While drivers receive the lion’s share of the spotlight, other people, such as Sara Sylvester, do their part to ensure the sport remains strong. Sylvester never raced. She never crewed, either. However, Sylvester made a profound impact on her local short track, Riverhead Raceway in New York. That was felt with the outpouring of love and appreciation on social media after word came out that she had passed away on November 23.
“She was rough around the edges [but she was] a good friend, kindhearted, and [wanted] to be helping to others — she always put other people first,” said Sara’s brother, Jim, 51, a Legend car racer from Massapequa Park. “Whenever anybody needed anything, she was the first person to run to Oval Speed [Unlimited, a local speed shop], no matter who they were. If she could help somebody out in the community, she would love to.”
Her kindness extended beyond the racers at the track. Legend car racer Mike Van Houten said Sylvester loved kids and making them happy. She crafted goody bags for Van Houten to hand out to children after the races in the pits. In turn, Van Houten put “Sara’s Treats” on his car. This was one of many things Sylvester quietly helped with.
“I knew Sara didn’t have much, but she was always willing to help,” Van Houten, 45, of Jamesport, New York, said. “Sara would snap up a couple hundred glow bracelets for me. After my race was over, I’d go into the crowd and hand them out. I promoted it, but that was all Sara.”
Sylvester was perhaps best known for her ability to drum up lap money for special events. She particularly took interest in divisions other than the headliners. Those classes included Legend cars and Blunderbusts, a division derived from full-size passenger cars.
“On a local level, Sara sold more laps in the history of the game,” said Bob Finan, longtime track announcer at Riverhead Raceway. “Those people [who sell laps, such as Sylvester,] are just as important as a major corporate sponsor, just at a different level. It’s a direct route [for the funds] to the competitors, and it doesn’t’ stop at a salesperson who takes a percentage. It’s a pure, 100% labor of love.”
Over the course of her life Sara Sylvester struggled with several medical maladies. Her body finally succumbed to them at age 37. Nevertheless, in her short time on Earth, she made a lasting impression on so many lives she had touched. She left behind a fiancé, Tim Mirabile, and a 19-year-old son, Vincent. A GoFundme account has been set up to help with the financial obligations that now her college-going son must take care of. You can contribute here.
“The GoFundMe [page] gets me a little emotional,” Jim Sylvester said. “I look at the names [of who donated] and it makes me very humble to know how many people she touched and how grateful they were for her.”
The Outside Groove Executive Editor has covered motorsports since 2000. His many awards include the 2019 Eastern Motorsport Press Association (EMPA) Jim Hunter Writer of the Year and the 2013 Russ Catlin Award for Excellence in Motorsports Journalism.