This year’s Indy 500 will have a new female-owned team and driver competing in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Paretta Autosport will work to integrate women across the team from driver to engineer to media relations.
Last year there were no women drivers who competed in the race. Through more than 100 years of Indianapolis 500 history, there have been only 10 women drivers compared to about 800 men.
Paretta Autosport plans to initially compete in the Indy 500 and race the full season next year. It will receive technical support from Team Penske.
While women have been team owners and drivers in IndyCar, team owner Beth Paretta said the goal is to incorporate women into allroles of the team through training and support.
“Eventually, we hope it'll be a team of women running the car,” Paretta said. “And that can and will inspire others, to become mechanics; to become engineers; to become drivers; to become team owners. Racing is for all of us, and working together we all win.”
Paretta created Grace Autosport with a similar goal in 2016 and was set to race in the 100th running of the Indy 500, but pulled out saying the car was not ready and the timing for the new team was off.
“I had to make the tough decision to pull the entry because it wasn't right. The vehicle – the car that we had was not race worthy, really,” Paretta said. “I mean, could we have maybe put it together down to the wire, maybe. But I wasn't willing to do that. Because there's extra scrutiny on a program like this. Everybody's watching. And you bear that responsibility. And although I had to take that tough decision, that's what happens in racing.”
She said following the tough call in 2016, she worked to help develop the pipeline bringing more people into the sport.
Indy 500 veteran Simona de Silvestro will be driving the No. 16 car. De Silvestro said she’s excited to return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and be a part of an effort to show the presence of women in racing.
“And I really hope that along this journey, we will inspire more women to follow their dreams and also create some pretty cool opportunities for them to join and for them to follow,” de Silvestro said.
De Silvestro last competed in the Indy 500 in 2015 and was crowned Rookie of the Year in 2010.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles said women have been a part of the race and track for a long time. The first woman owner was back in the 1920s and at least one woman driver has competed in the Indy 500 the last 25 years – with the exception of 2020. But this takes it to a new level.
“Here we're talking about not just a driver, but we're talking about a driver and owner, but we're not just talking about a driver and owner,” Boles said. “Beth’s vision and I think our vision is this gives folks an opportunity, women an opportunity to get involved in the sport, beyond the driver and beyond the owner piece and I can't wait to watch that come to fruition.”
Last year, IndyCar and IMS officials announced the formation of the auto race team Force Indy that aims to bring more Black people into the sport, also a part of the $1 million Race for Equality & Change initiative to make the sport more diverse and inclusive.
Jimmie McMillian, Penske Entertainment Corp. chief diversity officer, said while some may think it’s a male-dominated sport, he works with women everyday and believes it needs to be reflected on the track.
“And this is a powerful moment that matches our goals for the Race for Equality & Change. When we're talking about, not just walking it, but actually walking what we talk. Living what we preach and creating an opportunity for people to actually be able to see something and know that they can be it,” said McMillian. “And that's what I think Beth and Paretta Autosport represents.”
The 105th running of the Indy 500 is scheduled to take place May 30, 2021.