From the Founder of Shift Up Now

By Lynn Kehoe

If you’re reading this, you are likely familiar with Shift Up Now and its mission. But if you don’t know the full story, sit back, grab a drink and buckle up as you share the ride.

After my husband passed away in 2010, I was looking for anything that could take me out of the grief and loneliness I was experiencing. At a charity auction, I made the winning bid on an experience behind the wheel of a race car. I’d always liked driving fast and thought the adrenaline rush of doing it legally on track would push me out of my comfort zone, and maybe give me a new life perspective. My first day at the track was miserable. I just didn’t get it. But my second day, when it all came together, was magic; I was hooked. I started taking driving lessons and hitting the racetrack every weekend that I could, no matter where the race was located.

I knew very little about car maintenance, less about racing protocols and even less about what I was trying to accomplish. I bought tools, tires, a car, a trailer and a helmet. Soon I was given the nickname “Gypsy Lynn” because I was constantly reaching out to whomever I could to learn how to change a tire, replace brake pads, find the right ratchets, etc. As I wandered, I left a trail of parts, tools and drinks giving my new race buddies the idea of my being a gypsy. Little did they know that this was a story my sister used to tell me about my entry into our family, that I was left on the doorstep by a band of gypsies. The name stuck and here I was, the new driver on the track.

Along with this newfound hobby came new friends and an awareness that most of the drivers on the track were men. I had worked for many years in the male-dominated financial industry and was acutely aware of this disparity in racing. Why weren’t more women racing and why weren’t women recognized as accomplished enough to earn the lucrative sponsorships that a lot of men held?

In 2014, I started to think of ways to empower more women to have a bigger voice and place in motorsports. I figured if women could work together for each other and honestly support each other in motorsports, we could change the face of the track and bring new dreams to girls looking for the excitement of motorsports.

I had no idea how to go about this. I spent a lot of time, on and off the track, talking to people about an organization that could help me bring women to the forefront of motorsports. I brainstormed with people in the industry, and with friends and family who had no idea what I was talking about or trying to accomplish. I wrote multiple business plans. I started and stopped so many times that I wondered if I could ever get this idea to take off.

All the while, I kept up my racing and developed more relationships with people in motorsports. I built a family with people from NASA, then Spec E30 and resolved that I was going to get my idea off the ground.

Then it started, first with the name SHIFT UP, then with another idea (thank you, Pippa Mann) to do the 25 Hours of Thunderhill Endurance Race in 2018, which led to a lot of positive recognition for the women drivers who believed we could do this. Finally, to a solid business plan and mission to encourage women in motorsports. Nothing came easily, or without a lot of sweat, tears, money, falling down and getting back up. What started as a small thought became a major source of pride and success.

The years that followed seem like a blur. The ups and downs continued but the idea resonated with so many. I was fortunate to have help. There were women and men who jumped on my bandwagon and offered suggestions, not just to figure it out but to actually roll up their sleeves and put their money where there mouths were to offer real support. Through this, Shift Up became Shift Up Now because the mission, the action and the need was indeed NOW. We created the Ambassador program, where some of the most accomplished female racers applied to be part of our team, and to be role models, not just to other racers but to show how barriers are broken. We also created a Junior Ambassador program because we had girls as young as three years old looking to participate.

Through our efforts, we were able to support Pippa Mann’s seventh running in the Indy 500 in 2019; seeing our name on an Indy car will always be a highlight. After that, we supported Sarah Montgomery as she became the first woman to stand on the podium in MX-5 cup series. We cheered for Shea Holbrook making her open wheel racing debut in the W Series. We beamed as we watched Shift Up Now Athlete Chloe Chambers, at only 16 years old, earn a Guinness Book World Record for the fastest Slalom (47.45 seconds) in a 2020 Porsche 718 Spyder.

It was the first time since Shift Up Now began that I truly sat back and thought, ‘We’ve got this.’

Late in 2020, with the pandemic still reeking havoc on track events, I decided that Shift Up Now needed to make a right turn. Once again, I found myself seeking the advice of others and this time, it was a core group of our Ambassadors to whom I turned. Shift Up Now had come far, very far but now was also the time for change. I knew that I had reached the top of my game and believed it was time to do what I always set out to do: let the next generation do their thing.

It’s not even been a year and already the new management is proving me right. The changes that have been made have strengthened Shift Up Now in many ways. Shift Up Now Athletes continue to be role models for the current and future generations of girls and women who stand on the podium at motorsports event worldwide. I could not be more proud of the direction and success of Shift Up Now as it is today. From the Founder, the future is indeed bright.

Hello from Hannah

By Hannah Grisham

Present pandemic notwithstanding, a racers life is always full of ups and downs. Coming into 2021, it seemed everything was still pretty much stuck between gears but, by staying confident, keeping engaged, plus a decent helping of being associated with great people and great organizations, I got my year off to a wonderful start.

However, my biggest news does date to late 2020—when I became a test driver in the Research and Development Department of Pirelli North America. I am extremely lucky to say that I work at the Pirelli North America headquarters  in Georgia, and I’m Pirellis only subjective test driver for all of North America (and the first and only female Pirelli Test Driver in the world). There is also one objective test driver for North America, but as the subjective test driver my feedback is based not on instrumentation and data, but on my own personal analysis and response to how a set of tires performs.

I travel around 25 weeks a year to proving grounds, tracks and car manufacturer facilities all over the country and, on average, will go through 20-25 sets of tires in a weekstesting. Pirelli has been wonderful to me, accommodating and allowing me to continue my racing and, as it turns out, I have gotten off to a great start this year.

Starting in January, with thanks to Shift-Up Now, Hagerty Motorsports and Hixon Motor Sports, I got to race the Mazda Global MX-5 Cup, which ran in conjunction with the IMSA 24 Hours of Daytona at the Daytona International Speedway. I was lucky enough to be part of a team managed by a female that also included four super competitive and supportive female drivers. Although I had some issues over the weekend, there were some positives. I was Hard Charger at one point late into the race on Saturday, and on Sunday, despite being further back, I posted top ten lap times.

In March, I got to race F2000/FC at the SCCA, San Francisco Regions Majors/Restricted Regional event at Thunderhill Raceway Park —this time thanks to car owner Harin de Silva and long time supporter RLV. This was my first open wheel race and I was so lucky to get to work with Dave Freitas Racing and personal mentor Buddy Rice. I finished second on both Saturday and Sunday.

April was exciting as I was asked by Shift Up Now to sit in at Round 3 Racing, for Shea Holbrook, who could not make the World Racing League endurance race at iconic Mid-Ohio. The event consisted of separate 8-hour endurance races on both Saturday and Sunday. In my first ever endurance racing event, I got to do stints as long as three hours in one of Round 3 Racings impeccably prepared Team Cooper Tire, Hagerty Motorsports Porsche Boxsters. We had a great time, finishing just off the podium on Saturday, and looking for a podium finish on Sunday until late in the race when rain led to an issue outside of our control forcing us to retire.

I got to race again with the Round 3 Racing team in May, and instead of substituting for Shea, I got to team up with her! This time we were taking on the two 8-hour World Racing League events at Road America, and along with our fellow team-mate Christian Maloof, we had a great weekend—putting the Team Cooper Tire, Hagerty Motorsports Round 3 Racing Porsche Boxster on the podium in 2nd on Saturday, and winning the GP2 race on Sunday!

And now, to top it all off, I am scheduled as the Shift Up Now backup driver for Round 3 Racings multi-car program at the World Racing Leagues 14-hour endurance event next weekend at Daytona International Speedway.

My huge thanks go to Pippa Mann and Shea Holbrook of Shift Up Now, Hagerty Insurance, Team Cooper Tire and Round 3 Racing, those noted above, as well as several others for the help, support, encouragement, friendship and opportunities they have provided. As race drivers—and in life—we may not always know what is around the next turn, but when you are surrounded by great people and organizations, it is probably something pretty good. I cant wait to see what the rest of 2021 holds in store!

From Karting to Cars

By Chloe Chambers

This is my inaugural season in the Formula 4 United States Championship powered by Honda. A U.S. F4 car is an open-wheel formula car with a carbon fiber monocoque and slick Hankook tires. It is powered by a Honda Civic derived four-cylinder, two-liter motor that is race prepared by Honda Performance Development in California. F4 is an FIA-sanctioned race category run at the national level. The U.S. has the largest entry list of any of the FIA-sanctioned F4 series.

Despite having a Guinness World Record for Fastest Vehicle Slalom in a 718 Porsche Spyder, I don’t have a lot of experience when it comes to cars. I started racing when I was eight years old. Like most aspiring car racers, I rose up the ranks of karting. In 2020, I moved up to the senior class in karting and won the World Karting Association Grand National Championship in Rok Senior. In 2019, I competed in arguably the biggest karting race in the world, SKUSA Supernationals in Las Vegas. I placed 3rd in the x30 Junior class against 80 of the world’s best drivers. My original plan for the 2020-2021 season was to race karts in Europe but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, those plans were brought to a halt. At 16 years old, I am now looking to make the transition from karts to cars.

Karting teaches you the fundamental racecraft and car control skills that will stay with you for the rest of your racing career. Young drivers must first master these fundamental skills before making their leap to cars. However, moving from karts to cars involves reworking some skills and learning new ones.

My biggest learning curve in the transition from my own karts to cars was brake pedal modulation. The technique used in karts is vastly different from the technique used in cars. In cars, you use your whole leg rather than just your ankle and you have to modulate the brake lots more in the car going into a turn. I discovered I enjoy the different driving style you use in a car more than the driving-style used in a kart. In a car, you have to be smooth because there is more weight transfer, whereas you can really throw a kart around more with quick short inputs. A racecar is more comfortable to drive too, with the custom fitted seat molded exactly to your body and the car’s suspension to absorb bumps. The hard seat and no suspension in a kart really take a toll on your body.

Tracks in the F4 Championship are all built to FIA certification and are extremely fun to drive. Compared to karting, these tracks are obviously much bigger, which gives you the feeling that you are actually going relatively slowly. Tracks such as Barber Motorsports Park and Road Atlanta both have enormous elevation change, unlike anything you would ever experience in a kart. This elevation change plays a role in car setup and driving style and the track a lot more fun. Plus, it’s crucial that you get a good exit out of every single corner so you can either set up a pass or prevent being passed down a super long straightaway. This teaches drivers how much their mistakes can affect their performance and how important it is to get the most speed out of the car as possible.

Going from old tires to new tires is a crucial part in getting a fast lap time in both karts and cars. The same principles from karts carry into cars but you really feel the difference between an old set of tires compared to a new set in karts. The F4 car feels like it’s more planted to the track than a kart does simply because it is much heavier, has stickier and bigger tires, and has downforce.

Logistically, karting is easier. You can decide on a whim to go practicing or racing at your local kart track. For cars, it involves renting a track, gathering the team, packing everything up and in some cases, driving hours to go to the nearest track. This may be obvious, but cars are much more expensive to run and getting spare parts is much harder too.

My first race weekend in the F4 U.S. Championship at Road Atlanta in March was a great learning experience. I drove my first F4 laps in the wet – which I really enjoyed – and on dry track. I found some key differences: the car responds to driver inputs much better than a kart simply because there are more areas on the car that can be changed.

I mentioned earlier that you will carry the racecraft you learn from karting with you for the rest of your racing career. The racing in F4 is super close and the style of racing is similar to karting. The F4 cars have lots of draft like karts do and the way you try to out brake your competitors entering the corner is similar. The only major difference is that you have mirrors. You can use these at your leisure pretty much whenever you want to. There is no more having to turn your head.

A notable difference though,  there can be no contact in open-wheel race cars,  which leads to cleaner racing overall. Karts have bumpers on all four sides which means that there will always be some sort of contact and usually, nothing major happens to either driver. In cars, the consequences are much bigger, and if there is contact, it will usually be substantial enough to end your race or even your entire weekend. Even something as simple as going off track can cause damage. In a kart, if you get stuck in the grass, you can get out and move yourself back onto the track. Getting stuck in a gravel trap in a car will bring the session to a halt and the tow truck will have to come tow you out of the gravel.

Unless you’ve raced shifter karts, the standing starts in race cars are a whole new learning experience. While I haven’t had vast experience in cars, what experience I do have is in manual transmissions with a clutch. Being familiar and comfortable with clutch control really helped me get a grasp on standing starts rather quickly. I also credit my good reaction time when the lights go out to my years of anticipating the buzzer from the starting block as a competitive swimmer.

In my first race weekend, I proved I have the race craft on a new track in varying conditions. I was disappointed my second race was cut short due to contact from another racer after starting P10 and making it to P6 in two laps of racing. In the third race, I was really proud of my performance, moving up 11 places.

At the end of 2020, my racing future was uncertain. The opportunity to race the F4 U.S. Championship with Future Star Racing came together rather quickly. I am thankful to Mark and Alora McAlister for the opportunity. Overall, my experience has been a huge positive. I’ve learned so much along the way from my coach, Al Unser Jr., and my team.  I cannot wait to get back in the car again for an all new challenge.  Road America, here I come!

Why the Little Things Matter

By Erin Vogel

“VIR is a serious track.”

“GT3: Now that’s a serious car.”

“It takes real strength to drive a car like that.”

“That’s where the big boys run.”

These are all things I’ve heard in an attempt to discourage me from chasing my dreams. And this is just in recent years – I can’t even recall all the things I was told coming up through grassroots racing. Maybe these people thought they were preparing me, but I also think some part of them doubted my capability.

I’ve always been very honest with myself – and others – about my skill level. It allows me to find opportunities for growth and it usually keeps me safe. But this doesn’t seem to be a typical trait in drivers, at least outwardly.

I don’t know if it’s a trait more inherent to females, either by culture or by nature, but what I see as humility is sometimes perceived as a lack of confidence in a world full of male ego. In seeking to become a complete driver, it’s imperative for me to grow my skills first before taking a next step; however, this has sometimes been viewed as me being slow to learn, or simply just incapable of getting there.

Under the surface, I’m unlearning eight years of bad habits picked up in High Performance Driver Education (HPDE) and grassroots racing, where I mostly tried to teach myself how to race through reading and watching YouTube videos, and not really having a goal in mind. Meanwhile, the men I race against mostly jumped right into full racing gear because that’s what they always wanted to do.

When I first took my streetcar to HPDE, the idea of driving on a racetrack was not related to any thought of going racing. Perhaps that mindset had more to do with my age and understanding my own lack of experience, paired with natural timidity and an intimidation factor acquired via social media. As far as I knew at the time, women didn’t race.

Fortunately, I did find some incredible female role models and friends, both male and female, along the way. I’m consistently encountering things in racing that make me ask why things are done a certain way, and I think my curiosity about why has endeared me to a handful of great people. I’ve built a network of others who, like me, love to ask why and always want to keep improving.

I may not ever be the fastest, most celebrated, most decorated, or even much remembered as a racer. But I think the work I’m doing is important. I’m showing a handful of people that this “girl” who didn’t know her camber from her toe in the beginning is a driver who should be taken seriously. I smile a lot and I don’t always have the answer, but that’s specific to my own character and experiences, and not because of my gender.

I’m proving to a small circle of people that women are strong, capable, hard-working, focused athletes who can endure, adapt, and compete with the best. We’re not so different from our male counterparts after all, except maybe a little less afraid to show our emotions – occasionally.

The best part is to find that I’m not alone in this roll. Organizations like Shift Up Now start out as one person – and not always a woman – who wants to see a change. That evolves into a network of drivers of all shapes, sizes, genders, ethnicities, localities, ages, and skill-levels coming together for support and visibility. People start to recognize that there are more and more women succeeding in so many ways, at so many levels, and a network of success grows.

I used to hear that visibility was important only if we (women) were going to get the results. Yes, winners get the most attention and that helps to spread the message, but the women and men of Shift Up Now have agreed not to let us forget how often the small impacts are just important as the great ones. They add up slowly over time, and perhaps they’re less apt to fade quickly away. Which is why I got on board.

And I want to thank you for being here with us too.