May 18, 2018
Squeals erupted from a crowd of IPS high school girls when IndyCar driver Danica Patrick walked into the room. The racing icon was one of several featured speakers for the inaugural Fuel the Female program on May 15 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS).
The program’s mission is to give young women the opportunity to experience various jobs available in the racing industry and inspire them to follow their dreams.
That’s exactly what Patrick did.
“Find something you actually freaking like to do,” Patrick said. “I wouldn’t say I ever had people tell me I couldn’t do this, but I don’t doubt that there were many people that didn’t think I could do this. You can feel that. So, I defied expectations and look what I’ve achieved.”
Sixty girls from most of IPS’ high schools attended the event. For many of them, it was their first trip to the speedway. It was also their first time imagining a career in motorsports.
“As women, we get to see women racing engineers. It’s like women empowerment right now because they’re showing us that women can do jobs that everyone thinks only men can do,” said Davion M., a senior at George Washington Community High School. “It helps us know that we can do anything. I think it’s amazing.”
In addition to Patrick, the girls heard from other women motorsports professionals like Cara Adams, Firestone Racing engineer, and Kate Gundlach, Ganassi Racing engineer. Both said their careers started with a love for math and science.
“I use numbers in my job everyday as I’m figuring out things like fuel economy for my driver, Scott Dixon’s car,” said Gundlach. “Computing the figures accurately can mean the difference between him winning and losing a race, so it’s one of the most important jobs on pit row.”
Jasmine T. and Diamond A. are friends and freshmen at Arsenal Technical High School. They were buzzing with excitement the moment they stepped off of the bus at IMS. Both have interests in cars and mechanics.
“This day has been inspiring in every single way,” said Jasmine.
Jasmine has loved cars as a hobby since she was a young girl. But, it wasn’t until this program that she started thinking about a career working on cars.
Diamond was already thinking about a career with cars; she’s in Tech’s automotive program. But, now she’s thinking more about becoming a mechanic in the racing industry.
“Listening to the female engineers talk about their jobs has encouraged me to think bigger,” said Diamond.
Fuel the Female is the brainchild of Katie Hargitt. She used to be a racecar driver and is currently an IndyCar pit reporter for NBCSports. But, when she got the idea for this program in the middle of the night a few months ago, she wasted no time pulling the support together to make it happen.
“I have always been a huge advocate for powerful women,” said Hargitt. “When I walked in this morning, I got goosebumps when I saw the girls get off the bus and saw how excited they were. I don’t want to wake up from this dream.”
In addition to listening to the speakers, including Bridgestone Americas Director of Motorsports Lisa Boggs, the girls also got some hands-on opportunities in the garage and got a front-row seat to watch day one of practice laps.
To learn more about Fuel the Female, go to www.fuelthefemale.com