Maxine Cornwall was always afraid of her daughter racing fast cars.
Before each race began, Cornwall, Lyn St. James' mother, would light a candle for her daughter. After every race, St. James would call her mother who would then blow the candle out.
"I just like to drive fast," St. James said Thursday at the Clay Health Center.
St. James grew up in the muscle car era of the 1960s and her early hobby of racing fast cars eventually transitioned into a successful racing career, including competition in the Indy 500 seven times.
"My mother taught me how to drive," she said.
When her mother died in 2002, St. James lost a big supporter. She wanted to do something to share her mother's words of wisdom so she published a book.
People always talk, but it's as they're leaving that they say the most powerful words, she said. These words came from St. James' mother in the form of a letter her mother gave to her prior to her death. Later, St. James found the letter and began showing it to her friends. She published the letter in a book dedicated to her mother titled, "Oh, By the Way."
"It's about life and about having courage," she said adding that life is about more than a single person, but how that person interacts in life.
"The book was a legacy to my mother," she said.
St. James is visiting nursing homes like Clay Health Center because she wants her book to encourage others. Her mother had polio and doctors never thought she would walk. But, doctors also thought her mother would not bear children before Lyn was born.
Meeting people suffering from disabilities and living in wheelchairs has been "a real eye-opener," St. James said.
Fans of all ages showed up Thursday to meet St. James. Darrell Moore, 10, and, friend, Cody Randall, 14, both of Brazil, were the first to meet St. James and receive her autograph.
Moore said he has watched St. James race before and when his friend told him she would be in Brazil, had to meet her.
The pair were photographed with St. James and each given copies. Moore said he was excited to get her autograph and picture.
The small-sized gift book contains an introduction by St. James, the letter written by her mother, a one-page biography of Cornwall and a brief biography of St. James. The book sells for $9.95 on St. James's Web site, www.lynstjames.com.
St. James wrote one book before "Oh, By the Way," called "The Ride of Your Life." The book is out-of-print currently, but she said it can most likely be found online. She said she has no future plans to write anymore books. "They're a lot of work," she exclaimed.