Let The Girls Rock And Roll At Indy

The good news:

There is a full on female racing team about to run the Indy 500 in about an hour and a half. The effort is awesome. Hopefully transformational. For any interested, this is a must read ESPN article by Alyssa Roenigk:

Roughly 30 laps into Sunday’s 105th running of the Indianapolis 500, driver Simona De Silvestro will pull into pit lane. In the six seconds it takes to refuel her No. 16 Paretta Autosport Chevrolet, her crew will swap out four Firestones, adjust the front wing and attend to the Aeroscreen windshield on her IndyCar. Typically, teams want pits that are flawless, fast and fade into the noise of the race.

But the Paretta team expects to attract attention. Because for the first time in motorsports history, four of its seven over-the-wall pit crew members will be women. De Silvestro’s two spotters will be women. Two of her engineers, including a Data Acquisition Guy, will be women. And every front office role at Paretta Autosport — from business operations to public relations to merchandise and marketing — is filled by a woman.

“It’s important to me that the bigger message is this isn’t women at the expense of men,” says team owner Beth Paretta, whose vision to create a coed race team has been six years in the making. “I’m trying to expand the grid.”

During the team’s first outing at the Indy 500, Paretta hopes young girls see ponytails fly over the wall during pit stops and women engineers communicating from the timing stand. She also wants the novelty to wear off quickly: “My hope is that in five years, us being a team of mostly women is the least interesting thing about us.

Women have run Indy before. The famous and first was Janet Guthrie. Then through Danica Patrick, who actually finished on the podium once. Danica was a fine driver, and earned the rides she got. But, for my limited money, the best was always Lyn St. James. Lyn could drive any race car, anywhere, anytime. She was all that. If Lyn had the equipment Patrick was afforded, she might well have a Borg Warner trophy in her living room.

That is the current, and the history, you might wish to have been different. But times ARE different, and excellent inroads are being made, even if slowly. The Paretta effort is a significant part of that.

The bad news:

Simona and Paretta made the field for today’s race, but barely. She qualified in P33, the last position on the outside of the last row. Unlike F1, such is not a death knell for a driver at Indy. We shall see how it all works out, and all hopes for well. De Silvestro can drive. There may be shakier equipment in the field. But what an awesome movement, and may it well continue.

30 replies
  1. Bobby Gladd says:

    That’s all pretty cool. I’m sitting here watching the pre-race show.

    When I lived in Las Vegas, I used to get comp pit passes to the Las Vegas motor Speedway. Once I went to an IndyCar race there, and they gave us earplugs. It quickly became apparent why.

    • bmaz says:

      Yeah. It is quite loud. But, man, when they fly by you the feeling is so physical and fun.

      • Bobby Gladd says:

        We watched the race from the roof of a garage building on the infield, right above pit row. It was amazing.

        My late friend Russ, who got us the passes, was this rich guy who bought, sold, and raced vintage NASCAR cars. A “collector.”

        • bmaz says:

          It is really hard to describe what flying motor vehicles are live and in person. Neither TV nor print can totally relate it. You do not just hear it, it strikes you in straight the gut.

          • dimmsdale says:

            …and the NOSE–spent many weekends far too close to big thundering iron at the dear, departed Marlboro Raceway, where Cobras, Vettes and Lister Jags would roar past, reverberating your breastbone and your eardrums, and leaving fragrant vapors of hi-test exhaust fumes from engines wound-out to the max. It’s a cliche to write it, but the experience was, in every way, intoxicating.

          • Raven Eye says:

            Whilst in college, we used to shoot SCCA races at Laguna Seca. I remember the sound in my head for hours, especially when you tried to go asleep that night either back home in San Jose, or in the back of a buddy’s van camping at the track.

            The closest I got to really loud was helping to push start a Bugatti at the 1973 vintage race at Watkins Glen. Dang! But it was a thrill to actually push one.

              • Raven Eye says:

                I’m not sure — it was one of those “Hey you guys — give us a hand” things followed with a where-you-don’t-push-on-it warning. I think our eyes were as big around as those wheels when it caught and drove off. Nobody had to tell when to stop pushing — LOL.

                That whole thing was quite an experience. Fortunate to see (and hear) Jackie Stewart drive in practice, but what a tragedy.

  2. dimmsdale says:

    All I can say is, I want THAT photo of the team, ON a poster, and it’s going up on my bedroom wall, right next to the poster of Farrah Fawcett. Oh, and I need to look up Lynn St. James. I remember the name but need a refresh.

  3. bmaz says:

    There are now four four time winners of the Indy 500. Helio joins AJ Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears. Wow, what a race by Mr. Castroneves. What a great show today by all.

    • bmaz says:

      I do not think I “am a sportswriter”. I am simply a guy who likes sports, am a member of a blog that has always liked sports, and like to give people a place to talk about things and blow off steam. Oh, and grew up around motorsports. You want to piss on yourself, do it somewhere else.

  4. Severin says:

    How did the all woman’s team do. Did they finish? You shoved the team off. What’s the end of the story?

    • bmaz says:

      Sadly, no. They had moved up 7-8 spots in the field, and were maybe poised to keep doing so, but had some kind of weird deal on or near pit road. They certainly did not embarrass themselves. Still an interesting story.

      • bmaz says:

        They were up to P25 or so though, and P32-33 did not finish at all, by my recollection. It could and should have gone a lot better. Let’s be honest Paretta was not going to win, but with better luck could have made a solid showing. Things happen, it is okay. Really do want them back for the long term though.

  5. apm74 says:

    Hey, longtime Emptywheel reader/lurker, longtime IndyCar fan, first time commenter, just wanted to point out that the “Shank” half of the winning team, Meyer-Shank Racing, is very much a husband/wife business partnership, so there was a winning woman on the podium. Yay for the little guys!

    • bmaz says:

      Excellent, and thank you for that. Welcome to EW, please join in more often. And, frankly, don’t think de Silvestro and Paretta were in danger of winning the race, but were possible for a very decent finish. Hopefully soon.

  6. Herb de Bray says:

    I lost my first draft so here it comes again. I find the Indy 500 spectacular.
    33 cars cruising along at 200+mph for 2.5 hours. What concentration that must take! I ran some 26 mile marathons and that took focus but it was a lot slower, even though the top end finished just over two hours. Having the women’s Indy team in the Indy was courageous and talented with Simone shining the light. That was a ballsy move by that team, of ladies knowing their equipment was a tiny bit lacking. Next time her crew may be able to present a car with fresh parts and zeal. $’s of course, too.
    Sometimes, it’s not whether you win or lose, but rather how you play the game.

Comments are closed.