Six years ago, motor sports executive Beth Paretta thought of a new, exciting idea. She was leaving her role at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and already noticed a shortage of qualified female engineers.
“At that point, I was looking at this in a broad way, and I met with Roger Penske because he’s a mentor,” Paretta, who also served as an executive at Aston Martin and Volkswagen Group, said. “He loved the idea for the beginning, and we wanted to work together in 2016 but it didn’t work out because of logistics.”
But when Penske purchased the NTT IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in November 2019, he created the “Race for Equality and Change” initiative, which pushes for a more diverse paddock. When Paretta called Penske this time around, not only was he all in, but he wanted to help her succeed.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have known and worked with Roger [Penske] for years,” Paretta stated on a Zoom call. “I reached out and said, ‘Hey, if there’s anything I can do to help you, please reach out. I’d love to talk to you about this concept of a women’s team.’ He said, ‘Let’s talk.’”
Just like that, Paretta Autosport, the first all-female team in the NTT IndyCar Series, is now preparing to take the green flag in the month of May for the 105th running of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
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MoneyLion, a financial services platform, just revealed it will serve as an associate sponsor for Paretta Autosport’s No. 16 Chevrolet in the Indianapolis 500. But the partnership goes beyond just a sponsorship.
Thanks to Penske’s initiative, Paretta Autosport is preparing to take the IndyCar Series by storm with its Indianapolis 500 debut.
MoneyLion will be debuting its “Women Who Roar” campaign as part of the partnership with Paretta Autosport, advancing financial empowerment, supporting women’s careers and leveling the playing field for women across a number of areas in finance, science and technology.
“This is more than a race team, this is an initiative,” Paretta said. “Girls will see a way and have a path to be independent, whether it’s job skills or financial independence.
“We have to start those conversations younger.”
Paretta Autosport will field an entry for Switzerland racer Simona de Silvestro. The small group of roughly 17 full-time employees will head to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May with a vision of not only looking to compete for the win, but to make a difference in the lives of women across the globe.
“It’s inspiring girls and encouraging them to pursue non-traditional careers,” Paretta said. “There’s so much going on technology wise, engineering wise and all of those other things we know as racing fans.”
Paretta Autosport is working with IndyCar Series powerhouse Team Penske for the Indianapolis 500. The technical alliance provides Paretta’s group a chance to review Penske’s notes at the track, as well as receive support leading up to the event.
Penske was the one who connected Paretta to MoneyLion, which sponsors some of Penske’s Nascar efforts.
“Penske introduced us to Beth and we immediately wanted to be part of what she’s doing,” Samantha Roady, chief operating officer at MoneyLion, said. “It’s much deeper than a financial sponsorship. We have shared ideals. She’s championing careers and women in the motor sports industry, and this fits perfectly with MoneyLion’s mission.”
Part of the reason why the partnership is working so well is the shared goal of helping women throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. With the economic recovery moving at a slow rate, MoneyLion believes working with Paretta Autosport will give the brand a new group of people to assist.
“We’re about financial empowerment and helping our customers by providing financial access and tools to help them take control of their finances,” Roady said. “Women need our support right now more than ever, grappling with the core issues of income inequality and not being properly represented in the executive ranks, especially in industries like technology. Women have been disproportionately impacted by Covid and had to take a step back from the workplace. We want to find ways to help.”
The “Women Who Roar” campaign will boast three major aspects, including the Play Like a Girl mentorship program; a “Women Who Roar” LinkedIn group, which launches on March 16; and a “Women Who Roar” Conversation Series,” also available on March 16 via Cheddar.com.
For de Silvestro, who is now a Porsche factory driver in Europe, the opportunity to return to the IndyCar Series is one she didn’t think would happen. But when Paretta texted her about the opportunity, she knew it was one she’d have to take.
“I always felt like getting the right shot at this race is really important,” de Silvestro said. “I’m super pumped to come back to the speedway.”
The alliance with Team Penske will enable de Silvestro to have what she believes is her best shot at winning the 500-mile spectacle. However, it’s her first IndyCar Series race since 2015, which also came at the Yard of Bricks. Her best finish in the race is 14th, coming in her rookie season in 2010.
“Why I think it’s my best shot in IndyCar is because everyone involved really believes in me and what we can achieve,” she said. “I can feel it talking to the team. They’re listening to what I’m saying and they’re getting me as comfortable as I can.”
To this day, she’s still amazed that this is happening.
“Beth put this deal together and having her call me and then Roger Penske is really important,” de Silvestro said. “I think a lot of people will watch the effort. We’re going to inspire more young girls to follow their dreams. We need female role models who can win races.”
The challenge ahead is one that Paretta Autosport is ready for. Some of the pit crew members are graduates from the Nascar Technical Institute, meaning they’re capable of changing tires and working on the racecar, too.
Five weeks into the pit crew training, Paretta believes some of the women are going to stick around the NTT IndyCar Series for years to come.
“These women were starting from scratch,” she said. “It’s an amazing evolution. The first pit stops were 18 seconds and now they’re down to seven. We have two women who can do it at four seconds.”
As for the future, Paretta Autosport plans on running a handful of NTT IndyCar Series races after the Indianapolis 500. Paretta has already circled six dates on the calendar that don’t conflict with de Silvestro’s schedule, but they won’t run all of them. However, Paretta Autosport is currently making plans to run a full season in 2022.
“We’re not just talking about it, but we’re doing it,” Paretta said. “We’re leading by example.”
Source: Forbes – Business