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.