Ganassi, PNC make push to empower women in racing: ‘Diverse teams yield better results’ Starting lineup grid for Twelve Hours of Sebring: Pipo Derani puts Cadillac on pole
(Editor’s note: This story about the Ganassi Women in Motorsports program is part of a Motorsports Talk series of women racing in March, which is Women’s History Month.)
Scott Dixon felt his daughter Tilly tug on her overalls while he was in the pits before race 106.th Indianapolis 500.
The 11-year-old girl was naturally curious about the sight, which she found both confusing and exhilarating.
Several young women, dressed in the same blue and orange uniforms as her father, a six-time IndyCar champion, performed many of the same duties that Tilly had for years when the male crew members prepped the No. 9 Dallara-Honda.
For Dixon, this remains the “penny-falling moment” when he recognized the impact of Chip Ganassi Racing’s “Women in Motorsports” internship program.
TWELVE HOURS OF SEBRING: details, schedule and information to watch Saturday’s race.
“Tilli asks me: “Hey, who are these girls and what are they doing?” it was pretty cool,” Dixon told NBC Sports. “Obviously there was a lot of good that (the trainees) brought to the team. And I think the dynamic changes a lot when you have a room full of men and you add a few women to it, it definitely changes the conversation for the better and positive. But it’s also because many of them are new to the sport who may not have just been racing fans, it also brought a different way of thinking or questioned why we do things the way we do. Which is pretty refreshing, especially when you have a team that’s been working together for so long.
“So there’s been a lot of great stuff going on throughout the season. But probably the most important thing was that Tilly asked about them, because I think at that moment she never thought – unless you were a racing girl – that you could race.
Chip Ganassi Racing and PNC Bank recently announced the second grade of their initiative to raise awareness while supporting gender equality and the economic inclusion of women in racing. Three young college women will be working with Ganassi on two-month internships (fully funded by PNC) starting with this year’s Indy 500.
Hayley Hein (off-road racer and auto maintenance technician studying mechanics at Northern Arizona University), Nicole Goodman (IT student and lab instructor at Indiana University), and Reigen Moody (engineering major at Auburn University and racing engineer at iRacing school) . team) were selected from over 150 applicants.
From last year’s 2022 first class of five, Ganassi plans to hire Rebecca Hutton as a full-time engineer after college.
“There’s a lot going on during the season and it feels like there’s a lot to learn in a short amount of time, but don’t get discouraged – just be present and absorb what you can during the internship.” – advice from 2022 @PNCBank WIM Graduate to Interns 2023 🙌 pic.twitter.com/bqs3n1v3KG
— Chip Ganassi Racing (@CGRTeams) March 14, 2023
This is in line with Ganassi’s recent history – and success – with women in the IndyCar and IMSA series. Keith Gundlach was key engineer for the 2018 championship season in Dixon’s car (and has since moved to Arrow McLaren as performance engineer). Anna Chatten is working as a gearbox mechanic on Dixon’s car this season after working on Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 last year.
Angela Ashmore returned for her fourth season as support engineer Marcus Eriksson. who won the Indy 500 last year and the opening of the season on March 5 in St. Petersburg. Daniel Shepard is Cadillac’s No. 1 Lead Engineer at this weekend’s Twelve Hours of Sebring after winning the prestigious sports car competition last year.
“In general, different teams produce better results,” Ashmore told NBC Sports. “It’s not like, ‘Hey, we’re hiring women to fill some kind of quota.’ We recruit the best people for the job. And the strongest team at Chip Ganassi is a diverse team with different backgrounds, skill sets, and expertise in different areas. So it completes our team.
“So yeah, I think it’s great to have women on our team. And I think it’s great that the women we have are competitive and not just filling a space. That they really are the best people for the job.”
International Women’s Day is designed to inspire the next generation. We are proud to support the Women In Motorsports internship program based on @PNCBank and to have incredible mentors on our CGR team!#International Women’s Day #WomenIn Motorsport pic.twitter.com/jmN9YCq3zM
— Chip Ganassi Racing (@CGRTeams) March 8, 2023
Team owner Chip Ganassi credits PNC (the main sponsor of Dixon’s No. 9) for helping increase the team’s desire to diversify their kit.
“The interest in this program is amazing,” said Ganassi, whose teams have won six Indy 500 victories and 21 championships in 33 years of racing. “When we announced the band of 2023 the other day, I bet I got notes, emails, texts, private messages from 10 people that I didn’t know were paying attention to what we were doing. And damn it, it’s a great thing.
“I’ve never been one to go and say, ‘Hey, let’s check out this field of fairness and diversity.’ I think it should be somewhat authentic and not tick. It’s authentic, #1. But more importantly, you must generate new thoughts, new approaches, and new ideas. And what a great opportunity to have a sponsor who thinks the same way. They think not so much about today, but about the future of the sport and the future of the team. And what a great way for young women to get involved. And hey, we showed whether it was last year in Indianapolis with Angela Ashmore or Sebring with Danielle.
“To have these women in key positions. It works. We don’t just tick boxes. I’m not calling for winning the Indy 500 or the Twelve Hours of Sebring as a ticked-off chief engineer.”
Dixon believes the program turned heads not only on his daughter’s Indy last year.
“I think other teams do too,” he said. “Because a lot more women came to the racetracks after that.”
The Arrow McLaren staff, which has nearly doubled this season by adding a third car, is almost 20 percent female. Many women work in the engineering department and have been hired by Gundlach, who, according to Ganassi, is “certainly a trailblazer. And she is doing a good job where she is now. She knows she can come back whenever she wants.”
Gundlach said that apart from the competitive side of her job, she is also responsible for making the IndyCar paddock more comfortable and inspiring than when she came over 10 years ago.
“I want to round up the girls and say, let me tell you something,” Gundlach told NBC Sports. “Because I know how scary it can be to be in a group and no one is like you and knows what you’re going through or the pressure you’re under. This is different. Everyone has different things. And women tend to go through that sort of thing, so I think it’s important to make sure that you allow the women that come in not to go through as hard as you do in some cases. It’s important to help people in this way.”
For engineers like Shepherd, Ashmore and Gundlach, it’s important to feel comfortable speaking up. At the highest levels of professional racing, car tuning decisions are usually made during debriefings where drivers and team members discuss ideas in joint meetings that can become contentious.
Angela Ashmore helps break down barriers like a woman in #INDICAR community.
Watch her tell the story of her pit stop when @Ericsson_Marcus won the 106th race #Indie500.
Download the NTT DATA based INDYCAR app to watch: https://t.co/vKDGlWReFn pic.twitter.com/Rb4Yq3pQbU
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) July 2, 2022
“It seems to me that women tend to be less naturally confident,” Ashmore said. “And I think even I find it hard to find the confidence to speak, even when I know I’m right or know what I’m talking about. It can be difficult when you are in a group of people, especially in Chip Ganassi Racing, you have a predominantly male group that has been doing this for a very long time. So it’s hard to say, “Actually, I don’t think you’re right about that!” ”
While she “absolutely” feels heard now, Ashmore said her first year on the team was a gradual build-up of her confidence for her.
“It takes some time to build relationships with people so that they trust you. I think it’s with everyone, not just women. When you are a new person coming in, naturally you don’t trust him from the very beginning. So it takes time to build these relationships. So now I’m kind of in the past and able to contribute and people trust what I say without questioning. They understand me, my personality and the way I talk to them. And that was the kind of handshake that had to happen. They need to understand how you communicate.”
Chatten fell in love with racing as the youngest of four girls whose father was a flat track motorcycle racer. After racing karts in high school, she moved to California after high school to pursue a career as a race mechanic. The key to her 25-year career was that she “never took no for an answer” even though she was told this because of her gender.
“Several times,” said Chatten, who cut his job down to two daughters before returning full-time last year. “Now it’s getting smaller and smaller. People didn’t tell me much, but you just have to be ready to move forward. It has been an experience for me and as my skill set has grown I have more confidence in what I have to say and it is not gender specific but for everyone in this business. The difference is that…