Many women in male-dominated arenas have experienced it before: You know you’re capable and qualified to complete a task, but because no one has ever given you a shot at trying it, no one actually knows that you can do it. It’s an experience felt time and again by women engineers, mechanics, and drivers in the racing scene — but it’s a barrier that Paretta Autosport has already started to break down.
“Two of our employees last year came from NASCAR Penske and have since moved on to the IndyCar side,” Beth Paretta, founder and team principal of Paretta Autosport, told Jalopnik at the Music City Grand Prix. “Another employee worked for Roush in NASCAR at the shop, but she’s since been promoted and supports the team on the road.”
Paretta then laughed. “It’s our loss, but it proves that this is working. These women are getting exposure and then getting the opportunity.”
Beth Paretta has been trying to get a female-forward racing team off the ground for years. Her first effort came in 2015 with Grace Autosport, an all-women Indy 500 team with a car destined to be piloted by Katherine Legge... if only things had worked out. The crew was unable to secure the right equipment, and the program fell through.
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Thankfully, Paretta came back for a second shot in 2021, fielding Simona de Silvestro in that year’s Indy 500. For 2022, Paretta skipped the Indy 500 in favor of putting together a more comprehensive four-race program on road and street circuits as a way to make the most of the team’s budget.
“Women have always been in racing,” Paretta said. “We all know the women throughout history, like Anita Millican, but the fact that we can recite them all is the problem.
“I like to use the analogy that women in the paddock have been like drops of food coloring in the ocean. I’m just trying to put all the drops of food coloring in one glass. We’re not doing anything differently from the women who have already been in racing, but the visual is powerful.”
In addition to racing, Paretta Autosport has a strong commitment to introducing the next generation of race fans to motorsport. As we wrapped up our chat, both Paretta and de Silvestro headed off to greet a group of school children, mostly young girls, and give them a tour of the paddock.
“I started watching racing as a kid, but I never thought that it was something I could be part of, that it was also a way to have a career and a salary,” Paretta said. “I don’t know if any of those girls are already race fans, but if even one of them goes on to buy a ticket or think, ‘I want to be like those mechanics,’ then I’ve done my job.”
It could be a big ask. Then again, just a few hours later, I had a chat with Cara Adams of Firestone. She told me how, during a tour of the tire tent, a girl from that same group of kids told her classmates she’d learned all about the tires from a mechanic, and proceeded to explain why wet-weather tires have grooves and slicks don’t. The next generation of female race fans looks very promising indeed.