Lyn St. James, only the second woman to compete at the Indianapolis 500, was recently commended by Kettering University upon her retirement from Indy-car racing. St. James, who serves on Kettering's Board of Trustees, was honored for her ongoing national efforts to attract and retain women in the competitive fields of automotive racing and mechanical engineering.
St. James announced May 6 that the Indy-racing portion of her career was over. "Gosh, I wish I was 20 years younger," the 54-year-old racer told the Associated Press. She announced her retirement before the start of practice for the May 27 Indianapolis 500. Two ceremonial laps at the famous Indy 500 raceway and her Indy career was over.
Kettering President James E.A. John applauded St. James for her focus in encouraging and motivating new generations of students to pursue careers in automotive engineering and motor sports. "Lyn St. James has worked closely with our students, and in particular, has helped to create an environment that will ensure the participation of women in a variety of automotive fields. She serves as an excellent role model for all our students. Lyn has made many fine contributions as a board member and friend of Kettering University."
"I think a big part of my role on the Kettering board is to encourage women to be involved in the industry, " St. James said. "The automotive field is wide open today. I think the energy and expertise available at places like Kettering add a lot."
St. James began her racing career in 1976 and is among only three women to race at the famous Indianapolis 500 race track. The first was Janet Guthrie, from 1977-79. The other is Sarah Fisher, who is entered again this year in the Memorial Weekend race, according to the Associated Press.
St. James runs a driver development school for women. She is currently writing a book that will come out next year. Sheplans to continue as a spokeswoman for a national driver safety program. She may also go into race broadcasting.
St. James won the SCCA Florida Regional Showroom Stock A title in 1976 and 1977. She drove the IMSA Kelly American Challenge series in 1979-81 and was rookie of the year in the IMSA Camel GT series in 1984.
In 1992, she became the oldest rookie to qualify for the Indianapolis race at 45 and two years later had her best starting position, sixth. She finished 13th in 1997.