It’s easy to talk about improving diversity in motorsports, hard to make lasting change. Stop at a track, any track (though some forms are doing better than others) and it becomes clear that there aren’t too many women working in garages or tending to the hot pits. Now I can say from personal experience – nearly 20 years covering various forms of racing – that it’s much better than when I was a baby motorsports reporter, and it’s not just me imagining things. Data graphs on career site Zippia show that the balance of male to female motorsports techs has grown from 96.1 percent male in 2010 to 92.3 percent in 2021. anything close to equality. This is not entirely due to the evils of sexism: the number of women applying for racing jobs is not the same as that of men, and often young women studying engineering and mechanics do not even realize that motorsports work as a profession. There is an option. That’s why initiatives like PNC Bank and Chip Ganassi Racing Women in Motorsport internships are so beneficial, and it’s great news to hear that Ganassi Racing is repeating the program for 2023, with plans to continue it into the future.
The Women in Motorsport (WIM) program offers three paid internships working with Chip Ganassi Racing IndyCar teams. The goal is to bring attention to the importance of diversity in motorsports hiring and to serve as a pipeline for women in STEM studies to graduate to full-time positions. It worked as planned for Rebecca Hutton, who was one of the 2022 interns, and who will join Ganassi Racing as a simulation engineer for 2023. Hutton told me she knew she wanted to work in racing but had no idea there were so many different types of jobs in the high-tech world of modern motorsports.
“There’s definitely room for women somewhere on a race team,” Hutton said. “I think it hinders watching racing on TV and you see all these men going over the wall and you don’t see the women out there. You don’t know what’s available or how to get involved. I think a lot of people think that if you’re on a race team, you’re a mechanic.” She laughed and said, “I guess some of my friends still think I’m a mechanic.” Hutton says she likes working in simulation because she is able to design and test different chassis designs and optimizations and to see the data provided by her team make a measurable difference at next weekend’s race Is. “Building these simulations and building models is extremely heavy in vehicle dynamics, which was my favorite class in school. I had no idea that much of the fun I enjoyed in school was connected to roles within a race team, and I So glad I found something I really like.”
If Hutton wanted to be a mechanic, he could get advice from Anna Chatton, a gearbox mechanic on Scott Dixon’s #9 Indy car and a 22-year veteran as a racing tech. “I came into this with little or no support,” Chayton said. “It’s been great for me to see the transition over the past 20 years, and there certainly has been one.” But, she says, while the changes are in the right direction, racing hasn’t progressed as quickly as she would have hoped. “If you had told me when I was 20, if there would still be some female mechanics in the paddock, I would have thought you were crazy. I would have thought a lot would have happened by now.” She thinks Ganassi Programs like the PNC Internship can make a big difference, and she strives to be a part of them. “When I came into the business there was really no one for me to rely on or look up to. I have two girls, they’re seven and eight, and if they grow up to work on race cars, So I definitely want to be it.” different for them. I need to participate in that act of change in order to make it better. Even if it is emotional support for them on certain topics, that gets you. You feel less alone when someone says, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve been there.'”
It’s not just emotional support. Chayton also provides practical encouragement to interns, who may feel intimidated about the hands-on aspect of turning a wrench. “We’re not necessarily as young women. There’s a concern whether you can do it physically. I’ve always wanted to bust that myth. I’m not a huge person physically, but there’s always a smart way to Do your job. You can always get a longer wrench or a bigger breaker bar.”
For Ganassi himself, a man whose Twitter account includes posts of race results with the hashtag #ilikewinners, the Women in Motorsports initiative isn’t about personal feelings, it’s about building a better race team. “Listen, Elana,” she said before I could finish my first question, “I’ve never been one to do things because I want to check boxes. And I don’t do things because it’s a cool thing to do.” or what to do now. One thing I’m interested in in our team is performance. Women who apply to this program are driven, bring innovation and impact and need an opportunity to shine. The women on my team, they’ve been the engineers of the car that won Sebring last year, that won the Indy 500. He is here to win races and that is what he brings to the team.
He says he’s noticed enough of a difference in the team’s energy and performance that if he could keep his new employees a secret, he would. “In some sense, I don’t want anyone to know the names of these women. I don’t want any other team owners to know because I don’t want them to take them from my company. I’m kidding, but at the top of this business At the level, everyone has everything, all the same cars, technology, software. The only difference between our team and other teams is the people.” He hopes that programs like WIM will mean that future conversations need not be about creating male/female teams, as mixing would be too common to be worth talking about.
One place he thinks needs more attention is the race car itself. If women make up only about 8 percent of the motorsports workforce, the numbers behind the wheel are even worse, with only 1 to 2 percent of professional drivers being women. Ganassi says it may be related to when children are exposed to sports. The internship program aims to attract women to college and graduate school, as engineers and mechanics can switch to motorsports, even if they originally planned on something like aerospace or consumer products. Becoming a professional racer at the Indy or F1 level requires starting very early. “Most of the drivers who are in the sport today all started racing at the age of five 20 years ago. 20 years ago there were very few women who were talking about getting into motorsports. And even fewer at the age of five . She had fathers or mothers who were talking about it. But you have a lot more of it today, so I think we’ll see more women through smaller chains over the next 10 years.”
In the meantime, everyone on the Ganassi team is excited to welcome the next group of interns for 2023. , 8 Indy Cars (pictured at top). “The goal is to end up with the best possible team, and the best teams are diverse teams with unique backgrounds that can bring different perspectives to problem solving.”
The three women coming for the 2023 season are Hailey Hein, a mechanic from Arizona; Nicole Goodman, an IT specialist from Indiana; and Raegan Moody, an engineering student from Georgia. PNC Bank and Chip Ganassi Racing will accept applications for the 2024 season in the fall of 2023. Interested applicants can find out more information at ChipGanassiRacing.com/WIM.
Senior Editor, Features
Like an active sleeper agent late in the game, Elana Sharer didn’t know her calling at a young age. Like many girls, she planned to be a veterinarian-astronaut-artist, and came closest to that last one by attending UCLA art school. He painted images of cars, but did not own them. Elana reluctantly obtained her driver’s license at age 21 and found that not only did she love cars and wanted to drive them, but that other people loved cars and wanted to read about them, which Which meant someone had to write about them. Since receiving the activation code, Elana has written for a number of car magazines and websites, covering classics, car culture, technology, motorsports and new-car reviews.