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

 

 

 

Welcome to Fuel the Female

Ethanol runs through my veins. Burnt rubber is stuck to the soles of my shoes. The sound of 700 horsepower invades my dreams. For 18 years now, racing has been my life. I knew from the second I stepped foot on a racetrack at nine-years-old, motorsports was my passion. Now, it’s time to spread that passion to other young women. Meet Fuel the Female. 

Growing up, I never realized it was “weird” to enjoy motorsports. I had Lyn St. James, Sarah Fisher and Danica Patrick to watch every weekend. Jamie Little and Nicole Briscoe were on the screen telling me their stories. It wasn’t until that one homework assignment, you know the one, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” that I realized, maybe it was abnormal. The pull of horsepower was much stronger than any other voice in my head. 

Now, working in motorsports, I see the young girl at the track with bright eyes, watching the cars as they’re pulled onto pit lane.  I see the girl standing at the fence waiting for just a peek at the drivers. I see the girl waiting for anyone that looks like her to pass by. But there are few. 

Fuel the Female aims to change that. We aim to grow those “few” into an army. Our goal is to raise money to help send young women to school to study motorsports. We also hope to become a mentorship program by pairing young women with women currently in the industry.

Our inaugural event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will introduce more than 50 Indianapolis Public Schools high school, female students to motorsports. Throughout the day they will meet women who have persevered and achieved their goals through motorsports. By the end of the day, we hope the students can envision themselves in some of those roles and grow their passion for motorsports, too. 

If you would like more information about Fuel the Female, please email info@fuelthefemale.org.

--Katie Hargitt, Founder, Fuel the Female