How Jamie Chadwick’s Historic Win is Changing the Motorsport Landscape

By Pippa Mann

Back when I was racing in Indy Lights, women who won in open wheel in America was “a thing.”

Simona de Silvestro was winning races in Atlantics. Ana Beatriz won her first Indy Lights race the year before I moved to the U.S. And Danica Patrick won the IndyCar race at Motegi.

When I won the pole for the Freedom 100 in 2010, I was the first female racer to ever win a pole at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I actually remember being irked at the time that people kept asking me how it felt to be a woman who won the pole.

I wanted to be a racer who won her first pole, and at a historic race track.

I won that pole wearing a red helmet in a white car. I had zero interest in anyone knowing there was a woman behind the wheel. Because despite the fact that I was surrounded by an incredible generation of winning women in open wheel, I thought the greatest sign of my success would be if no one knew my gender while I was in the cockpit.

I grew up in an era where women in racing had yet to reclaim the phrase, “Drive like a girl."

Last Sunday, IndyCar asked me to call in to the press conference after Jamie Chadwick’s win. At first, I was hesitant because the last thing I wanted to do was take away from her day. However, I was assured I would just come in at the end to congratulate her, so I agreed.

During the press conference, and just momentarily in Jamie’s voice, I sensed a little of the frustration I'd previously felt. She wanted to celebrate her win at Road America, first and foremost. She’s already a proven winner in other series. And now, Indy NXT - the top-level series below IndyCar - is getting to see what she’s made of.

Part of the frustration Jamie voiced was that it had been 15 years since I won, so that’s how long it’s been since the series had its last female winner. Just like me, she wants to see more women on the open wheel ladder series, having the opportunity to compete, and win races.

As I look back to 15 years ago, it felt like women in motorsport were on the cusp of something. Perhaps it seemed like there would be more of us with more opportunities. Or maybe normalizing “racing drivers” versus “female racing drivers.” It simply felt like the landscape was changing. And then it didn’t.

For 10 years, I fought to have enough funding to compete at the Indy 500. Along the way, I slowly learned that my gender had both positive and negative impacts upon my career.

When I succeeded, I was not just another driver.

When I failed, I was not just another driver.

When I was trying to find the funding to compete, I was not just another driver.

I’ve always had a goal of driving change within my sport, but it wasn’t until I realized that that would require hard work, collaboration and sticking my head above the proverbial parapet.

I believe that with equal opportunity, and funding, men and women can compete as equals in motorsport. And if that’s the case, and I believe that the race car doesn’t know, then why should I be ashamed of being identified as a female race car driver?

I also believe in the saying, “If she can see her, she can be her." So after 15 years, the momentum of that 2010 win has been slowly fizzling out. Sure, I’ve run the Indy 500 seven times and I’m incredibly grateful for every single opportunity. But showing up to one race per year, without substantial funding or testing time, I’ve had to rely on the grace of team owners to reach into their pockets and help me make up budget shortfalls. Despite their generosity, I’m sure they’d agree that it’s simply harder for the smaller teams to do it without a huge budget, collection of sponsorships and adequate seat time.

For so long, I thought this was a “Pippa problem.” Maybe if I could find a way to be faster or do better with the equipment I had... Perhaps if I had a fancier marketing deck or get more sponsors lined up... Or what if my engineers would provide more endorsements about my driving abilities? The endless “what ifs” never stopped.

As I grew into an older, wiser human, I started to realize this was a global problem affecting so many women in motorsport. And in this pay-to-play industry, so many talented women were stalling due to the lack of partners willing to help support female athletes.

Collectively, we’ve seen other one-off programs succeed, and even expand beyond the Indy 500. So the frustration only grows.

Ultimately, this is the reason that Shift Up Now is so incredibly important to me. It’s why I give up so many hours to run this organization (alongside Erin Vogel). Currently, we’re still a small company, bringing associate-level sponsorships and social media deals to our racers. But we’re working incredibly hard to help our Athletes close the funding gap, giving them opportunities to compete and win.

One day, I want Shift Up Now to be big enough to support racers like Jamie, and others like her on the open wheel ladders. Fifteen years between winners is too long. But on this day, the buzz around Jamie and her win makes it feel like the cusp of this dream has returned.

The inspiring part about Jamie’s win is that, not only is she a talented racer, but her record and pedigree come with brand and name recognition. She’s winning at a time when motorsport finally seems to have the desire and appetite to help uplift winning women. Brands finally seem ready to make commitments for helping to keep winning women in race cars.

I could not be more thrilled to see Jamie winning, and to watch the fifteen-year stretch finally come to an end. Perhaps this time we can break the next barriers too, witnessing more brands step up to help Jamie keep climbing to the top, and supporting more talented female racers in all areas of motorsport.


Pippa Mann is the CEO of Shift Up Now, and Vice Chair of the Shift Up Now Foundation. She has a firm belief that when we fund men and women equally in motorsport, we give them the opportunity to compete as equals. Since 2021, Shift Up Now and the Shift Up Now Foundation have helped female athletes in motorsport with 3⁄4 of a million dollars of sponsorship to help close the funding gap.

You can get involved with Shift Up Now wither by becoming a Member of the Inside Track, or through a donation to our 501c3. If you are a brand who would like to help us support and elevate women in motorsport, we would love to hear from you.

Contact us here.

AE Victory Racing, a Founder’s Story

By Erin Vogel

As so many great ideas do, my race team, AE Victory Racing, began as an idea on a napkin in a coffee shop almost one year ago.

It was an idea drawn up by a group of women who wondered whether there might be a way to create a home for themselves – a racing team that gave women a voice, where their insights and opinions were valued and prioritized, and where their success was put first. A team where women were given opportunities to learn, to perform at their best, and where their understanding and decision making was not only respected as relevant, but expected as necessary to the success of the effort.

As the idea started coming to fruition, I was incredibly fortunate to have my partner stand beside me as a male ally, sharing knowledge and expertise, and helping me bring the female-forward racing team dream to life. So A(aron)E(rin) Victory Racing was born.

Let’s backtrack for a moment…

From a very early age, I have wanted to elevate women, bridging the gap between gender and abilities, between appearance and reality. I was only four years old when I realized that expectations were different depending on some arbitrary anatomical parts. This struck me as bizarre because, at that age, not much else looked different to me. Not much was different in our wants, needs, or behavior.

From that point on, I sought out ways to excel, embracing both femininity and feminism, seeking to balance “masculine” qualities with feminine sensibilities. It’s an been a difficult internal effort to find and maintain that balance, and each new challenge shows me where I’m still lacking.

My greatest hope in life is that my struggle does not have to be the struggle of future generations. I hope that young girls and women who follow in my footsteps find an it's an easier track to navigate. I hope that they will be empowered in that balance, and given more (and better) opportunities with less judgement and uncertainty. I hope that whatever small splash I can make will ripple out to touch the lives of many others.

Today, there is still a lot of work to do towards that goal. The way I see myself achieving it is to give a handful of women the opportunity to drive a well-prepared car and get quality seat time without the worry of the financial burden. I hope to provide them a place to learn from those with more experience. I envision them learning how to drive and race better, adapt more quickly, give feedback and understand a race car on a more intimate level. I would like to be able to help them earn the same living as the male drivers in the sport do.

I rarely talk about the resources I have, resources that aren't as prevalent for women in the racing world as they are for men - I’m backed by a successful business. In the past few years, I've used those resources to learn first-hand about the ins and outs of this industry. I’ve seen both its potential to lift women up to the highest levels of coed competition, and the resistance to doing so. As a result, I’m proud to be among those that can and will share my resources to lift other women up alongside me. But if I’ve learned anything, it’s that my resources alone aren’t enough.

Racing is an incredibly equipment-intensive sport, and because of that it can get expensive quickly. The cost of even just showing up is significant, and being competitive can almost be prohibitive in many cases. But I’ve learned that, in order to make a difference, it has to be done. And the more money and resources at your disposal, the quicker it can be done.

However, if those resources need to be conserved and meted out over time, progress will likely be proportionate. That can be a tough pill to swallow! When I stepped into my new (and not entirely anticipated) role as owner of a racing team, I really wanted to be perfect right out of the box. I thought all I had to do was check all the right boxes and avoid all the common pitfalls.

So for more than two months, I worked sixteen-hour days, balancing the team, my "real job", working with Pippa on Shift Up Now, and traveling for networking and events. I learned who to talk to about parts, how to order parts, which parts would work for us, and which would not. I called on my network to help with parts and people, figuring out the logistics of this whole carnival - how to herd goats and where to herd them.

Fast forward six months and we're back to today. We’re still working to understand the car, the tires, and how the two work together. We’re making steady progress. And while I want to be frustrated that we’re not more competitive yet, I’m also proud that we’ve finished every race we’ve started.

Even the days that we weren’t really in the race we found ways to learn and progress. And oddly enough, I’m actually grateful that it hasn’t been easy, because we’re learning so much in every direction. This will only make us a better team with a better product and better chances of achieving what we set out to do.

One day I would like to see my team have the skill and experience to compete at the biggest sports car races in the world. I aspire to have that level of program, to be able to provide those opportunities by finding other successful women to partner with, who believe in putting their resources towards something from which the returns speak to more than just a bottom line.

I can’t imagine doing this without all the help I’ve had and I’m so grateful for my network. If you’ve had a part in helping us get our feet off the ground the past six months, or if you’ve worked with me in racing at all over the past decade, I offer my sincerest thanks. And most especially, thank you to my partner Aaron, our incredible crew, and my Shift Up Now sisters.

We’re working toward something that matters and that makes a difference. More than anything, I hope that transformation in the sport will expand and know no bounds, until the expectations based on arbitrary things aren’t so very different at all.


Make sure you follow AE Victory Racing's story at @ae.victory_racing on Instagram, and if you want to be part of helping us drive change here at Shift Up Now, you can either become a Member, or donate to our 501c3 the Shift Up Now Foundation.

Playin’ in the Dirt at the DirtFish Women in Motorsport Summit

By Michele Abbate

On Saturday, March 2nd, I had the honor of being one of the panelists at the DirtFish Women in Motorsport Summit in Snoqualmie, WA. The event exceeded all my expectations, and despite some dreary weather, the enthusiasm of the attendees was through the roof!

The other summit panelists included legend Michele Mouton, Becs Williams, Pernilla Solberg, Vanessa Ruck and Jndia Erbacher.

On the morning of the summit, we arrived at the DirtFish Rally School to find an impressive display of rally cars, both historic and modern, purpose-built. There was even a Subaru with a Ferrari power-plant!

In between the two panels scheduled that day, participants could check out the vendors and attend informative and interactive sessions as well. The mission to empower women was clear everywhere I turned. There were women-owned businesses there, like a food truck, and a female DJ, too!

In addition to the panels, DirtFish also hosted a women’s mechanic workshop. Five female mechanics were there helping attendees get under the hood of the cars and experience what it’s like to work on them.

During our panel, the various motorsports backgrounds and disciplines among the panelists made it such a pleasure to be part of the lively conversation. We got to interact with the audience through Q&A sessions and learn about their interests.

One of my favorite parts of these type of events is connecting with participants. It’s fun to hear their stories and offer help to fuel their dreams in the sport.

The following day, after the summit was over, Vanessa Ruck and I were given the amazing opportunity to experience a private, half-day school in one of DirtFish’s rally-prepped Subaru BRZ cars. This was my first time taking to the dirt in a RWD car. But having won a championship in the Toyota 86 back in 2015, it was in a platform and power-plant that I was very familiar with.

I couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel and develop some new skills on the dirt. Michelle Miller was my instructor. She made it incredibly easy to learn to trust the car, and help me apply many of the techniques that she had demonstrated to us in the classroom.

DirtFish offers several all-encompassing programs designed to take you from the classroom to the rally course. Having skilled professionals who know the compound like the back of their hand takes the guesswork out, and the real-time feedback is truly invaluable.

Personally, I learned that being able to trust the direction and verbal cues allowed me to maximize my time there. I was very thankful that this communication came naturally between Michelle and I. It helped me focus on the specifics of her coaching without ever having to explain my inputs, and reasoning for them. She understood, guiding me to adjust and improve with each lap. It was truly a rewarding experience that had me wanting to come back before we had even left!

One of my favorite things about the DirtFish Rally School is that it’s beneficial for all levels of driving experience. From brand-new to champion, everyone will leave with something new in their driving-skills toolbox.

In addition, DirtFish is unwavering in its support for women in motorsports. This was obvious to me in everything from its history to the warm welcomes, and through everyone on staff. And as if that wasn’t enough, DirtFish announced during the Women in Motorsports Summit that it’s launching a women’s initiative scholarship! More details will be announced in the coming months.

Looking back, it was so cool to be even a small part of this huge event. I’m very grateful to Shift Up Now and DirtFish for allowing me this opportunity. Perhaps you’ll see me back in the dirt sometime soon? Only time will tell...

____________________________

DirtFish is a Corporate Member of the Inside Track by Shift Up Now, and our Members get 10% off their entry level Rally Schools. Make sure you log in to your Member dashboard or email Membership@shiftupnow.com to unlock your Member discount.

You can also see photos from Michele's time at DirtFish here, and learn more their Women In Motorsport Summit that Michele attended here.

She Always Prefers The Driver's Seat

By Ariel Ream

There's no better day than the Sunday before Memorial Day. Every year on race day, I wake up like a little kid on Christmas. I hurry my husband out of bed at 5:00am so we can beat traffic and get a great parking spot (one that allows us to get out of the Speedway and home in 20 minutes at the end of the day). And every year, I carry the same bag that my husband gifted to me ages ago. The bag, a Kate Spade stunner, depicts a red, open-wheeled race car and a driver. A female driver. And printed on the bag are the empowering words, "She always prefers the driver's seat."

The irony in carrying this particular bag to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing - The Indianapolis 500 - is that it’s rare to see a woman in the driver’s seat, and even more rare to find one that has a full-time ride in IndyCar.

Less than ten women have competed in the Indy 500, a few of which include Pippa Mann, Simona de Silvestro, Ana Beatriz Figueredo and Katherine Legge. The last full season ride occupied by a female racer in IndyCar was Simona de Silvestro in 2013. Since then, women like Danica Patrick, Pippa Mann, and - most recently - Tatiana Calderón have only managed to put together partial seasons or one race deals for the Indy 500. If we look beyond IndyCar, the theme is the same. Women are constantly left behind. I want to change that, and the time for change is now.

I grew up in Bloomington, IN. My dad loved anything at a racetrack with an engine. On Friday nights, he'd take us down to the Bloomington Speedway (which our extended family owned for a short period) to watch good old-fashioned dirt racing.

Every May, I missed school because he was hellbent on taking me to see the racing at IMS. My father instilled the spirit of racing and competition in me. I have quite a few memories of walking through Gasoline Alley with him, telling him that I wanted to race there someday. He always encouraged me to go for it, never implying that racing was a 'boy sport.’ He was a true “girl-dad,” never allowing gender to get in the way of my dreams.

As I grew up, I started to realize that seeing women on a racetrack was, and would continue to be, incredibly rare. It wasn't just at Indy, but every single series and type of motorsport. The sad (and dishearteningly old-fashioned) part is that it's still rare. While it's just slightly less unusual than it was when I was growing up, or back when my father fell in love with the sport, it is still newsworthy when women get the shot that they deserve. But in a woman’s case, the PR is rarely as focused on the talent of the driver as it is on her gender. And while this may be a controversial opinion, it seems that positive press for the team or series is the priority for the announcement.

All of this brings me to my new role as Interim CEO with the Shift Up Now Foundation.

I met Pippa Mann one day while she was outrunning me on a treadmill at our gym. After complimenting her badassery, we started chatting about Shift Up Now and the exciting things she was planning, one of which was a non-profit arm of the organization. I was all in.

I am passionate about motorsport, and you won’t hear the end of it if you get me talking about giving women the chances they deserve.

My own background is in business development, specifically in tech. As you can probably imagine, it’s another industry where women struggle for recognition and opportunity. I have experienced gender discrimination on several occasions. I've been told I’m being bossy when I’m simply being straightforward. I’ve been passed over for promotions only to see younger, less-experienced men get placed into roles I was promised. And I’ve had male bosses say things to me like, “Your face looks aloof and annoyed, you should fix that." Maybe it’s not women’s faces that need fixing.

Quite simply, we deserve better. Not because we want what men have made themselves entitled to. Rather, we deserve better because we are just as good, and in some cases better, than the men we work beside. And now we have the data to prove it.

In a study done by Wassermann entitled ‘The New Economy of Sports,’ the numbers show that female athletes, on average, earn twenty-one times less than their male counterparts, and rely on endorsements and sponsorships twice as much as their male counterparts do. The data from the same study showed that while 90% of partnership dollars in professional sports are directed towards men, it is female athletes who are better at reaching intended audiences and impacting revenue. In fact, female athletes generate double the social media engagement of male athletes. Data showed that fans of female athletes are 54% more aware of her sponsors and partners, and 45% more likely to consider a purchase from those brands. Smart companies are beginning to understand that elevating and supporting women, and female athletes, is great for their brand and profits.

So, when I get the opportunity to tell people about my work with Shift Up Now, I tell them about our incredible female athletes and their stories. I tell them that we had not one, but two Champions during the 2023 season. I talk about how all our Athletes are winning races, competing for podiums, and posting top ten points finishes in some of the most competitive series in the U.S. And they’re outranking many of their male peers.

I talk about Erin Vogel, the President of Shift Up Now, who not only runs our corporate side of the house, but also owns and manages a racing team. Her team helps keep talented female racers behind the wheel of a race car when they don’t have the funding elsewhere.

I tell them about Ashley Freiberg, who, despite winning a Championship in 2023, is struggling to build the sponsorship support to race in 2024. The travel for her racing career prevents her from being able to keep up a “normal” job, and she has to take other work wherever she can find it. These women are out there doing it all, and they have earned the right to sit at the table of equal funding and support.

I hope that as Interim CEO, I can create positive impact for women in motorsport. I want to use my voice, passions and skills to not only drive donations that will allow us to write more grants, but also to share the mission loudly, helping everyone understand why this work is so important.

Serena Williams once said, "Every woman's success should be an inspiration to another. We’re stronger when we cheer each other on." It is my honor to cheer on my fellow Shift Up Now women, and to lead a team that is working to elevate all women in motorsport, through funding women into professional racing programs in the most competitive series in motorsports.

Maybe one day soon, when I take my son Harrison to his first Indy 500, the bag that I carry won't convey a dream. It'll be an image that reflects the new normal. Because she will be in the driver's seat.

I hope you'll join me on this incredible journey. Donate today to change the face of motorsport for the better.


You can donate to the Shift Up Now Foundation here, or you can become a member of The Inside Track by Shift Up Now here for $100 per year here.

It’s Never Too Late to Make a Change, Part II

By: Heather Hadley

In case you missed it, I’ve been reflecting on my first season in the Mazda MX-5 Cup series, and you can check out Part I here to get caught up!

Rounds 5 & 6: WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca

WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca holds a special place in my heart because it was the first place I ever collaborated with Mazda. Back in 2014, when I was 12 years old and racing go- karts, Mazda invited me to speak at the SCCA Runoffs banquet held at Laguna Seca.

I spent the weekend meeting people with Mazda Motorsports, exploring the paddock, and even did a lap in the MX-5 pace car! Seeing Laguna Seca on the schedule this year meant that my journey with Mazda had come full circle. And with it being so close to home, my family and friends could come out to watch!

As happy as I was to race at Laguna Seca this year, the track did not welcome me very nicely. I struggled all weekend, in practice, qualifying and both races. But I won’t become a better racing driver without finding those points of weakness and working on them, so I’m glad it was something that I could practice this year. Most importantly, I improved over the weekend, finishing 21st in race one and 17th in race two.

Rounds 7 & 8: Watkins Glen International

Watkins Glen is another track I am so grateful we visited this year. Filled with undulations, distinct corners, and a beautiful surrounding landscape, I knew the experience would be hard to forget. Because Watkins Glen is a very fast track without many hard-braking corners, making a mistake anywhere guarantees the loss of a few seconds, heightened even more if you fall out of a draft. I struggled with learning this in race one, but progressed over the weekend, and ended up with my second top-15 finish of the year in race two.

Rounds 9 & 10: Road America

Road America was easily my favorite weekend of the year. The track had recently been repaved which seemed to create an even playing field because nobody had previous data for reference. I really enjoyed the layout of the racetrack and adapted quickly. By this point in the year, I also felt much more comfortable in the car and as a result, I was able to be more aggressive. I finished up the weekend with two top-15 finishes, including my second top-10. Plus, I earned my sixth and seventh Top-Finishing Female Awards of the year.

Rounds 11 & 12: VIRginia International Raceway

VIRginia International Raceway was one of the tracks I was almost certain I was going to struggle with this year. With the extreme heat and the narrowness of the track, success at VIR is no easy feat. Thankfully the team and I tested there a few weeks prior to race weekend, which allowed me some track time. Nonetheless, the race weekend still presented its challenges. There is still lots of room for improvement, but I was happy to have stood on the podium both days with the Top-Finishing Female Award!

Rounds 13 & 14: Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta

The season finale this year was held at Road Atlanta, which has been tradition for the Mazda MX-5 Cup series since 2021. The weekend started out well with my fifth top-15 finish of the year and my tenth Top-Finishing Female Award. I was happy with this result but hungry for more. I knew I had the pace to be in the top 10 but had fallen out of my drafting pack after I misjudged another car entering the track and lifted.

Unfortunately, an incident only a few laps into race two meant the potential I believe I had didn’t come to fruition after. I made an aggressive but risky move in turn 12, and found myself four tires off into the dirt. Luckily, the other driver and I walked away unharmed, but it was a disappointing way to end the season.

As much as I wish the season had a different ending, I still have a lot to be proud of from this year. My rookie season in the Mazda MX-5 Cup Series was some of the most exciting and challenging racing I have ever had the privilege to be a part of. Racing with a sanctioning body like IMSA and competing at tracks that I previously had only ever experienced from home, is a dream come true.

Although I am proud of my efforts from this year and my decision to change to road racing, none of this would have been possible without the generosity and kindness of Mazda, the partners of the MX-5 Cup series, and Shift Up Now. I am so appreciative of Mazda awarding me the Women’s Initiative Scholarship last year and providing continuous support all year long. I also want to thank Shift Up Now for awarding me one of the first grants from the Shift Up Now Foundation for our final event at Road Atlanta. It was so special to have an organization which I have admired for years on the car, and I hope to continue working together in the future!

It’s Never Too Late to Make a Change, Part I: Heather Hadley Reflects on First Mazda MX-5 Cup Season

By Heather Hadley

A little over a year ago, I had my sights set on NASCAR.

I wanted to go late-model racing at the biggest short track events of the year. I had already started calling teams to get an idea of pricing and when I could start. I gathered all the information I could and compared it to our budget.

Then I realized that my plan, the one I had moved to Charlotte, NC for, was not going to work. I knew I needed to make a change.

I began looking into other options I could pursue and drew inspiration from IMSA drivers at the PitFit Training facility in Cornelius, NC. I asked them how they started in IMSA to get to where they are now, and almost all of them gave the same answer: The Mazda MX-5 Cup series.

They explained how challenging the series is. And how it’s crucial to driver development to spend as much time with the series as possible.

After doing a fair bit of research on the Mazda MX-5 Cup series and on the car itself, I was ecstatic. It was everything I could want in a series.

I decided my next step would be to attend the MX-5 Cup shootout and contend for the Women’s Initiative Scholarship, an opportunity that could change the trajectory of my racing career entirely.

I showed up to the 2022 MX-5 Cup Shootout with one test session under my belt and with one major goal: to learn as much as I could and make progress over the course of the two days.

My background is primarily in Legend Cars, so my biggest hurdle would be adapting to an entirely different type of car and corresponding discipline. But the various coaching sessions we had over the two days - with industry professionals like Tom Long and Andrew Carbonell - proved to be extremely valuable. I was able to make significant progress and put down some strong laps times.

With the help of everyone at Mazda Motorsports and Flis Performance, I became the Women’s Initiative Scholarship recipient for the 2023 season in the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup series presented by BFGoodrich Tires!

Suddenly my hard work was paying off, and my spontaneous decision to switch to road racing looked like it might have been a good one.

Rounds 1 & 2: Daytona International Speedway
The Mazda MX-5 season started out with the biggest event of the year, the highly-anticipated Rolex 24 at Daytona.

It was nothing like the test event we had just weeks before. This time, it was completely filled with spectators, eagerly awaiting IMSA’s biggest endurance race of the year on Sunday. This meant there were quite a few more cars joining us on track for practice of their own.

In race one, I had gotten up to pace, but quickly found out how important the draft is. I spent almost all of the 45-minute competition by myself after losing the cars ahead of me. So I knew I needed to switch things up for the second race.

In race two, I was immediately more aggressive and began making passes. But later in the race, after having made my way up to 17th (from 25th), I got collected in an accident. However, even with an unlucky end to the weekend, I was happy to have made my way onto the podium in my first professional race. I stood proudly with the Top-Finishing Female Award!

Rounds 3 & 4: The Streets of St. Petersburg, FL
The second race weekend was our only event of the year with the NTT IndyCar Series. Racing on a street course would be a new experience for me, but I made progress through the weekend on the streets of St. Petersburg.

Starting the first race from 25th, my primary objective was to move up through the field. Because this course is so narrow, my plan was to remain patient and capitalize on any mistakes made by the drivers ahead of me. Thankfully my strategy seemed to pay off because, slowly but surely, I was able to make passes and fight my way up the field. I finished the race in 19th. It wasn’t where I wanted to be, but it put me in a better starting position for the second race.

After starting 21st in race two, I picked up my first top-ten finish! Overall, the weekend was one of my favorites of the year. There were so many excited fans, and the racetrack location was so beautiful and unique. I made lots of memories that I will cherish forever.

Ready to read more about the rest of my MX-5 Cup season? Stay tuned for Part II, coming soon!

How Social Media Revved Up My Racing Career

by Sabré Cook

In the realm of motorsports, the pursuit of a professional career on the racetrack has always been synonymous with a relentless demand for financial backing. While not unlike traditional sports where dedication, consistency and perseverance can often propel individuals toward success, the world of racing requires additional financial resources that won’t allow for success without it.

For example, imagine you want to play basketball for your local team. You'll need to practice and train as much as possible to ensure you will be at your best. Your goal is to make the team and help them win games. But what if the cost of acquiring a basketball and proper shoes, combined with the court rental fees, amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars just to practice?

And what if you couldn’t afford that substantial sum to practice, but other players did have enough financial resources? You could decide to work incredibly hard anyway, studying game footage, working out in the gym, completing mental and reaction training. You could do everything you could afford to and yet never get to actually practice the game of basketball. As a result, when tryouts come along, you don’t make the team.

No matter how much passion you have, how hard you worked off the court, you didn’t get to practice the game and therefore can’t become a great basketball player. So what happens if professional basketball is your dream and you want it more than you want to breathe?

You find a way to raise the money to practice.

Sponsorship Beginnings

Thankfully, I was blessed to have a family that helped me get started in karting and found creative business solutions to keep me advancing as I progressed.

Then at the age of 12, I started learning about sponsorship and how to
acquire it. My father is a former professional motocross and supercross rider, so he knew what it was like to canvas for sponsorships and partnerships. However, the differences in cost between motorcycle racing and car racing were substantial, and the sponsorship and technological resources were ever-changing.

Together, my father and I tried, failed, learned and tried again on how to navigate the process of getting and keeping sponsorship.

Slowly, I began to acquire product sponsorships, then smaller cash sponsorships, and hard-earned prize money from winning pro kart races. However, nothing was substantial enough for me to do a car race.

Through family and network connections, I was introduced to an amazing individual that had his own car and race team. He came to watch me in a karting race. When I won, that was it. He offered to put me into one of his race cars!

So in April 2017, I finally did my first car race at Summit Point Raceway in the Sports Car Club of America series.

Now that I had a taste of what had been my dream for so long, I knew I was going to have to find a way to stay in the driver’s seat and achieve my goals. So, that’s what I did. Through lots of trial and error, challenges, mentorship from amazing people, failing and trying again, I began to acquire larger and larger sponsorships, and understand how to bring substantial value to my partners.

As I look back though, there’s one key component that I wish I would’ve focused on much sooner: Social media.

Social Media – A Irreplaceable Tool in Today’s Sponsorship Landscape

When I was younger, social media just wasn’t the powerhouse it is today.

And aside from being a race car driver, I’m a mechanical engineer. Which means I’m a Type A, analytical, introverted person by nature. So the idea of consistently posting my life on social media had my skin crawling.

With complete transparency, I can say it’s still not an activity I particularly enjoy doing. But that’s life! Doing things that drag us out of our comfort zone, things we don’t like to do, are actions we must endure to achieve our goals.

I made every excuse in the book trying to get out of it.

”It’s a waste of time. I have more important steps to take to be successful. It’s so vain. It takes too much time. It feels so frivolous. It’s not serious work and I want people to take me seriously. I should use the time to focus on more important things.”

In this day and age though, social media is important. It’s vital to your brand, and it’s one of the most powerful and free tools you have. For those of you trying to raise money and making the excuse you don’t have the time or money to invest in it, you literally can’t afford not to.

Just start. You don’t need a fancy camera or a team of people to help posting and editing. You just have to start and be consistent, like any activity you want to get better at.

Think of your social media platforms as a magazine or portfolio that’s completely free for you to create. This portfolio can be seen globally by potential sponsors, partners and fans. It shows them the value you can bring and highlights your personality.

These are the top benefits I’ve discovered from utilizing social media as an athlete:

1. Build Your Brand.

The first step in sponsorship is understanding your brand and your brand values. That way you know which companies best match up. Then, by posting regularly on social media, you can give your personal brand true depth. Rather than just saying that one of your values is “hard work,” you can show fans and companies how hard you’re working through genuine content. As the old saying goes, “actions speak louder than words.”

2. Expand Your Network.

Certain social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, create an unbelievable opportunity to connect to business professionals. Through your sponsorship research, you’ll decide on the companies you’d like to connect with. Then, use professional social media platforms to connect with some of the key decision-makers or C-suite employees. Work on starting the conversation and building the relationship until you’re in a position to discuss a partnership. One of my largest partnerships this season was sparked from a LinkedIn connection!

3. Grow Your Fanbase.

There are 4.9 billion social media users worldwide. There’s no other free resource where you can connect to that many people and share your story. Think about how many people you can inspire and include in your journey. The more fans and followers you have, the more value you bring to a potential sponsor. One of the first questions I get asked by potential sponsors is, “How many followers do you have?” Also, the bigger fan base you have, the more people will be excited to purchase your branded merchandise.

4. Drive Additional Income.

Influencer and brand ambassador roles are extremely common these days. As an athlete or driver, don’t be afraid to engage with brands that might be looking to do social media promotion with you, but not direct sponsorship on your racing program.

Social media can be a great “trial run” for them to see how you fit into their brand and how you bring value to them. Getting paid for social media promos is an additional source of income to help cover living expenses. The less you have to travel for work, or work typical 8-5 hours, the more time you have to find companies to partner with on your racing program. And the more time you have to test, practice and train to improve your on-track performance!

5. Analyze Consumer Insights.

Posting your own content and then observing how your followers respond to it is a

great way to learn what people like or what you can improve. It expands your understanding of how to connect with your audience. Many social media platforms have insight tools that let you collect valuable data for your partners and sponsors. This helps them understand how to better engage with their desired demographic, which is another selling point for your partnerships!

6. Express Yourself and Gain Media Practice.

Brainstorming and producing content is always a creative challenge. It teaches you to keep an open mind, and consider others’ perspectives and wants. Understanding how to optimize what would engage a consumer - and how a company wants to present their product - takes great creativity at times. Plus, being in front of a camera, learning to present, paying attention to the details on how to convey information are all key media skills you will need to be a successful professional in sport and business. Companies love well-spoken representatives!

7. Showcase Your Partnerships.

Your current partners love it when you promote them to your loyal followers and fans. Social media is the easiest and most effective way to do that. Plus, showing you have loyal partners that you actively work with instills confidence, and intrigues other brands that might want to work with you.

Use Your Resources – All of Them!

The marketing, business, media, and communication tools you learn from social media and sponsorship work are invaluable. Think of it as an all-encompassing business internship. These skills will transfer to so many other aspects of life after racing. It’s the best hands-on education you can get, all while pursuing your passion!

Our job as drivers and athletes is to adapt, and create the best result possible with whatever situation and resources we have. Social media is a resource. So why not use it?

The addition of focused social media efforts has proven to be a transformative force to generate partnerships in my professional racing career. Social media has challenged me to innovate, and taught me the power of strategic growth and promotion. This tool that I was initially so resistant to has become a medium through which I inspire, engage, and propel my racing aspirations forward.

Loni Unser's Pikes Peak Blog

The Pikes Peak Hill Climb is one of the most iconic and challenging races in the world. The 12.42-mile course climbs 4,720 feet to the summit of Pikes Peak, testing the limits of both man and machine. The race consists of 156 turns, narrow switchbacks, and treacherous drops, making it one of the most demanding challenges any driver can face.

Despite the difficulty, the Pikes Peak Hill Climb draws thousands of fans from around the world who come to cheer on their favorite drivers and soak up the atmosphere. There's an energy at the race that's hard to describe - a mix of excitement, adrenaline and camaraderie. The fans are as passionate as they come, camping overnight in the freezing-cold mountain temperatures to cheer everyone to the top.

Back in early 2023, during the off-season, I knew I wanted to race the Pikes Peak Hill Climb for a second year in a row, but I was unsure about what car to compete in. Honestly, the winter months are stressful for many drivers, as it’s the time of year that we’re trying to figure out what we will drive in the coming season.

One day during my winter break, I was contemplating what to do. While sitting in my childhood home and watching the snow fall, I got a call that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Acura wanted me to drive for them in at the 2023 Pikes Peak Hill Climb!

They wanted to make their very popular anime series called Chiaki’s Journey, created and produced by Acura, come to life. And they wanted me to be the real-life Chiaki! Of course, I immediately said yes. From that day on I had one job to do: Make it to the top of Pikes Peak, successfully and very quickly.

Preparations for the Hill Climb began immediately, and I now had the honor of racing and helping develop the new Acura Integra Type S for the first time ever, and let me tell you, I did not take that job lightly. I was so proud to be representing Acura and HPD Racing.

As you may know, I come from a long line of racing legends, including my grandfather, Jerry, and my great uncles, Bobby and Al, who are all in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb Hall of Fame. I was grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to continue the Unser family legacy, and in my first ever, factory-supported race.

I knew I had big shoes to fill.

The entire month of June became dedicated to the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, and it all went on without a hitch. The only battles we had were with mother nature, when the final round of qualifying was delayed by fog.

In the end, I crossed the finish line with a huge smile on my face. The car performed flawlessly and so did my team of engineers at HPD. I’m very proud of what I accomplished and I’m ready to compete at the Pikes Peak Hill climb for many more years to come.

To all the fans who came out to support me and all the other drivers at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb this year, thank you. You made this a race to remember.

I also want to thank my amazing sponsors: Yokohama Tire, Mobil 1, Hagerty and Speedway Motors. Their support and expertise were instrumental in helping me perform at my best and achieve my goals. I couldn't have done it without them and am grateful for their ongoing commitment to my racing journey.

I'm looking to break records on the mountain in years to come, with the ultimate hope of becoming the second-ever Queen of the Mountain. Until then, keep shifting up!

Speed costs money: How fast do you want to go?

These days, when I pull up to a race track, I still feel like the little kid who traveled to IMSA races with his dad in the 1980s. The cool cars, big rigs, noises... they’re all very big to me, still. And I love that.

I grew up in the paddock, following my dad (Buz McCall) around the country. I saw amazing tracks, incredible cars and legendary drivers.

Back then, there were very few women in the driver’s seat. But the few competing were quickly some of my favorites to watch. Lyn St. James was - and still is - one of my favorite drivers of all time. Watching her battle the guys probably cemented something in my brain that formed a bit of who I am today.

As I grew older, my interest in seeing women succeed in a male-dominated sport grew even stronger. Sarah Fisher, Danica Patrick, Pippa Mann, Shea Holbrook and more; I loved seeing them run up front and compete for wins.

In 2013, my father and I started Round 3 Racing (R3R). We’re a multi-car team in the World Racing League (WRL), an endurance racing series that has very quickly climbed to the top of the United States amateur racing ladder. The front of the WRL field is filled with high-dollar cars, highly capable pro-level teams and many pro drivers.

Winning in WRL is difficult. To do so, you must run a perfect race with no mistakes. And don’t break anything. It’s all about fast, consistent laps and clean driving. As our Crew Chief Marc Gomora says, “Racing is hard.”

From the start, I had aspirations to grow the team, but I recognized that racing today is not like it was in the 80s and 90s. You never really know which opportunities will knock.

During the years of growth, and as we entered endurance racing, I lucked into an opportunity to do some good. In 2019, I met Lynn Kehoe, founder of Shift Up Now, and the vision for my team changed.

As an important side note, I’m a father of three girls (ages 15, 16 and 20). They’re not involved in racing at all and I’m okay with that. But I do believe in the opportunity to show them - and other women - that this sport should be open to all. And it should be a place where women can compete on equal ground with men. (Spoiler alert: It’s not.)

Lynn and I struck up an immediate friendship. We created a plan to give very talented women racers an opportunity to use R3R as a springboard to a career in racing.

Like all great plans, this one was hatched at a bar. From our barstools in Sebring, Florida, we toasted to our genius ideas and all of the trophies that we’d win together. We envisioned sponsors coming from all over, in support of our grand plan.

A couple weeks later, I got a call from the legend, Doc Waldrop. At this point, I was certain our brilliant plan was going to take off like a rocket. Doc wanted us to run TWO all-female teams at Barber that November. Like Lynn and I, Doc was certain that the sponsors would love this and send us blank checks.

But unfortunately (and maybe because all good stories need a plot twist), no blank checks arrived.

But one sponsor did step up for that event. Shell, one of our longtime partners, came forward with a generous sponsorship. It helped us to get Loni Unser, Sarah Montgomery and Pippa Mann to race with us at Barber.

At that first race together, we captured a P1 and a P2, and Sarah set the fast lap of the weekend. But that wasn’t what hooked me.

Before the race on Sunday, a young girl asked Sarah and Loni for a photo together. She was the daughter of another team’s driver. The smile on this little girl’s face was everything. Sarah and Loni were roll models for her. We were doing something very good and I was ALL IN.

In 2020, I spent a lot of time with the team from Shift Up Now and we formed a strategic partnership. We discussed the difficulty in getting support for women in motorsports and created a three-year plan.

We knew it was not going to be easy and we needed financial support. As my dad says, “Speed costs money. How fast do you want to go?”

While companies want to help, they’re not willing to blindly throw money behind a program with no history. We first needed success, then a plan for more success and finally an opportunity for advancement.

The first year together, Cooper Tires stepped up big and paved the way for us to field a full- season effort with Loni. Shell did the same for us with Sarah. Pippa and Shea filled in the openings for other races, and we were off and running.

Both Loni and Sarah had wins in that first season, with Loni winning the WRL Eastern Championship. We had accomplished our year-one goals. Cooper Tires was elated and was enthusiastically back with R3R in 2021.

A new sponsor took notice too: Hagerty came on board with R3R in 2021, bringing support for three Shift Up Now drivers and producing a TV show about our team. “The Drive Within” (now streaming on Hagerty.com) followed our team for the WRL season. It was an amazing experience and gave our drivers the added attention they deserved.

At the end of the season, Sarah and Hannah Grisham won the GP3 Championship and we were (once again) toasting to our success and grand plan.

Hagerty was back for 2022, supporting two Shift Up Now drivers at R3R. It was a banner year: We won races. We won championships. We did everything that we could do. And finally the phone rang.

Kelly Moss and Heart of Racing were going to host a competition for a female driver to win a scholarship for 2023. The Kelly Moss Shootout hosted three drivers, all of whom were current drivers for R3R.

Loni, Sarah and Sabre competed for the single opening. Ultimately, Sabre came away with the scholarship. Similarly, Hannah attended the Heart of Racing shootout and walked away with the scholarship for that ride. I was beaming with pride and confident that this was it.

We had established a program putting women on equal ground with men and giving them all the tools to succeed. We were proving that this sport knows no gender. I believe we earned the success to entice sponsorship. Bring on the support. The phone should start ringing off the hook now, right?

Crickets. Except for one: Cooper Tires continues to stand with us, and even ramped up their support at WRL events. The company is - and has always been - committed to supporting women in motorsport.

Shameless plug: Buy your next set of tires from Cooper.

So what’s next? None of this was easy and we know it can all be gone in a second. We can’t celebrate a few victories and call it a day. We are fighting constantly to find support in this business.

We’ve locked arms with Shift Up Now and it’s time to drive change. We want to make enough noise to get opportunities at the next level for these talented female racers. These are the best female drivers in the country. They’re race winners, series champions and shootout finalists. And they’re struggling to find support.

We have all the ingredients to win and set these racers on a path to future success, so there’s just one missing piece: Sponsorship.

Cooper Tires has been a rock for us and continues to support our efforts. But to really make an impact, there needs to be a constant flow of support. Put simply, we need more partners.

Shift Up Now Members and Shift Up Now Foundation donors have an unprecedented opportunity to help us keep charging forward.

Round 3 Racing is aiming to field an all-female GTO team this year and you can be involved. Whether you own a business, know someone who does, or simply want to be part of this game-changing mission, consider this my personal invitation.

For individuals with genuine interest in getting involved, please email info@shiftupnow.com to request a direct introduction to me (Brad McCall with Round 3 Racing).

My Season in Review: Michele Abbate Reflects on Trans Am National Tour Debut Season

By Michele Abbate

This year was the most anticipated one of my racing career and it has not disappointed. I had a lot of things to be excited about, from traveling to new tracks and racing for a new team. I got to drive a brand-new race car and I was equipped with everything I need to be successful.

If you would have asked me at Sebring, in the beginning of the season, what I was most excited about, I would’ve said I was anxious to see how I stack up against the competition. The past three years of my Trans Am career has been in an older car. Plus, my husband Anthony was the only one wrenching on my car, without any guidance or help. Joining the BC Race Cars team in 2022 meant we now have no disadvantage excuses.

Unfortunately, my first race of the season ended abruptly when two cars wrecked in front of me. They left me with nowhere to go because of another car passing on my outside. In addition, my teammate wrote off his car as well during that race. This was quite literally the worst possible way to make my National Tour debut. In hindsight, however, this was actually helpful for me. The ever-so-daunting idea of wrecking the car in a race happened and now it was time to bounce back.

Next up was the Charlotte Motor Speedway “roval,” a track I had never been to. I drove somewhat cautiously there for a couple reasons; I wanted to finish for some self redemption, and because the following weekend was Road Atlanta. I didn't want to take any chances that could jeopardize my ability to race a few days later.

Unfortunately at Road Atlanta, some lap traffic didn't see me and caused race-ending contact to my car. So at this point in the season, I had a 50 percent finishing rate: Not great. I was learning about the effect of attrition in the TA2 Series. This is not something I was used to, but when you have more than 40 cars racing in the same class on track, it definitely becomes a factor.

Any good driver will tell you that the mental aspect is a massive part of racing. Even though I can't plan a race or predict what will happen, I can control my mindset. Things that are out of my control will happen, so I have been learning how to adjust my mindset.

As I mentioned, at the beginning of the year I was focused on how I compared to the competition. Now, 10 races into our 12-race schedule, I wished I could go back and tell myself the importance of comparing my abilities to my abilities, and no one else’s.

The amount of talent in the TA2 field this year is undeniably the strongest it has ever been since the inception of the class. There are veteran drivers, champions from all disciplines and young talent that have astounding accomplishments already in their careers. When I remove myself from the comparison to other drivers in TA2, it is much easier to see my progress and success.

Being thrown into the massively-talented "wolves" of the National Tour TA2 class has been the best thing to happen in my career. Racing against strong competition only makes me better.

I have gotten faster at each track, and from every practice to qualifying. I've never taken a step backward. I have had success and competitive lap times at every track we've been to. I've also been able to understand race craft better, and execute things like braking, cornering, shifting and acceleration better than ever.

In addition to having a crew, engineers, and a teammate to learn from, I have been able to improve my performance far beyond any other year in my racing career. That is the big win. I am so proud of our results this year. If I’m fortunate enough to return for 2023, I believe we now have an excellent baseline from which to grow.

I am beyond grateful for my partners this year who have made it all possible. GHOST Lifestyle & GHOST Energy jumped on board with me for this journey and I couldn't be more proud to be their only athlete in the racing industry. Long-time partners like Lucas Oil, Scosche, Boxo, Heat Wave Visual, RECARO, and PRYDE Apparel have all been with me since my club racing days. I am so honored to continue our partnerships through into the pro-racing level. Last but definitely not least, I am very proud to represent Shift Up Now in the Trans Am series. They have been an integral part of promoting women in motorsports and I look forward to supporting the cause. I cannot wait for the day I am not the only female in the world racing in TA2. Let's GO!