Sandwiched between the United States holiday celebrating the life of slain Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., and January 20 when a new US president will be inaugurated, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES announced a new team formed by Beth Paretta. Paretta Autosport, a team geared towards motorsports opportunities for women, is entering the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge with Simona De Silvestro as the driver of the Chevrolet-powered number 16 car.
This won’t be Paretta’s first time putting together a woman-focused INDYCAR team. She formed Grace Autosport to enter the Indy 500 in 2016 with the goal of giving visibility and opportunity to women and girls in STEM careers (science, technology, engineering, and math). While Grace Autosport had all of the necessary components to race – including driver Katherine Legge, who at the time was also piloting the Nissan Delta Wing in the North American Endurance Cup – Paretta ended up pulling out after not being able to secure a viable race car.
Driver Simona De Silvestro has a deep resume in motorsports, having raced four full seasons in the INDYCAR series and winning 2010 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year. At the 2013 Grand Prix of Houston, the Swiss driver earned her first INDYCAR podium, placing second in the first race and becoming the third woman in the series with a podium finish. The other two women? None other than Danica Patrick and Sarah Fisher. Since her last full INDYCAR season in 2013, De Silvestro has been a test driver for Formula 1 and competed in Formula e and Supercars Championship, among others.
This is all part of an INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway “Race for Equality & Change” initiative announced in July of 2020. A $1 million fund was set up to support diversity in the driver pool, the SERIES workforce, promoters, and vendors, as well as fan engagement. INDYCAR isn’t the only North American series to realize a certain homogeneity in the sport. NASCAR faced a rather public reckoning in early 2020 after banning the Confederate Flag from their races. Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles said in July, “As our country has grappled with systemic issues related to race, equality and access to opportunity, we’ve been doing a lot of listening, learning and reflecting. Race for Equality & Change’ will create a more diverse and inclusive INDYCAR community that fundamentally transforms our sport.”
Also part of this initiative, the “Force Indy” team was announced in early December 2020. Team Principal Rod Reid is in the process of testing drivers, focusing on Black American men and women, to race in the 2021 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship.
While the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES calendar is still subject to change depending on the ongoing Corona virus pandemic, it is tentatively slated to start April 11 at Alabama’s Barber Motorsports Park.
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