Alivia Mattioli: Manager, Partner Strategy, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

You have been around motorsports your entire life, but why are you passionate about it?

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The business of racing runs deep in my blood. That’s the product of growing up trackside at the race track my family owns and operates. I attended my first family reunion at the track just after my first birthday and attended races every year since. There’s a sense of pride that comes with that. It makes me want to continue to work within the industry, contribute to the family legacy and create my own identity. That’s what led me to trade in my grandstand tickets for an employee badge and begin my internship. The flame sparked, and it hasn’t dimmed since. 

What did you learn from growing up with a family involved in the sport?

At a young age, I learned to look through a unique lens. I’d be in the board room for discussions with existing partners and new brands looking to enter the motorsports landscape. I wanted to be part of the discussion, not just in the room. So, I expanded my tool box, so-to-speak, to come to the table with relevant and informative data. I’d attend other sporting events and concerts to view how other facilities operated- signage, display spaces, fan clubs, concessions, parking, security, etc. 

Overall, I organically picked up skill sets through the business practices that I was being exposed to at Pocono. I wasn’t given a check list of tasks; Rather, I was learning from hands-on experience and given confidence to tackle projects. 

Why was it important to you to branch out from the family business?

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Beginning to work at a young age jump-started my career. It allowed me to explore opportunities at unique stages. I relocated to North Carolina to attend college at Elon University. Elon was close in proximity to several areas that interested me. In one direction, I was about 2 hours from the hub of NASCAR in Mooresville/Charlotte. Elon was also close to Pocono’s sister-track South Boston Speedway, South Boston, Virginia. I worked at South Boston (SoBo) on race weekends and that allowed me to expand my resume and skill sets with relevant experience. Relevant experience and diversity were important to me. I felt it was valuable to understand multiple facets of the industry. Pocono and the track-side were just one facet. I wanted exposure to the series/sanctioning body, history that I witnessed through working for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, operational aspects through working for South Boston Speedway, and media relationships through shadowing MRN Radio. Each industry segment contributes a piece to the overall puzzle- and I set out to see what it would take to create the whole puzzle. 

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

As a Manager of the Partner Strategy team I maintain relationships with 14 partners of the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Verizon is my primary account. Each account is unique within their given industry segment. Their products/services, goals, and marketing efforts are also unique and differ from one another. My accounts range from the Official Chassis Supplier (Dallara) to the Official Soft Drink (Coca-Cola). My role includes traveling the Verizon IndyCar Series circuit, along with participation in the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. While traveling the Verizon IndyCar Series circuit, a reoccurring activity that I manage is the Verizon P1 Award Ceremony. The Verizon P1 Award recognizes the driver that finishes in the first position in Qualifying. There’s an award ceremony that follows Qualifying. I really enjoy that part of my job because it ties in partner assets with competition and teams. It allows for additional exposure to race weekend activities on an operational level in an action-packed environment on Pit Lane. There’s work behind the scenes that takes place in the off-season to design and order trophies, flags, medallion decals, and team hats. All elements are included in the ceremony for each event weekend.

Day-to-day responsibilities include managing partner assets at each venue. Assets range based on the partner and could include signage, digital assets, PA reads, reserved seating, suite tickets, parade car rides, two-seater rides, and honorary roles. 

There is just as much work to be accomplished in the off-season. The off-season allows for the series and partners to realign on initiatives that support their business objectives. We meet with partners to learn about their new marketing initiatives and messaging for the following year, present the series’ marketing plans, and plan out the next season. Planning includes identifying key markets for partner activation and promotion. It also includes reviewing internal procedures and activities (like the P1 Award) that take place each event weekend during the season. Additionally, we utilize the off-season to work with tracks to construct deals for the following season that encompasses the desired assets on behalf of the partner. 

What is your greatest achievement?

Honestly, all achievements up to this point have been a combination of choices paired with hard work. Each choice I’ve made from my first internship at 15, attending Elon, working at South Boston Speedway, and moving to France and back have led me to where I am today. Some of my greatest achievements are still in front of me and I keep striving for more. 

What are your goals within, and outside of, motorsports?

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Within motorsports, my goal is to continue exceling in my current role. This is my 3rdseason with the Verizon IndyCar Series, but there is plenty to learn. The motorsports landscape continues to evolve and that presents opportunities and challenges for continued development and growth.

Outside of motorsports, European travel is a passion of mine. I enjoy researching trips and experiences in Italy and France. After the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series Champion is crowned in Sonoma, I’ll be traveling to Paris and the French Riviera for some R&R. Later in the fall my mom and I are traveling to Rome for Thanksgiving for her first trip to Italy. I’m really looking forward to experiencing that with her and watching her take in the Roman culture. It’ll be my third time in Rome so I’m considering myself her travel guide for this trip. 

What advice would you give to a younger woman hoping to become involved in motorsports? 

First, develop a relationship with a strong and knowledgeable mentor. They’ll be your sounding board while you navigate through important decisions and transitional periods. Stay focused on your goal and don’t allow others to deter you from succeeding. Put yourself out there and take every opportunity presented to you- no matter how big or small. Job shadow and/or intern in areas that interest you. It’s important to get your foot in the door and explore those opportunities.

I’d also share this speech that Denzel Washington read at a commencement ceremony that a mentor shared to motivate and encourage me:

“I'm sure people have told you to make sure you have something to fall back on. Be sure you have something to fall back on. I never understood that concept of having something to fall back on. If I'm going to fall, I don't want to fall back on anything, except my faith. I want to fall forward. Fall forward. This is what I mean. Reggie Jackson struck out twenty-six hundred times in his career, the most in the history of baseball. You don’t hear about the strikeouts, people remember the homeruns. Fall forward. Thomas Edison conducted one thousand failed experiments, but the one thousand first was the light bulb. Fall forward. Every failed experiment is one step closer to success.”

 

Hannah Mayberry: Video Editor

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When you grow up in Indiana, you know about the Indianapolis 500. I remember an art assignment to draw your favorite Indycar in elementary school. I remember poring over the front page of the Indianapolis Star to find out where my favorite drivers had qualified (Scott Goodyear, Mario Andretti, and Lyn St. James). I remember listening to the race on the radio, then begging to stay up late to watch the whole broadcast that night, even though I already knew the outcome. 

For the Month of May, racing was a Very Big Deal to this Indiana kid. But it was only for that month. Racing wasn’t something I thought much about the rest of the year. It didn’t even occur to me that I could be part of the motorsports world. So how did I end up as an editor at IMS Productions, spending a lot of my time looking at race cars on a video monitor?

For me, it started with stories, stories of any kind, any medium, any genre. I loved to read, to watch TV, and especially go to the movie theater. I don’t remember it, but my mom likes to tell the story of my first trip to a movie theater. We saw 101 Dalmatians. She says I sat there and stared, blindly taking bites of popcorn and sips of soda, my eyes never leaving the screen.

Of course, a lot of kids like movies. It's not that unusual. But for me, it didn’t stop with just enjoying the movie. I wanted to know more. I wanted to understand how they were made. I wanted to know about the writer, the actors, the director, everyone behind the scenes.

When I got to my junior year of high school, I started thinking seriously about my future. Where should I go to college? What should I study? What do I want to do with my life? The only thing I knew for certain was that I wanted to be involved in film and television somehow. I wanted to help tell stories.

The summer before my senior year, my mom and I visited family in the Los Angeles area. My mom convinced me to go on a tour of the University of Southern California campus. I wasn’t planning on going that far away from home for college, but its film school has a great reputation, so I decided to at least check it out. By the end of the tour, I'd decided it was the place I wanted to be.

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USC offered some specific tracks of study, like screenwriting, production, or animation, but since I was unsure about what specific path I wanted to take, I enrolled as a cinema-television studies major. I hoped that would give me time to find out what I really wanted to do within the entertainment world, and it did.

I took a class called “Cinema-Television Production.” It’s a required class for every student of the film school. In the class, each student makes a series of short films in a three week cycle. The first week was pre-production. You write your film, cast it, figure out where to shoot, etc. The second week was production. You’d borrow one of the school’s cameras and shoot your film. The third week was post-production. You’d take the footage you shot into one of the school computer labs and edit it into your final product. At the end of the three weeks, you’d screen your finished film to the class and discuss it. Then, you’d start the cycle all over again the next week.

I discovered quickly that the part of the process I loved was editing. It was fascinating to me that you can change the meaning or the mood of a scene by switching the order of shots, or changing their length. Editing is like putting a puzzle together, but there’s no one right way to do it. After that production class ended, I took a class that was focused on editing. That class confirmed for me that I’d found what I wanted to do. I also started working at USC’s student run TV station as an editor.

After I graduated, I struggled to find work right away. Honestly, it was pretty discouraging. I had utility bills, rent, and loan payments looming. I researched production houses in Los Angeles. I made calls, and sent resumes and demos. I finally got a few interviews, but they went nowhere. Then, finally, I got two part-time jobs in the same week. The hours were long, and usually on nights and weekends, but I learned a lot. I worked at both of those jobs for about six months, before I decided that Los Angeles wasn't home, and my future was in Indiana.

When I moved back home to Indiana, I went through the same discouraging job hunt. I researched production houses in Indianapolis, made calls, and sent resumes and demos, but no one was hiring. I couldn't even get an interview this time. I was living with my parents, my job search going nowhere for months, wondering if I'd made a big mistake. Then, I found out the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was hiring seasonal employees for the summer. I decided it might be healthy to pause my search for an editing job and just find a job.

In April of 2006, I started working at the gift shop in the IMS Hall of Fame Museum. It wasn't the job I dreamed of getting, but I finally felt like I was moving forward, not backward. At the end of the summer, I got an opportunity to stay on with the Speedway and move over to the gift shop's mail order warehouse. I decided to take the opportunity, but I also planned to return to my search for an editing job. I had no idea at the time, but I would end up finding the job I wanted very soon, and very nearby.

I'd worked in mail order a few months when I saw an IMS job posting for a “videotape librarian” at IMS Productions. The mail order office was in a building called the Brickyard Plaza, right across the street from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. IMS Productions was just a few doors down in the same building. When I had my interview, all I had to do was walk a few hundred feet to IMSP's office.

I didn't get the job as the video librarian right away, but I was hired as a logger. I started working part-time at IMSP in February of 2007. By May, I was full time as the video librarian. I learned a lot, and fast, about the business and racing. My supervisors knew I wanted to edit, and gave me chances to cut videos whenever possible. I took advantage of those chances and learned from the editors already on staff. (Thanks Mark, R. Dave, and Courtney!) By 2009, I was a full-time editor.

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We work on a lot of racing projects at IMSP for IndyCar and IMS, but we have a lot of other projects outside the motorsports world. I've work on videos to help raise funds for Eskenazi Health. I cut a series of videos leading up to the last summer Olympics on everything from rugby to rowing. I've edited :30 spots and 30 minute TV shows. It's a wide variety, but whatever the project is, they're all stories that I'm helping to tell.

It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. My career path took some strange and unexpected turns along the way. You never know where and when you'll find the right opportunity that opens the right door. When I took that job at the IMS gift shop, I had no idea it would get me where I wanted to go, but it did. I can't say that working in motorsports was a childhood dream of mine, but I think that Indiana kid who grew up loving the Indy 500 would be pretty happy about where she ended up.

Amanda Busick: NHRA & Formula E Reporter/Host

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I had a moment this morning on the way to the airport of sheer disbelief at what the last two and a half years of my life have looked like. On January 2nd, 2016 I landed in Los Angeles with three overweight suitcases and a heart full of hope for the second chance at a dream. The funny thing about dreams is we are all told to have one but rarely does someone tell you how to survive them. Just one year earlier from arriving in Los Angeles I was coming to the conclusion that maybe my dream in this lifetime just wasn’t going to happen for me.

In 2010 I moved from my home state of North Carolina to New York City with the dream of being a sports reporter. I worked for a sports agent during the day and waited tables at night in order to live there. It would take me almost two years to finally convince a digital college sports property in Chicago to hire me as as a production assistant. I loaded everything that I could fit from my apartment into the back of a rented minivan and convinced my best friend to drive 16 hours west with me to the Windy City. I lived on an air mattress for the next 3 months and eventually picked up another restaurant gig to help make ends meet. For my efforts behind the camera, I was awarded a few on-camera interviews here and there and in the fall of 2014 I landed my first sideline role with Time Warner Cable Sports covering High School Football Championships back in North Carolina. Shortly after, I signed with an agent and finally felt a bit more hopeful that this crazy pursuit of mine may actually come true. 

In early 2015 my mom would suffer an unfortunate circumstance that led me to take a more steady sales job in Boston, Massachusetts selling meat from Maine to Maryland. By April we were both living together in a one-bedroom, 440 sq ft apartment as I sold Italian sausage out of our freezer. I can only imagine how crazy this story sounds to you... but I had truly moved into a good place of acceptance in putting my dreams behind me and was embracing my new career path and life in Boston. 

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Then the phone rang. It was July and a sports media mentor I had come across in New York City called to fill me in on opportunity that my skills may be a fit for- “What do you know about drag racing?” I can still hear the words. “The long, skinny things with the parachutes? Not too much.” Growing up in Greensboro, North Carolina we were surrounded by motorsports. On weekends we would go up to 311 Speedway in Madison, North Carolina to watch super late models take to the dirt track or to Bowman-Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem where I’d count down the minutes to the demolition derby, Piedmont Dragway is less than 2 miles from my Aunt & Uncle’s house in Julian, North Carolina but I had never been to a marquee NHRA National event.

I spent the next three months researching everything I could find about drag racing and in October of 2015 I flew myself down to Dallas to attend my first NHRA National event. In context, the NHRA’s then broadcast partnership with ESPN was coming to a close at the end of the year and the league was preparing to bring all production in-house for their 2016 season on Fox Sports. I had prepared two reports I wanted to present to my now boss- one on the 30th Anniversary of Texas Motorplex & one on Texas drivers competing in their home state. I interviewed the Pro Stock champion Erica Enders (who would go on to win the race), the 8-time Top Fuel World Champ Tony Schumacher & even got my first baptism by Nitro while interviewing former Funny Car driver John Hale in the pits as a warm-up was going on beside us. To say I was blown away by the event, the drivers, the fans, the competition is an understatement! At the close of the weekend, the NHRA invited me to the Finals in Pomona and to help our with their red carpet interviews at the Mello Yello Champions awards dinner. On November 16th, 2015 after my red carpet duties we over, I was offered a multi-media reporter position with the NHRA and a second shot at my dream. 

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Now into my third season with the National Hot Rod Association, I look back in gratitude on the risk the sport took on an unknown reporter with still very little experience who was at the time selling meat in Boston. When I tell you I have the best job as a reporter in sports, I am not embellishing on my words. There is no better feeling than at 11am on Sunday Eliminations. For the next 5 hours, the unpredictable chaos, shocking upsets, raw and vulnerable emotion will move us through 4 Rounds of racing until 1 winner in each category will raise a coveted Wally. It’s truly what dreams are made of and a honor to experience these moments alongside the best drivers in the world.

And like Sunday Eliminations my professional journey has also been one of unpredictable chaos. Trust your instinct, trust the process, be relentless, find the people who believe in you and show yourself some kindness along the way. While the path to your passions will be full of highs and lows I hope there is comfort in knowing we are all just trying to survive the dream.

Kymberly Booth Higgs: Motorsports Television Producer

My home is filled with equal parts Hot Wheels and baby dolls. I navigate strewn-
about Lego rockets and porcelain tea sets while teaching my two daughters how to change diapers, change the oil in their dad’s truck, change the channel to something
of quality, and above all, to change preconceptions.

My sister and I did not grow up at ballet recitals or princess parties, but, instead, at
the racetrack from the time we were tiny, enjoying weekend after weekend all over
the nation with our whole family together, either racing or watching. Our parents
were always encouraging our strengths and were attuned to our innate abilities.
Early on, they recognized and fostered my desire to be a journalist, to tell stories
that I thought deserved to be heard.

Eventually, I managed to combine those two interests of auto racing and journalism
to form a rewarding (and exciting) career in sports television. I have traveled the
world to produce sporting events for the past 21 years: the Indianapolis 500, the
Olympics, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Daytona 500, the Formula 1 US Grand Prix,
the US Nationals, the X Games, the Burton US Open, and the list goes on ...

When I was 17 on a family vacation for World of Speed at the Bonneville Salt Flats,
my dad challenged me to take the opportunity to write about what I saw and heard,
interview the intriguing characters risking it all for a land speed record, and then try
to sell my work to automotive magazines. I did, and they bought.
From there, I continued to write freelance articles for the auto racing industry
through the rest of high school and while at college. I also started working for an
NHRA Pro Stock team as their marketing and public relations director, which then
lead to numerous other similar opportunities with other race teams–all while I was
still a student.

On one assignment for a magazine feature, I met an impressive group of talented
producers from a production company also covering the same event (Lyn St. James’
Driver Development Program) for a segment on ESPN’s Scholastic Sports America.
They encouraged me to try my hand at the television side of the business, and they
offered me an internship at Lingner Group Productions in Indianapolis, during
which I learned more than any college course could ever hope to cover.

Just before graduation, the course of my future was determined over appetizers at
Rick’s Boatyard Café in Indianapolis.During the month of May in 1998, I had been working for Pennzoil Panther Racing, and Pennzoil was paying to fly me back and forth in first class to Indy from college in Missouri. The night after the 500, I had a meeting with Doug Boles, now President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Terry Lingner, now Indycar Producer for
NBC, at Rick’s. Doug made his case for me to stay working for the race team, but
Terry claimed that in TV, “We win every week.” After coming off a couple of seasons
working for teams that sometimes even struggled to qualify, I was ready for some
wins.

I spent the next five years soaking in the immeasurable creativity, constant
innovation, indescribable camaraderie, persevering work ethic, and pure joy with
which every employee at Linger Group pursued their passion. Sometimes I would go
for months at a time without a day off, but someone else was paying for me to see
the world, one weekend and one racetrack at a time. There were dues to be paid,
and the young, eager storyteller in me was good for every penny.

Eventually, I left Indianapolis for the freelance television market and moved to
southern California to marry an Air Force officer and start a family. At the time, there were very few women working in motorsports who lived this crazy on-the-
road life and had children, but I was determined to try. Now, I am pleased to know at least a dozen women with whom I share stories of tiny babies in hotel rooms and on
cross-country airplanes, finding last-minute childcare in random cities,
remembering ear protection for toddlers when they come to the racetrack, and
never knowing whose racecar you’re going to find your preschooler strapped into
next.

Because of my chosen profession, and due in huge measures to both the incredible
people who make up the motorsports industry and to my husband’s unwavering
support, my daughters have experienced more travel, more variety, more exposure
to new and fascinating adventures in their short lives than most people hope to in a
lifetime.

I have been fortunate to tell the stories of both dominant championships and
miserable heartbreak. I have learned from patient pioneers of this business and
influenced green rookies. I have witnessed the new life of fresh talent and
experienced the agony of watching our sport take one of our own. I have produced
television on spectacular beaches, in barren deserts, in the European countryside,
on towering mountaintops, and on the teeming streets of the world’s largest cities.

I have managed talented production teams from Terre Haute to Twin Ring Motegi,
Darlington to Mont Tremblant, South Boston to Le Mans. Because I have opted to
keep the scenery fresh in my career, I am fortunate to be on a first-name basis with celebrated drivers in all forms of North American motorsports: NASCAR, Indycar, NHRA, Sportscar, Off-Road, Motocross, USAC. I consider it a privilege and an honor to be the only person, man or woman, to produce television shows from each of the tracks (the paved oval, the infield road course, the dirt track and the drag strip) at several of the mega motorsports complexes in the country.

I have told the stories of shocking victors, families who have called our sport home
for four generations, severely injured drivers who have returned in triumphant
style, a young woman under high pressure and an iconic veteran who claimed
unforeseen championship together, a legendary father and son who raced together
for the first and last time, a mythical cowboy making his final stage exit, and drivers
whose long journeys took them from reviled to embraced.

Mine is a race without a clear finish line, and so the adventure continues.

As my parents did for my sister and I, my husband and I encourage our two
daughters to find their passion, to recognize what they love, and to do the hard work
to make a life for themselves that will be both fulfilling and full of adventure. It's a challenging path, but it has worked for me.

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Liz Prestella: NASCAR Tire Specialist & Mechanic

What is your current role in NASCAR?

I’m a tire specialist for the 37 Chevy of Chris Buescher in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series with JTG Daugherty Racing. As the Tire Specialist, my role is everything involving the tires on and off the track. I mark all the wheel weights, measure roll out and tread depths, record all the data off the tires and put them in sets along with set and monitor all the air pressure in all the tires throughout the weekend. On any given weekend I could have anywhere from 10 to 20 sets of tires between practice sets and race sets. At the shop my duties include maintaining all tool boxes and carts that travel with us each week, make sure the correct sponsor decals and wrap are on the hauler for the current paint scheme, and keep up with all our wheels and tires in inventory at the champion warehouse we use to transport our wheels.

How did you become interested in motorsports?

Growing up I was the youngest of three girls and always close to my dad. We have very similar personalities that sometimes drives my mom crazy.  A family tradition of ours was to watch NASCAR races on the weekends whenever we weren’t at soccer tournaments. When I was 12 we went to my first NASCAR race and I was hooked on everything about it, the sounds the smells the atmosphere and above all the mechanics’ that went into what they were doing.  When I turned 14 I told my parents I wanted to take auto shop to learn how to work on cars, which solidified my passion for cars and racing. By the end of that school year I was convinced I was going to work in NASCAR and I was going to be a mechanic no matter what it took that’s where my passion and my heart was.

You moved literally across the country to follow motorsports. Why?

The more time I spent learning and working on cars the more I knew what I wanted and there was no changing my mind. By the end of my junior year of high school I was signed up to attend UTI and take the NASCAR based program once I graduated high school. That program was based in North Carolina so that meant 3 months after I turned 18 in 2007. My parents packed me up and moved me 2200 miles from California to Mooresville, North Carolina where I knew no one and my closest family was in California. After finishing the program I worked several different jobs from quick lube oil changer to service advisor.

How did you finally break into NASCAR?

 I got an internship with Jennifer Jo Cobb on her truck team in 2012. I took that opportunity to be a sponge and absorb everything I could learn. I interned with her for about 2 months before she brought me on full time as her interior specialist/ rear tire changer/ suspension builder/ decal specialist/ team organizer. I wore many hats at her team before we parted ways mid-season 2013. I joined Xcalibur Pit School to refine my tire changing skills while I figured out my next move. Through Xcalibur I was connected with Derrike Cope and Jay Robinson. After working several races for the xfinity team Derrike owned Jay asked me to join his cup team Identity Ventures at the time now Premium Motorsports as a tire changer and tire specialist. I was with Jay for a year and half changing tires on his cup car and being the tire specialist before Tommy Baldwin of Tommy Baldwin Racing asked Jay if he could hire me as a tire specialist in 2015. I worked for Tommy until his team shut the doors in the end of 2016 that was when I found my new home with JTG Racing when they started a second team. I have been with JTG since the start of 2017 as the tire specialist of the 37.

Now that you are living your dream job. What’s next on your bucket list?

I made a plan several years ago of my goals in racing before I would be happy and satisfied with coming off the road since currently I travel on average of 40 weeks a year 3-4 days a week. Some of those goals were get 5 wins, get a win as a tire changer, and win a championship. I’m still working on those goals and will hopefully be able to check them off my list soon. Outside of racing one of my life goals is my clothing line I started in 2017. It is called Torq’d Clothing and is workwear with a feminine twist. Torq’d is a clothing line designed for women in racing and automotive industries because one of the biggest struggles I have faced is finding work clothes that can actually hold up to the daily grind that is involved in racing and working on cars. Currently I am getting ready to go into production on the first ever women’s work pants designed for women that wrench, I also have shirts on my website directed towards women mechanics’. All the shirts have cute racing and car sayings on them like “Not sure if that’s grease or mascara” and “The only negative thing in your life should be camber” or my all-time favorite saying “Make your own sandwich, I’ll be in the garage”. Long term I plan on offering work pants, work shorts, button up shirts, and jackets all designed for women to work on cars of all types. Once I finish the first run of my pants I will be doing a run of shorts before I tackle the button up shirts. You can find the clothing line on Twitter and Instagram at @torq_d and on Facebook at Torq’d Clothing. The website is torqd.myshopify.com .

What advice do you have for other women who want to become a tire specialist or mechanic? 

Don’t take anything personal, always stand your ground, keep your head down and work hard people notice even if you don’t think they see you, always go for the job you don’t think you can get and be proud of who you are don’t ever let anyone squash your spirit or your personality. One thing I’ve learned from spending 90% of my life surrounded by guys is they don’t think before they speak and don’t realize how they come off to people. I know it’s hard to not take things personal but leaving your feelings at the door will save you from a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of tears. Honestly those guys aren’t worth you getting upset over because then they win even if they don’t see it you still let them get to you and affect your passion. If you always stand your ground and don’t back down from what you believe or what you know is right you will never have to deal with the “bullies” that you may encounter. If you can keep your head down and work your butt off you’d be surprised at how many people on larger teams will notice and comment amongst themselves about how hard of a worker you are. When there is an opening with one of those teams always apply for it because you never know what could happen,  they will remember what kind of worker you are and other opportunities will come from it. The worse that can happen is you don’t get it, it’s not going to hurt you or do anything to you physically. It not a gremlin or a critter that will bite you or hurt you.  Also never regret any decision you make with your career, everything you do will teach you very valuable lessons in life good or bad.  Lastly you need to be proud of who you are and stay true to yourself, not everyone is going to like you. Who care you don’t need every person in the world to like you or accept you for who you are as long as you are happy and enjoy your life. If you’re dorky or like weird thing or have weird interested embrace it and enjoy your life, you are doing what you love and what your passion is why let someone else run your life. 

It’s your life you live it how you want to

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Gail Truess: Verizon IndyCar Series AMR Safety Team Driver & Mazda Road to Indy Pace Car Driver

My destiny with automobiles is in my DNA, I just never knew it.  I was born and raised in Waterford, MI as the middle kid with two brothers. Dad was an Engineer at General Motors, Mom, CEO of the household.  Childhood was full of adventures of travel, camping and anything to do with water.  Cars didn’t come along until I was at Michigan Technology University in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula.

Accelerate forward to junior year at MTU. The oldest, longest, toughest PRO Rally in the US was held in my small college town. It was called Press On Regardless. My roommate and I found these cars and teams interesting so we became involved with the local car club that hosted the event. Our involvement led to a friendship with a team from New Zealand. One day prior to race weekend we were invited to go tire testing out in the woods. Rally cars race on closed backroads in all conditions, seasons and surfaces. Of course I said yes! It became the life changing sideways three miles that grabbed my being and slid my life in a new direction. I was helmeted, 5 point harnessed into a Mazda RX-7 and taken for the ride of my life! The car was never straight, the sound of the rocks hitting the car deafening. Defining moment was when the driver took the car across a stream on a wooden bridge with the front wheels on one side and the rear tires on the other.  My comment at the end was “I need to do this”. And I did.

I was offered a job out of college with a factory sponsored rally team in Midland, MI. This is a point in my life where circumstances provided opportunity. My rally career had begun and thru our participation at the Pikes Peak Hillclimb we knew Wally Dallenbach Sr, Chief Steward for CART. He brought us into the world of open wheel racing. Our rally team was sponsored by Oldsmobile and this manufacturer was to be the Official Pace Car for the 1985 Indy 500. Our shop was chosen to help with the build of the car, testing at the GM Proving Grounds in Arizona and accompany to the Indy 500. When I attended the Indy 500 with the pace car I saw there was a team of all women race car drivers called the PPG Pace Car Team. They had the best job ever, I have to do this. And I did, 10 years later. I had very little racing experience at that time so I went to work improving my skills. Not just the science of driving but running a business, team logistics and how to promote myself and team. I finally got “the call” and asked to be a member of the PPG Pace Car Team! This group of female racers traveled with the series giving rides at the race tracks in specialty built vehicles provided by the manufacturers. The job evolved into being the actual pace car driver for the races. Life was good, I won a national driver championship in rallying and I was a pace car driver!

Tangents and opportunities kept occurring during this time. We had a client at the rally shop that was doing training for sales consultants at Mercedes Benz. MB recognized in the late 80’s that the female in a relationship was 75% of the decision maker toward a purchase; they needed female driving instructors to train from our perspective. I was invited to a ride and drive program and asked to drive a slalom, I hit every cone! Not a good way to impress someone with my skills.  Fortunately I had many talented mentors who helped me in every way.  I was honored to be chosen and trained to teach these types of programs which I still do today. 

In December of 1997 I got notice that the series I worked for, Champ Car was merging with the Indy Racing League (IRL). Bad news, our pace car team was eliminated, good news, I eventually transferred to IRL and became part of the Safety Team as the driver for the Medical Team. I’ve now been with IndyCar for 10 years. My job has evolved to include my past experience as I now also pace all the races for our support series and give fun rides around the track to our guests.

Back to my DNA. Later in life I learned my Grandfather was instrumental in the creation of the General Motors Proving Grounds in Milford, MI his brother, my Uncle Ernie a test driver and Dad an Engineer at GM. Was I born to do this? I think so.

Racing is not easy, because… “If it were easy, someone else would be doing it” and always” Play Hard or Go Home”….and on the back of all of my rally cars…”Girls Kick Butt”.

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Lauren Stewart: Race Promotions

Hello! My name is Lauren. I was born and raised in Jacksonville, Illinois, but Indiana is my home now! I took a two year detour to Tampa, Florida on my route to Indy and I have been here for six years now. I have been involved in racing, in some way, since I was in my momma’s belly! My story is full of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but…that’s racing. 

The beginning…My parents own and operate their own company, Fast Lane Racing Apparel. They sell event merchandise at various racetracks and events across the country. When I was younger, my parents did a lot of NASCAR races, but they were always involved in sprint car racing, too. From the time I was old enough to say, “twenty dollars, please”I was in the merchandise trailer helping out. I didn’t have a “normal”upbringing by any means, but traveling and being at the races was normal for us! I was so lucky to be raised in a racing family.

Outside of working for my parents in the merchandise business, my first job in the industry was at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. I was Miss Eldora Speedway in 2010/2011. I was never a pageant girl and I had never done anything like that, but I ended up having the best experience! I got paid to represent one of the best dirt tracks in the country…how cool is that?! As Miss Eldora Speedway, my duties included engaging with fans, sharing my knowledge of the sport with those fans, and traveling to other tracks to continue to represent the brand. Yes, I was a “trophy girl,”but my position was so much more than that! I am so fortunate to be able to still represent Eldora from time to time…you’ll see more about that this weekend when I’m wearing my Miss Eldora hat at the All Star Circuit of Champions race on Saturday! 

While I was Miss Eldora, I had the pleasure of meeting so many awesome people all over the country, but my favorite person I met along the way…Bryan Clauson. At the time, Bryan was driving for Tony Stewart Racing and I was working a TSR event in Knoxville, Iowa. We met in August 2010, went on our first date (Eldora Speeday banquet) in January 2011, and we were together ever since!

In 2012, I interned with the International Motorsports Industry Show under the marketing coordinator. My next internship was at Andretti Autosport with their client services team. 

The one thing all of my experiences had in common up to this point: really awesome, really talented female boss/mentors! Starting from the beginning, I had my mom to look up to. As I get older, I have become more and more impressed and in awe of my parents and the success they have had with their business. My mom can hustle with the best of them and she’s worked long, hard hours my whole life. I definitely got my work ethic and my drive (OK, and my feistiness!) from my mother. She raised me to be tough and independent and I’m so glad that she did. 

Misha Geisert at Eldora Speedway/Tony Stewart Racing, Jamie Harding at IMIS, Laura Cooper at Andretti - I learned so much about the industry, and life in general, from these women and I’m proud and thankful to have them all in my corner!

I have taken what I’ve learned and tried to apply it to my own dreams and plans in the racing world. I have a promotions company: Lauren Stewart Promotions. Right now, I promote one event annually. The “Shamrock Classic”is a USAC National Midget race in DuQuoin, Illinois and it is the only indoor race on the national schedule. The 3rd Annual event was this past March and it has been really cool to see how much momentum and excitement it has gained in three short years. I am a fan first and foremost, so as a promoter, I am constantly thinking to myself, “What would I want to see if I were sitting in the stands right now?”My goal with promoting a race is to make it an event. I want people to leave at the end of the night and feel like they really got their money’s worth. I want people to tell their friends and post about it on social media. I want my race to be the event you just have to go, so you mark it on your schedule months in advance. I have so much to learn and there is always room for improvement, but I enjoy wearing my promoter hat for a few months out of the year. My goal with Lauren Stewart Promotions would be to add another race or two…maybe as soon as 2019! 

When people ask me how I got involved in racing, it’s an easy answer: I had no choice. (I totally did, but let’s be real - it’s all I ever knew, so I wasn’t going to end up anywhere else.) I grew up going to the track, it’s how my parents make their living. From as early as I can remember, I had friends all across the country because of racing. I have friends on the other side of the world now! So, like I said, it was a no brainer that I would be involved in the sport. 

When I was dating Bryan, I was never content just being “Bryan’s girlfriend.”I always wanted to have my own identity and make my own path, too. I was lucky that Bryan supported that and wanted that for me as much as I wanted it for myself. We were teammates. He let me help him and he let me take on the things I knew I could do. With Bryan, I handled all of his merchandise (sales at the track, online orders), social media accounts, website, crazy ideas we came up with (like the Indiana Double), and travel plans. I loved being with Bryan and I loved the life we created together. It didn’t matter if we were at a dirt track in the middle of nowhere Missouri or on the biggest stage at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, we did it together and supported each other every step of the way. (Except for when he would rush me getting ready in the morning before leaving a hotel…I didn’t support that!)

When I lost Bryan, I never had any doubt about my future involvement in the sport. Sure, racing took Bryan away from me, but it also gave him to me in the first place! There are days and moments when I think it would be easier to walk away from all of it, but I know I wouldn’t be happy with that in the long run. So, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing and keep on carving out my own path in this crazy world we love. 

So, to sum it up: I’ve done a lot, but I want to do even more! Like I said earlier, I’ve been incredibly lucky to have the advice and guidance from so many successful women along my path. I love surrounding myself with determined, hard working people - and when they’re determined, hard working females? Even better! I hope one day I can be for someone else what those ladies have been for me. 

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Brie Rentz: Communications Director, Ed Carpenter Racing. "Find your passion, build your career"

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There is a time-honored tradition in Indiana: fathers take their children to the Indianapolis 500. It happens so often and so regularly it is probably not even recognized as a tradition - you just do it. In 2002, it was my turn. And my 15-year-old self was MAD. Why on earth would you want to go sit in the sun for four hours and watch cars go in a circle? What a waste of a Sunday. 

And then we arrived at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

I have long-maintained the position if we can just get people to the track, we’ve got them. That’s how my fire was ignited. The colors and the sounds and the people - it is impossible not to get swept up it. I had never seen anything like it. It made me feel alive. 

I did not give the Indy 500 another thought until the next year. The day before the race, I came home from my first day at my first job (Fazoli’s breadstick passer-outer) to find out my dad had sold our tickets. After listening to the race on the radio (as I had no idea it was blacked out), I went to the internet. I learned there was an entire series of races just like the Indy 500. I wouldn’t have to wait a year for the next race, I only had to wait two weeks. Remember Texas Motor Speedway night races in the early 2000’s? I was immediately obsessed. 

From the time I was five years old, I wanted to study volcanoes. As college grew closer, the reality set in that there were no volcanoes in Indiana and I really didn’t want to travel. But I had no idea what else to do with my life. Through the din of speeches at an FBLA state conference my junior year, I heard these words: “Find your passion. Build your career around that. If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” It felt like all of the lights in the world came on. 

I was going to work in Indy car racing. 

Way to set that bar high, Brie. 

I had absolutely no idea how I was going to do this, but I knew I loved IndyCar and wanted to share it everyone. I changed my senior year class schedule the following Monday. Physics classes were gone, business classes were added. At the time, only one school in Indiana offered a Sports Marketing program, so I applied there. Instead of staring at rocks in Washington state, I found myself in the School of Business at the University of Indianapolis.

Racing is very much a “who you know” industry. Me? I knew no one. I was just a fan (albeit an extremely vocal, passionate one), popping up at several races each summer. I got to know people, due in large part to be being such a boisterous fan. Just after the 2008 Indy 500, the PR guy at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing offhandedly mentioned he needed to fill an intern position. At this point, I had been an intern at the 500 Festival for a year and a half and was ready for something more. I must have nagged him for a month straight, asking (begging) for an interview. Finally, I got one. I hopped on a charter bus full of fans and headed to Iowa Speedway with resumes, work samples and transcripts in hand. Less than five minutes into the interview, I was shooed out the door of the transporter. I was gutted. It felt like that was my shot and I blew it. Now, I understand how much of a gift those five minutes on a race day were. Another month went by, then I got a text asking when I could start.

I began sitting at the front desk of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in July of 2008, checking the mail and answering the phones for an internship that was supposed to run through the end of the season. When the season ended in October, they put me on payroll. In February, team co-owner Robbie Buhl told me I did not have to come to work in a business suit. I admitted I had been coming from job interviews - I was graduating college in three months and needed a real job. He looked confused and said, “Stop doing that.” Within two weeks, I was hired as a full-time employee.  

For the next six and a half years, I worked my way through client services, ticketing, credentials, hospitality, contract fulfillment, at-track entertainment and event planning at DRR. I taught myself graphic design, video editing and social media (Twitter did not even exist when I started in racing). I prided myself on the ability to continually push myself to learn more and grow within the sport and was rewarded time and time again with more responsibility. I was asked to manage the entire hospitality and client services program in 2012; in 2013, I was handed public relations. 

In April of 2013, Dennis Reinbold, our sole team owner at that point, told us the Indy 500 would be DRR’s last race as a full-time team and we would not participate in the rest of the season. I interviewed with a handful of other teams, but ultimately decided to remain with DRR. I was farmed out a Global Rallycross team for the 2014 season and while I appreciated the learning experience, my heart wasn’t in it. One thing I had not yet accomplished was winning an Indy car race. I wanted to know what that was like so badly, it felt like a white-hot urge burning inside my soul. It was right around this time the formation of CFH Racing was announced. “What the heck,” I thought. “It’s technically a new team that hasn’t told me no yet, I’ll take a swing at it.” 

A few weeks later, I found myself across a conference table from Ed Carpenter and Sarah Fisher. The irony of this moment was not lost on me. I used to ask them for their autographs; now, I sat across from them asking them for a job. 

And they picked me. 

The next thing I had to do was have one of the hardest conversations of my professional career. I sat down with the team owner that not only gave me my first chance, but also kept me employed year-round even after we became an Indy-only team, and told him it was time for me to leave DRR.  I (tearfully) said to Dennis, “I need to find out if I’m really good at my job or I’m just good at it here.”

I’m sure I closely resembled a newborn giraffe those first few months at CFH, teetering around with no sense of direction and falling down more than once. Truth be told, I had no idea what it took to be a public relations representative for an Indy car team. I didn’t go to school for this; there’s no handbook or manual. But like I had done at DRR, I figured it out. Only four races into the 2015 season, I finally found out what winning a race was like. A couple months later, another win, this time in the form of a 1-2 finish. CFH transitioned back into Ed Carpenter Racing prior to the 2016 season and I settled into my new home. 

I’m now in the midst of my fourth season with the greatest team I could ask to be a part of. I realize it may sound like I am saying it just because my paycheck comes from here, but I am truly fortunate to work for and with the individuals that I do and represent drivers like Ed, Spencer Pigot and Jordan King. The white-hot urge that inevitably led me to ECR still burns, but now for something much more specific - winning the Indianapolis 500. We were soclosethis year. Second is an amazing accomplishment and something for us to be incredibly proud of - but it also feels a bit like getting punched in the gut because you were that close. Ten years into this, I’ve been a part of fourth (2012), third (2016) and second (2018) place finishes. First is coming soon. I can feel it. 

My dad never missed watching a race once I started working in the industry. He passed away in 2013, 44 days after the Indy 500. If he hadn’t done what Hoosier dads do in and taken me to that first race in 2002, I’m not sure if I would have made it to this point. I went from “wanting to promote IndyCar” to the Communications Director of a Verizon IndyCar Series team. I get to do exactly what my 17-year-old self would have told you was her dream job. The teenaged kid who chased drivers around the Midwest with a Sharpie now hands drivers Sharpies to sign autographs. 

I found my passion. I made it my career. It may be my job, but I’ve still yet to work a day of it.

Inaugural Fuel the Female Day Takes Checkered Flag at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Indianapolis, IN - May 16, 2018

Fuel the Female held the inaugural Fuel the Female Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway yesterday, May 15th. More than 50 area high school girls came to the track for a day filled with women leading their respective fields in the racing industry as well as learning more about the Verizon IndyCar Series. Most of the girls had never been to IMS, let alone watched an IndyCar race before their visit on Tuesday. Attendees met Cara Adams, Firestone Racing’s chief engineer, who spoke on the different tire compounds, when and why teams choose to use them and her life outside of the track. Adams was later joined by Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kate Gundlach who shared how she came into racing as well as what her job responsibilities include in her role as an engineer for Scott Dixon’s No. 9 Honda.

Fuel the Female Day attendees then made their way to the Firestone Suite where they met Lisa Boggs, Director of Motorsports for Bridgestone Americas. The girls spent some time watching practice and having a Q & A session with Boggs and Fuel the Female Founder, Katie Hargitt. Hargitt explained pit set-ups, engineer stands, tire layouts and other motorsport terminology, like why install laps are important and what the teams are finding out from the car as it’s running around the track. Firestone Racing put out the red carpet for the attendees including lunch and access to track feed in the suite.

After lunch, Danica Patrick came to visit and speak with the attendees on her career as a driver and how racing helped launch her small businesses. Patrick has launched an athletic wear line, Warrior, released a book and has purchased a winery, Somnium. After sharing her story of moving to Europe at 16-years-old to pursue her dreams of competing in motorsports, she opened attendees’ eyes to what they can accomplish if they believe in themselves and pursue their passions. Local Indianapolis media then spoke with attendees on their thoughts so far from the day and what they were learning. Even if they don’t see a career themselves in a motorsports career, the girls were able to take away what they want to do and what they need to do to attain their goals, "They prepare themselves, they work hard for their career and they make it because they worked as hard as they could. They put everything into it. Seeing that, it encourages me to do as much as I can", said Jasmine Cinoco, a Tech High School junior who wants to join the Navy.

The girls final guest in the Firestone Suite was Kate Guerra, Senior Vice President of National Media at IndyCar. Guerra shared her story of being a Texas native and moving to Indianapolis for graduate school, which led her

to falling in love with racing. She explained how her job consists of getting to know the drivers’ personalities to find a fit with media outlets across the country. After speaking, attendees were able to talk one-on-one with Guerra and Boggs for an in-depth look at what it takes to climb the ladder in motorsports.

After a tour of the Pagoda Plaza, participants met Jessica Mace, a mechanic for Andretti Autosport. Mace explained the adversity she received when coming into her career, after making the switch from surveying and development. Mace recalls teammates telling her she shouldn’t even be at the track or in the garage, she was just in the way. Mace even remembers some days she’d go home, cry it out, then come back the next day because she was determined to do what she was passionate about. she Many students connected with her story of adversity and themselves wanted to overcome their own challenges, whether it be academically or athletically.

Fuel the Female would like to thank Indianapolis Public Schools, Firestone Racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the Verizon IndyCar Series for their generosity, hospitality, and support in putting on the first Fuel the Female Day. Fuel the Female is planning to host more events in the future and is currently working on more events on this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series’ calendar. Please subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media for more updates.  A special thank you to WTHR, FOX 59, the Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis Monthly and other media outlets that came and covered yesterday’s event.

 

About Fuel the Female Founder, Katie Hargitt

Hargitt currently serves as an NBC Sports IndyCar Pit Reporter, but comes from a decorated career of racing quarter midgets and USAC midgets, working within the ESPN NASCAR community, IndyCar Radio Network and hosting the Up to Speed program for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

 

For more information about Fuel the Female, sponsorship and partnership opportunities, please visit the organization’s website at www.fuelthefemale.org

 

Fuel the Female Makes Trackside Debut at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Indianapolis, IN - May 14, 2018

Fuel the Female takes the green flag as the Month of May in Indianapolis gets underway for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Penngrade Motor Oil. Fuel the Female Founder, Katie Hargitt, saw a need for more female representation in the sport of racing and a need for more resources for young women aspiring to come into racing, regardless if they’re aspiring for a career in STEM or business. She wants to give young women an opportunity to experience the various jobs that can be found within racing, identify mentors and envision themselves in a career while also drawing in more fans to a demographic that is currently underserved, women represent roughly 35% of racing fans.

“I’ve had so many strong, female mentors throughout my motorsports career. I’ve always told myself I would give back when the time was right. I woke up in the middle of the night last winter, and I knew it was time. I started reaching out to some of the incredible women I’d met along the way and together we built this dream into reality. I hope Fuel the Female empowers women of all ages to chase the dream together as we support each other's goals” says Hargitt. 

The organization will be hosting over 50 female teens from local Indianapolis Public Schools at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week for the inaugural Fuel the Female Day.  Attendees will be meeting with female racing professionals including: driver Danica Patrick, team engineers and mechanics, an engineer and motorsports director from Firestone Racing, as well as Verizon IndyCar Series marketing and public relations managers during their tour of the track. Hargitt plans to expand these offerings to other communities on the IndyCar schedule in the future and hopes to provide scholarships for those planning to obtain their degrees with a racing concentration. 

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About ‘Fuel the Female’ Founder, Katie Hargitt

Hargitt currently serves as an NBC Sports IndyCar Pit Reporter, but comes from a decorated career of racing quarter midgets and USAC midgets, working within the ESPN NASCAR community, IndyCar Radio Network and hosting the Up to Speed program for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

For more information about Fuel the Female, sponsorship and partnership opportunities, please visit the organization’s website at www.fuelthefemale.org