INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WDTN) — We already know that a woman will lead the field at Sunday’s Indy 500 because former Indycar driver Danica Patrick will be driving the pace car.
Woman like Danica Patrick, Janet Guthrie, Lynn St. James and Sarah Fisher have already carved their names in the history of the Indy 500. But women will be represented in this year’s race unlike ever before.
Paretta Autosport is the first team owned and run by a woman, with a female driver and a mostly female crew, to ever compete in the Indy 500. For team owner Beth Paretta, it’s been a six year journey to travel 500 miles.
“It’s been very emotional. We’re happy, proud and grateful to work with Team Penske and work for equality and change, ideally bringing new fans to the sport,” said Paretta.
The most experienced member of the team is driver Simona de Silvestro, who’ll be driving in her sixth Indy 500 — but her first since 2015.
“You know, I just like being in an Indycar. Driving in pit lane, I have a big smile on my face. I really missed it and am super happy to be back,” said de Silvestro.
Of the 30 Paretta team members, 19 are women and they are engineers, mechanics, even tire changers. They have spent the last four months training in the early morning hours for a shot at racing history.
“All these women have full time jobs. Thankfully, the one who has to travel the furthest can work remotely, so they’re training in the gym and practicing their pit stops and then going to their day jobs,” said Paretta.
“All these women deserve to be here. They’ve shown over the last four months that they can do the job — Team Penske let them in and let them learn from them,” said de Silvestro.
A win for this team is unlikely on Sunday, but their victory has just been making the race. And when they take the green flag, they will send a powerful message to young women everywhere.
“Well, I think the message is you can be anyone you want. The girls change tires like machines — I really enjoy the experience. You can be anyone you want. Do the work and don’t be afraid to go for it,” said de Silvestro.
“We get a lot of fan mail, and the most amazing emails I get are from fathers of daughters saying ‘Thank you, because now my daughter can see anything is possible,'” said Paretta.
You can watch the Indy 500 live on WDTN Sunday. Coverage begins at 11 a.m. Join us for the Countdown to Indy Special Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m.