Grace Autosport
Jessica Rowe, Barbara Burns, Catherine Crawford, Beth Paretta & Katherine Legge.
Photo by Michael C. Johnson

There will be a new look/new team at the 2015 Indianapolis 500 – the 100th running of the world famous event. Grace Autosport, the first all-women INDYCAR racing team will compete, and they won’t be wearing high heels or skirts.

The new race team was announced Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway by team principal, Beth Paretta, who has an extensive motorsports background including being the former motorsports director for SRT Motorsports/Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. She said she has a plan, vision and goal. This unique program will have a focused educational initiative, to create and inspire future champions and leaders in motorsport. “Our goal is within ten years to make sure a woman’s face will grace the BorgWarner Trophy.”

Paretta came up with the concept and the networking began. She already knew Katherine Legge, who will be the driver. Legge already worked on a race team with Catherine Crawford, aerodynamicist, team manager and engineer and principal of Crawford Composites. Crawford knew Lauren Elkins from sports car racing as a motorsports engineer, data analysis manager and track support technician. Elkins was the only one not at Friday’s announcement as she was working in Canada at the Pirelli World Challenge. Elkins knew Jessica Rowe, a design engineer who works with a sports car race team, and so on.

Also peripherally involved in the new venture are Lyn St. James and Vicki O’Connor.

St James, racer, author, and long-time promoter/supporter of young female racers, will be helping to find and recruit young racers.

O’Conner, Director of ACCUS (the US ASN-arm of FIA) is a member of the FIA Women in Motorsports Commission. She is especially excited to see the Americans take the initiative with this concept and looks forward to it going global. Michele Mouton, President of the Womens’ Commission said “The fact the team is led by women in many of the key roles showcases the fact that everyone can have a place in motorsport. Equality is there. This team again demonstrates that gender does not have to be a barrier in relation to success in all areas of racing.”

Paretta is the only one so far that is full-time with the team and she will be moving to Indianapolis, the racing Capital of the World. The other women all have other motorsports ‘day jobs’ and will be utilizing the marvels of electronic mobility and technology to work together while remaining in their respective jobs. As one said, “We really only need to be together here in Indy during the month of May.”

Paretta said the team has “a sponsor in place, but we’re not ready to make that announcement yet.” And addressing further sponsorship, Paretta said as the team grows beyond the Indy 500, the reality is we’ll talk to anyone interested in our initiative. None of this happens without money.”

To start, Grace Autosports will partner with one of the existing INDYCAR teams, most of which are based in Indianapolis. “Talks have already taken place, but it’s too soon to announce where that is going.” The core roles will be led by women, but will also include female mechanics, engineers, tire changers, and over-the-wall crews. Legge said “In no way is this us being feminists. We know we’re aware we need the support of men and we’re not being exclusive. We’re just trying to be equal opportunity and in a positive way. And part of including women in all facets will be to train female mechanics, engineers and crew.”

Down the road the team could expand to a full season in the Verizon IndyCar Series, a venue chosen chosen because of its platform, the biggest race in the world, its message, and its welcoming of women to INDYCAR.

The team will have a ladder system of all aspects, with scholarships and internships, to bring up women as drivers and team members. And there will be outreach to universities and other educational institutions.

Paretta said “We have a year to make it right.”