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

June 14, 2024

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.

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