deal of time mentoring young racers.

St. James remains a fixture at Indianapolis. She returns to the race each year to sign autographs, make public appearances and renew acquaintances. I was fortunate to catch up with her over dinner at a south side Italian restaurant during the Indy 500 festivities and found her as amiable and insightful as ever.

What is Indycar doing right – and wrong – nowadays?
“Well, they’ve got momentum going because they’re doing a lot of right things. The racing is extraordinary. The on-track product is just really good. They have a group of drivers there now that have been there long enough that they are willing to go above and beyond what maybe some of the previous drivers were willing to do to help promote it. They understand that this is what they need to do to help the Indycar series grow and it certainly helps their own careers as well.”

“They’re trying to work on the schedule, and I think the schedule is getting better. They’re going back to Road America. They’re going back to Phoenix even though Phoenix hasn’t drawn a huge crowd yet.”

“But the more complicated we make it, the more difficult it is to keep the fans engaged with the body kits and so forth. If the fans don’t understand what’s happening, you’re going to lose them. I think stability in the schedule and stability in the rules are still yet to be achieved.”

You’re driving again and you won a pretty exciting race at Thunderhill not long ago, didn’t you?

“I got a ride in a 1977 Chevron B39 Formula Atlantic car. I fell in love with that car. I started racing it again and again and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven because back in the 70’s, when I was racing my Pinto and my Vega and a Corvette, I would watch the Formula Atlantic cars and go, ‘Oh my gosh, some day I wish I could drive a car like that.’ So I got to fulfill a lifelong dream.”

“One of the races they put on is at Thunderhill and I had a blast. I ended up winning that race. I ended up doing a pass on the outside going up into Turn One. The crew applauded. I found out later that the whole place went crazy. So I ended up winning, and I hadn’t won a race in a long time. It was just awesome.”

“It brought back all the racer in me. I love vintage races because the races are short. There aren’t many fans. It tends to be more like a family deal, you know… no media, no money, no trophies. It’s all for the fun and the passion, and I love that.” 

I know you work a lot with young drivers, but what advice would you give to experienced, fully trained drivers who are racing in the middle ranks and looking to move higher?

“By the time you’re in your early twenties, if you’ve not figured out how to get paid and get a professional ride, you’re probably not going to get one. I think that sucks, but that’s the way it is. We don’t make up the rules in the world. My story and my model wouldn’t work in today’s world. It just wouldn’t work. But you’ve got to look at the world the way it is and not the way you want it to be or the way you think it should be.”

“For those who are middle class or upper middle class, who have full time jobs, but have a deep passion and aspirations to be a professional race car driver… race what you can afford to race. Race as often as you can. Develop the best resume that you possibly can.”

“You cannot always be at the same tracks. If you only race at three or four race tracks, you’re not showing enough diversity. Get out of your comfort zone. If you live in the east, go race out west. If you’re an east coast champion and you can go out west and beat a west coast champion, now you’re showing some talent.”

“Make sure you get a test day. Go out early. I used to go out a day early and beg just to take my rental car around the track. Nobody’s there yet and I would promise that I’d go very slow. I didn’t even need a hot lap.”

“Stay where you can win. Build a resume that’s as strong and impressive as you can possibly build. And then get out of your comfort zone and away from the tracks you know and go beat the champion somewhere else.”

Now living in Arizona, St. James employs her extraordinary public relations skills as an ambassador for the RPM Foundation. The organization promotes the preservation of America’s automotive heritage and trains craftsman to keep antique cars in original, running condition.

After dinner, I asked if I could order a copy of her book, “An Incredible Journey,” and mail it to her for a signature. She laughed and said, “It’s funny you should ask. I think I still have a box of them with me.” So we walked to the parking lot and got a copy out of the trunk of Lyn’s car, which she autographed on the spot.

Now that’s public relations

Stephen Cox
Sopwith Motorsports Television Productions
Driver, Electric GT Championship & C7R Motorsports #21
Co-host, Mecum Auctions on NBCSN

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

Previous articleWeber Renews Partnership with Ben Kennedy at Michigan International Speedway
Stephen Cox is a racing driver in the Electric GT Championship, the Super Cup Stock Car Series and the World Racing League endurance sports car series. He is also a television host and CEO of Sopwith Motorsports Television Productions. He is currently in his 10th season as a co-host on NBCSN’s Mecum Auto Auction. Stephen also serves as producer for the Super Cup Stock Car Series telecasts on MavTV and other programming on Fox, Outdoor Channel, Velocity and more. His past television work includes hosting: Champ Car World Series Indianapolis 500 NASCAR Winston West Barber Dodge Pro Series Paris-Dakar Rally USAR Hooters ProCup Stock Car Series Mid-American Stock Car Series ARCA Truck Series Stephen Cox is among America’s most versatile professional racing drivers. Few drivers have competed on both asphalt and dirt. Fewer still on both road courses and ovals. Fewer still in both open wheel and stock cars. And virtually none can add the elite division of off road desert racing to their resume. Stephen has not simply raced in each of these divisions – he has scored championships, wins, poles or top ten finishes in every single category, and in 2017 he adds the international Electric GT Championship sports car series to the list. From ARCA ovals to SCCA road courses, endurance racing to Rolex GT sports cars, from Tecate SCORE Baja Trophy Trucks in desert sands to the Hooters Pro Cup Series and Super Cup Stock Car Series on America’s famous southern ovals… Cox has driven them all, and won. Track record holder at Midvale Speedway (OH USA) Track record holder at Gingerman Raceway (MI USA) 18 career wins 17 career poles Mitsubishi factory test driver 2004 GT Challenge Series champion 2004 Championship Motorsports Association Rookie of the Year As a writer, Cox has authored: L&M PORSCHE; the story Penske’s 1972 Can-Am championship SHELBY LEGEND, TRANS-AM WINNER; the 1966 Ford Mustang Group 2 SCCA Racer AGAINST ALL ODDS; the 1970 24 Hours of Daytona Cox also authored the Small Team Sponsorship Guide for beginning sponsor-hunters, the classic book and seminar that redefined the way entry level teams attack corporate sponsorship.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here