What Drives Her: Beth Paretta and the Female-Forward Team Conquering the Legendary Indy 500

A Girls Guide To Cars | What Drives Her: Beth Paretta And The Female-Forward Team Conquering The Legendary Indy 500 - Paretta Autosport Announcement Bethparetta Pagoda Sm 1

Beth Paretta’s Indy 500 team is here to give the racing world a much-needed makeover.

Paretta Autosport is going to be the first-ever Indianapolis 500 team with tons of women working at every level. Beth is the puppet master, the one making long-term plans and organizing her ideal team—as race team bosses do. She’s had plenty of practice running a successful, championship-winning racing program in the past. She’s scored a top-tier female driver in the Swiss legend Simona de Silvestro. And in a recent pre-season practice session, Paretta Autosport showed speeds that proved it’s going to duke it out near the front half of the 33-car field with the best of the best.

“With this IndyCar team, I have some veterans, and I have someone women that are new to motorsport,” Beth told us. “I’ve done that on purpose, because I don’t necessarily want to do things the way everybody else has been doing them. This is meant to be more than a race team. I need people to understand that this comes with all the extras, because all the extras are what makes it special.”

More than a race team, indeed. Beth is not only setting her team up for the ultimate success of taking home a win at the world’s biggest racing event. She’s using Paretta Autosport as a way to encourage more women to realize the fun that can be had in motorsport and the meaningful careers that can be forged in this traditionally male-dominated world.

Related: What Drives Her: Bogi Lateiner Is Empowering Women To Take Control Of Their Auto Repair Experience

Beth Paretta Indycar Indy 500

Photo: Paretta Autosport

Making Waves at the Greatest Race in the World

The Indianapolis 500 is one of the biggest motorsport events in the entire world. While most race series have the exact same list of competitors in all the races that take place during a season, the Indy 500 usually adds 10 or more one-off entries to bolster IndyCar’s normal field size. There are a lot of reasons for that. The Indy 500 has taken place for over 100 years, which makes it the longest-running racing event in history. It has a massive prize for everyone who enters the race. And it’s a physical challenge that draws global competitors and audiences. It is, as the race calls itself, The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

But it hasn’t always been the most equal spectacle. In fact, women were barred from the pit lane—the road alongside the track where cars stop mid-race to change tires—until the late 1970s when racer Janet Guthrie became the first woman to compete in the Indy 500 and thus give the race a reason to change its rules. Since then, tons of other women have contested the race: Danica Patrick, Lyn St. James, Pippa Mann, Sarah Fisher, and more.

But even if a woman raced, she was generally on a team of men. It was owned by men, managed by men, strategized by men, and maintained by men. That’s what makes Paretta Autosport so different: almost every member of the team is a woman, from the owner to the pit crew. That’s huge.

And it’s happening on the world’s biggest stage in racing.

Related: Athena Racing Classes Help Girls Pursue Their Dreams

Beth Paretta Indycar Indy 500

Photo: Paretta Autosport

The History of a Leader

“When I was a kid, I’d stumble across racing on TV, and I found it soothing,” Beth said. “The rhythm of watching racing—I was mesmerized by the speed and the colors. Then I started reading car magazines as a way to be close to my dad after my brother died, because my dad and my brother were working on restoring an old truck. It was subconscious, trying to revive this bond they had.”

Beth’s older brother died of cancer when he was 17 and she was six, and he had been sick for most of her life. But Beth took up the mantle her older brother had left when it came to his passion about cars. She feels it started out as a subconscious way of coping with the loss of a loved one but slowly evolved to become her all-encompassing passion. She found herself falling head over heels for the automotive industry, racing, and everything that came along with it.

Beth has been involved in the automotive and racing industries for years, and she started at the very base level: working in dealerships. From there, she began ascending the ranks to take different positions with manufacturers like Volkswagen, Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (which is now known as Stellantis).

In 2011, Beth accepted a position as Director of Marketing and Operations for Dodge’s racing division, known as Street and Racing Technology (SRT). That included managing motorsport operations across different racing divisions like NASCAR, IMSA, World Challenge, SuperCross, Trans Am, Global RallyCross, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, another one of the world’s most prestigious racing events.

And with Beth at the helm, her teams won three national titles. The factory Viper team took home the GTLM Championship in IMA. Dodge took the Xfinity and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championships with Team Penske in stock car racing. And she also oversaw the Pro Trans Am TA2 Championship. It hasn’t been a bad deal.

There was one thing missing from her resumé, though: An attempt at the Indianapolis 500.

Beth made her first attempt at the Indy 500 with an all-female team called Grace Autosport in 2015, which featured driver Katherine Legge—but, unfortunately, the project fell apart.

“We had to pull the plug at the 11th hour,” Beth told me, the disappointment still rife in her voice. “The car that we would have had ran, and that was fine. We had like five options, and we said no to all of them for different reasons. I think we could have done it, and other people would totally have done it.

“But there was so much more riding on. There’s more pressure. If I do it and we fail, then people would say I’d moved womanhood back. I’d rather not give them that satisfaction and pull the plug. I’ll take it on the chin, and people can criticize me all they want, but I’m not going to put a driver in that car.”

This year, Beth saw the opportunity to try again. The IndyCar Series has really pushed to improve equality in the sport in a variety of different ways. IndyCar helped put together an all-Black team in one of the lower-division series that leads to IndyCar as a way to foster Black talent through the ranks. An all-female team seemed like the logical next step, and Beth is now standing proud at the helm of a successful venture that has the support of the entire series.

Related: Women Who Compete in Rebelle Rally are Not the Only Stars: These SUVs Rocked the Off-Road Race

Beth Paretta Indycar Indy 500

Photo: Paretta Autosport

Off-Track Education

But Beth isn’t just happy with the on-track performance, although winning the Indy 500 is the goal. No; she’s also using her team as a way to start encouraging girls and young women to consider careers in STEM fields, both by setting a prominent example of a successful group of women and by setting up speaking tours with all Paretta Autosport’s team members.

Beth told me about a conference she went to that was entirely populated by women in the engineering industry, which is where she realized that lots of women just didn’t see motorsport as a job venue. As she put it, “It’s like engineering in sports.” And from that point on, Beth knew she wanted to bring as much attention to drawing women into motorsport as she could.

She calls it the three Cs: competition, classroom, and community.

“When I’ve been hiring for the pit crew, I let them know: you’re going to have to do some public speaking,” Beth said. “That’s not normally on the job description!”

Her goal is to have her crew members visiting classrooms and heading to large-scale community appearances where they can educate the world on what it means to be a woman in motorsport and how the world can evolve to become a more accommodating place for a more diverse group of people.

“We also know that there’s added eyeballs,” she said, referring to the fact that the entire world will be watching a group of women take on running a race team for the first time. “Anybody that’s in a non-traditional role, there’s always that added pressure. So I like to say that out loud. It might be obvious, but you’ll have to have a bit of a thick skin at times. But when you’re with our team, you’re not bearing that burden alone.

And that, Beth says, is the key to a successful race team.

“It’s the people and the attitude. Skills, for the most part, can be taught. But I would take somebody that has the right attitude, interest, and willingness to learn if they were 90 percent a mechanic as opposed to someone that’s 100 percent a mechanic who’s very difficult to work with. A race team is a pressure cooker. When you have those little cracks, it just magnifies, and it brings the whole team down. You have to respect each other. Everyone needs to pull their own weight, but everyone needs to work together. Somebody needs to be able to step in and help when you’re having a bad day, and there can’t be any resentment. It’s about the car and the greater team; you win together and you lose together. And that’s what we’ve been trying to achieve with Paretta Autosport.”

You can keep an eye out for Paretta Autosport at the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500. It takes place on May 30th at 11am E.T. on NBC.

I'm Elizabeth Blackstock, managing editor of AGGTC, blogger, journalist, novelist, editor, MA/MFA graduate student, wife, motorsport fanatic, and bearer... More about Elizabeth Blackstock