St. James, Lyn 1947-
St. JAMES, Lyn 1947-
PERSONAL: Born Evelyn Cornwall, March 13, 1947, in Willoughby, OH; daughter of Alfred W. (a sheet metal worker) and Maxine W. (a homemaker; maiden name, Rawson) Cornwall; name legally changed, 1979; married John Raymond Carusso (a businessman and race car driver), December 7, 1970 (divorced, 1979); married Roger Lessman (a real estate developer), February 27, 1993; stepchildren: Lindsay. Education: St. Louis Institute of Music, certified (piano), 1967.
ADDRESSES: Office—Lyn St. James Enterprises, 57D Gasoline Alley, Indianapolis, IN 46222; fax: 317-244-9791. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Business owner, race car driver, automotive consumer specialist, writer, and speaker. U.S. Steel Corp., Cleveland, OH, secretary, 1967-69; Mike Roth Sales Corp., Euclid, OH, secretary, 1969-70; Dynasales, Hollywood, FL, co-owner and vice president, 1970-79; professional race car driver, 1979—; Autodyne, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, president, 1974-91; Ford Motor Company, Dearborn, MI, race car driver and spokesperson, 1981-96; Lyn St. James Enterprises, Inc., Daytona Beach, FL, owner, 1979—; sports commentator and reporter for ESPN/ESPN2, ABC, and Showtime. Women's Sports Foundation, 1988—, (president, 1990-93; board of stewards); J. C. Penney, spokesperson, 1992-94; founder of Lyn St. James Foundation, 1993; national spokesperson for "Drive Safer America" campaign. Guest appearances on network and cable television shows, including The Late Show with David Letterman (CBS), The Today Show (NBC), and Good Morning America (ABC). Member, Kettering University board of trustees, WNBA Indiana Fever advisory board, Eiteljorg Museum advisory board, and Indianapolis Woman board of advisors.
MEMBER: International Motorsports Association, Sports Car Club of America, NASCAR Diversity Council, Seraphim Cancer Research Foundation.
AWARDS, HONORS: Showroom Stock A-class champion, Sports Car Club of America, Florida region, 1976, 1977; Rookie of the Year award, AutoWeek, 1984; Woman of the Year award, McCall's, 1986; leadership award, Girl Scouts of America, 1988; Indie 500 Rookie of the Year award, 1992; Touchstone Award, Girls, Inc., 1995; Guiding Women in Sports award, National Association for Girls and Women in Sports, 2001; named among 350 women who changed the world between 1976-96, Working Woman (magazine); named among Top Women Athletes of the Century by Sports Illustrated for Women; holder of thirty-one auto racing speed records; first woman to win a professional road race driving solo; first woman to drive over 200 miles per hour on an oval track.
Lyn St. James's Car Owner's Manual for Women, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 1984.
Ride of Your Life: A Race Car Driver's Journey (memoir), Hyperion (New York, NY), 2002.
Contributor to periodicals, including Seventeen and Cosmopolitan; columnist for Detroit Free Press.
SIDELIGHTS: When Lyn St. James qualified for her first Indianapolis 500 in 1992, at the age of forty-five, she was the second woman, after Janet Guthrie, to do so. She finished eleventh and was selected Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, the first woman to be so honored. In the 2000 Indy 500, she was, at age fifty-three, the oldest driver in the field. In the years between, St. James set several qualifying records and established major milestones in women's auto racing.
St. James learned mechanics in her father's metal shop and acquired an appreciation of cars' mobility from her mother, who could not walk for long distances, a result of childhood polio. St. James was an athletic teen and participated in a number of sports, her favorites being basketball, volleyball, and tennis. She attended drag races that featured the muscle cars of her high school pals, and when A. J. Foyt gave her his autograph in 1966 at the Indianapolis 500, she reached the turning point at which cars and racing became the focus of her life. Although her mother was a major influence regarding her love of cars, she was nonetheless displeased when St. James told her of this decision. St. James, for a time, took more "appropriate" jobs as a secretary and piano teacher, but she continued to race, and she went on to become America's most notable female race car driver, as well as an entrepreneur and a safe driving, and women's sports, advocate. As a businesswoman, she has owned an auto parts company and collaborated with engineers in the development of the 1993 Ford Probe and the Lincoln Mark VIII.
St. James moved to Florida, where she won two successive racing championships in 1976 and 1977. Also in 1977, she was part of the pit crew of her first husband, businessman and driver John Carusso, who finished sixth, and first with an American car, a Corvette, at Daytona. It was then that St. James made the decision to move up to the big leagues. After facing many disappointments, she was forced to face the fact that unless she was able to get sponsors and top vehicles, she would never be able to fulfill her dream. While in business with her husband, she changed her name, adopting the surname of her favorite actress, Susan St. James, and in 1979, the year her marriage to Carusso was dissolved, she had her first pro season.
St. James found sponsors, including Ford and J. C. Penney, with the latter company sponsoring and contributing to the huge associated costs of her first Indy 500 in 1992. The three Penney executives who made the decision were women, and in 1993, Penney recruited other companies, including Jantzen, Goodyear, Danskin, Nike, and Revlon, to sign on as sponsors. In 1993, St. James married Roger Lessman, a real estate developer whose own avocation was racing on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Lifetime Television for Women became an Indy sponsor in 1996, for Disney World's Indy 200 and for a broad campaign that extended to its online site. St. James' last race, in May 2000, resulted in a tangle with the car of the only other woman in the race, rookie Sarah Fisher, which eliminated both of them from the Indy 500.
St. James wrote Lyn St. James's Car Owner's Manual for Women, which covers the workings of a car, how to keep a car in shape, buying and selling a car, how to deal with mechanics, how to drive like a professional, and how to deal with car trouble on the road. The first chapter discusses the ten major systems of a car and problems that can occur with each. St. James offers a suggested maintenance schedule and checklist, and a glossary.
Motor Trend's Anita Newman said the glove compartment-size volume is "definitely a handy book to keep in the car, whether you're looking up how to attach jumper cables to your battery or just want to brush up on exactly what your battery does to keep your car going." Beverly S. Narkiewicz said in a Road and Track review that by reading this owner's manual, "you will not be transformed into a master mechanic … but you could acquire the confidence to take on basic auto repair and maintenance jobs yourself."
The Lyn St. James Foundation, founded in 1993, is a nonprofit that focuses on automobile safety and driver development, especially for women who aspire to become race car drivers. The foundation supports charitable work around the world. St. James is also a consumer advisor and motivational speaker who takes her story to audiences across the country.
A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that St. James's memoir, Ride of Your Life: A Race Car Driver's Journey, is "an ode to speed, mechanics and persistence." The reviewer noted that St. James "doesn't make an issue of gender beyond citing occasions when others have." The book is an expanded motivational speech, and each chapter ends with a "pit stop" that emphasizes St. James's point for that section. St. James dedicates the book, in part, to Carusso, now deceased. Library Journal's Larry R. Little called Ride of Your Life "a remarkable story" and "A testimony to determination and positive thinking."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Newsmakers, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1993, pp. 446-447.
St. James, Lyn, Ride of Your Life: A Race Car Driver's Journey, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2002.
Children's Digest, January-February, 1994, Layne Cameron, "Lyn St. James," p. 16.
Cosmopolitan, October, 1996, Anne O'Malley, "Fast, Fast women," p. 238.
Harper's Bazaar, July, 1989, Betty Goodwin, "In High Gear," p. 50.
Indianapolis Business Journal, April 22, 2002, Bill Benner, "St. James Still Driven to Win at Indianapolis," p. 18.
Library Journal, June 1, 2002, Larry R. Little, review of Ride of Your Life: A Race Car Driver's Journey, p. 160.
Motor Trend, October, 1984, Anita Newman, review of Lyn St. James's Car Owner's Manual for Women, p. 24.
New York Times, July 3, 1989, Joseph Siano, "Numbers Are Few for Female Drivers," p. 32.
People, May 31, 1993, William Plummer, "Speed Queen," p. 83.
Publishers Weekly, April 15, 2002, review of Ride of Your Life, p. 56.
Road and Track, November, 1984, Beverly S. Narkiewicz, review of Lyn St. James's Car Owner's Manual for Women, p. 32.
Sports Illustrated, May 3, 1993, Jill Lieber, "A Road Less Taken," p. 52.
Vogue, June, 1989, Mary Schmich, "Mary Schmich Does Some Fast Talking (at 100 mph) with Race Car Driver Lyn St. James," p. 162.
Washington Post, June 19, 1996, Judy Mann, "Driven to Success on and off the Racetrack," p. B10.
BookHaven,http://www.thebookhaven.homestead.com/ (July 25, 2002), Amy Coffin, review of The Ride of Your Life.
Lyn St. James Home Page,http://www.lynstjames.com (December 10, 2002).
Racing Press,http://www.racingpress.com/ (July 7, 2002), Earl Ma, review of Ride of Your Life.