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 email@example.com to request a direct introduction to me (Brad McCall with Round 3 Racing).