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Grace Autosport confirms it won’t field entry in 100th Indy 500

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Last year, Grace Autosport announced its intentions to field a car in the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, but on Wednesday has confirmed that it will not be part of this race.

The program wasn’t part of Monday’s release of the entry list.

The Beth Paretta-led group issued a press release on Wednesday morning and did not mention Katherine Legge within the release; Legge had been tabbed as the team’s driver provided it found a chassis and engine partner for the month.

Grace Autosport announced today that it will not compete in this year’s 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29, 2016.

Over the past year the Grace Autosport team was able to assemble a manufacturer partner, sponsor partners, educational partners, funding, driver and crew members, but the missing component was a viable race car to compete in the May race, despite great interest in the program. The reality of the shortage of feasible cars is reflected in only 33 cars entered for the 100th Running of the Indy 500 this year.

“We met with many teams in the IndyCar Paddock late last season to determine partnership feasibility and discovered numerous teams had chosen to scale back their plans for 2016,” said Team Principal, Beth Paretta. “We were ready to announce a team partnership for the Indy 500 at the Grand Prix of Long Beach in mid-April but a change in terms proved unsound for Grace’s sponsor partners and unfortunately we had to step away from the deal.”

“The consolidation of teams and the decrease of entries in 2016 reduced the available options for us. Our partner spoke with Dallara about buying a new car after Long Beach but there wasn’t a current 2016 car available in time for the 500. We evaluated an available chassis as late as last week but there wasn’t enough time to acquire all the parts needed to rebuild the car safely. Because of this sequence of events we will not campaign a car in this year’s Indy 500.”

“As I said last summer, Grace Autosport was not interested in just making the grid and running at the back. We wanted to put forth a respectable effort and we wanted to be competitive, while keeping safety at the very forefront of our program. We apologize to the many fans that have reached out to offer their support, which has been incredible. The good news is that we will not give up and are now working closely with our partners to map out Grace’s future.”

“The Grace Autosport initiative is far more than a race program,” added Paretta. “Concurrent to building the race team, we have been assembling commercial partners and the essential pieces for our STEM educational initiatives to reach the community and the classroom that we set forth a year ago. Thank you again to the many fans for the continued notes of support and appreciation since our announcement last May. We look forward to seeing all of you at the races in the near future.”

Report: Grace Autosport close to engine deal for Indy 500

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Beth Paretta’s Grace Autosport team targeted early March as a date to secure its engine lease for the Indianapolis 500.

If it’s done in mid-to-late February, it would put the team ahead of schedule.

Paretta, speaking on Inside Indiana Business with Gerry Dick, would hope to announce an engine deal shortly for the race.  The full interview is here, hosted by Bill Benner.

Dick noted it would be a Chevrolet, although a tweet he’d posted about that has since been deleted.

Once an engine deal would be confirmed, it would answer one of the outstanding questions for the team, and the number of engine leases likely available, ahead of the 100th running of the race.

If it’s Chevrolet, in looking at the number of Chevrolet teams, Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing are already at four cars, KVSH Racing has two cars accounted for (KVSH Racing for Sebastien Bourdais and PIRTEK Team Murray for Matthew Brabham), Ed Carpenter Racing also has two set (Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter) and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing has a single car for Sage Karam.

Meanwhile on the Honda side, extra cars could be available from A.J. Foyt Enterprises, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports or Andretti Autosport, each of whom have fielded extra cars for the race in the past. Dale Coyne Racing is expected to field a four-car lineup.

Grace Autosport continuing to build program towards May

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One of the newest teams planning to field an entry at this year’s 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, Grace Autosport, continues its preparations in what could be a hectic month of February.

The primarily female initiative, led by Beth Paretta with Katherine Legge as nominated driver, has gained traction in the last month or so with further meetings, STEM events and Legge’s standout drive in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opening race, the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

While announced last May, time is of the essence for securing both an engine lease and a team partner, to go along with the crew already established.

The target to confirm both the engine and team partner is coming up next month.

“[We’d need to finalize] by the beginning of March to give it proper time,” Paretta told NBC Sports in an interview following the Rolex 24.

Paretta was on site at Daytona for the Rolex 24 for a number of meetings with manufacturers and other key industry stakeholders, to continue to promote the Grace Autosport message, brand and team.

“Yes, there were a few key meetings – some planned, some impromptu – which went very well,” she said.

“The awareness still surprises me. I was wearing a Grace Autosport hat in the paddock and a few people asked me about the team. Many people in the racing community have said they think the concept is cool and have offered help.

“I get offers for help from some guys that have worked on teams I’ve worked with in the past, which is lovely.”

Legge’s drive at Daytona in the DeltaWing DWC13 coupe didn’t hurt matters, either.

The Tim Keene-led team opted not to qualify in the treacherous, rain-soaked conditions. Legge started the car and went from 13th and last in the Prototype class field up to third within the first 20 minutes, and led by the end of the first hour.

In a career that’s had occasional standout drives, this was one of them, and came at a good time.

“Her drive in the DeltaWing was just fantastic. While she was leading overall I was talking with some other racing drivers in pit lane and one said, almost dismissively, ‘Well, that car was really fast,’” Paretta said of Legge.

“Yes, it was, but she has been an integral part of the development of that car and part of the reason why it’s become faster. Any IMSA fan knows that the DeltaWing project has had a lot of challenges so I think to see it running up front was a nice surprise for many fans. People like an underdog so I think it was really exciting to watch her climb through the field and run up front.”

Legge was due to share the car with Andy Meyrick, Sean Rayhall and Andreas Wirth before Meyrick got caught up in a strange accident, where a radio issue meant Meyrick didn’t fully hear there was another PC car stopped on course in the middle of Turn 1.

Although Meyrick braked earlier than normal to avoid it, proved by the data, he still wound up hitting Chris Cumming’s stranded car which took the DeltaWing out of the race. Cumming’s PC car was also severely wounded.

The DeltaWing aside, where Legge and Grace really seek to make strides is in STEM events. Legge and Paretta recently did an event in Indianapolis with the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, Inc., last week.

The STEM portion is a major component of the Grace Autosport effort.

“STEM and education for girls is the foundation of Grace Autosport. It isn’t a throwaway comment connecting racing with a ’cause.’ It is why we are racing,” Paretta said.

“Even though we have yet to turn a wheel, we are working with different groups supporting educational initiatives for girls and young women. We participated in the Society of Women Engineers’ annual conference, which was held in Nashville in October, and this week Katherine and I will be delivering the keynote address to a conference for science teachers in the State of Indiana.

“So STEM education isn’t a pet cause for us, it is the cause for what we are doing. We will be making a few more announcements in the coming months that we will explain how we will connect our message to the community and the classroom.”

New all-female team, Grace Autosport, announced Friday at IMS

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Beth Paretta, who has spent a significant amount of time in several motorsports programs, and Katherine Legge, who has had diverse motorsports driving experience in open-wheel and sports car racing, were on hand at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to announce Grace Autosport, which seeks to be the first all-female team in motorsports.

The full news release is below.

More to follow later today following the press conference at IMS.

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Grace Autosport, the first all-female IndyCar Series racing team, announced their plans today to compete in 100th the running of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. From team owner to race engineers to aerodynamicists to the driver to marketing and public relations directors, the women of Grace Autosport will be on the grid for the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on May 29, 2016.

Grace Autosport will spearhead a one-of-a-kind racing program with a focused educational initiative, which looks to create and inspire future champions and leaders in motorsport. The goal of this pioneering all-female racing team is not only to empower women in motorsport, but to encourage a new generation of women to pursue careers in STEM (science/technology/engineering/math). Grace also hopes its program and platform attracts a new fan base to IndyCar racing and the Indianapolis 500 race, the largest sporting event in the world.

“The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been the scene for many automotive firsts,” said Grace Team Principal, Beth Paretta of The Paretta Company and former motorsports director for SRT Motorsports/Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. “It makes it so special to have the opportunity to launch our team here. For us, true success will be measured by how many girls and women we can encourage to pursue a STEM career. Having said that, we are here to win and our goal is within 10 years to make sure a woman’s face will grace the BorgWarner trophy.”

Katherine Legge, a two-time Indy 500 competitor, has been named as the inaugural driver. Her firsts as a female racer has spanned single-seater and sports car racing. The native Brit’s diverse racing history includes British Formula Fords, Toyota Atlantics, Champ Car/IndyCar, IMSA sports cars, DTM and Formula E racing.

“I am very proud to be a part of this new and exciting team.  To me it’s more than just racing, it’s the start of something much bigger; a movement within the sport,” said Legge. “This is something I’ve been very passionate about for a very long time. Racing is my life-long passion and the drive to compete in the Indy 500 has been there since the very beginning. Being able to combine my enthusiasm for racing with the goal of empowering young women to pursue STEM subjects is a dream come true.  It will be interesting to see it all unfold from the beginning and I have no doubt we will be successful.”

Additional team members include: Catherine Crawford, aerodynamicist, principal of Crawford Composites and one of the few women around the globe supervising a race team, which she currently does in the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship; Lauren Elkins, motorsports engineer, track support technician and data analysis manager, who brings multiple years in IndyCar and sports car racing to the team; Jessica Rowe, a junior design engineer with a variety of race experience, both at track and in the design office; and Barbara Burns, a skilled motorsport professional specializing in communications, public relations, event management and media training for young professional athletes and drivers.

“It is wonderful to see an inspirational team with such an impressive depth of experience and knowledge,” said Michele Mouton, President of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission. “The fact the team is led by women in many of the key roles showcases the fact everyone can have a place in motorsport. Equality is there. Young women should be encouraged to seek the opportunities; this team again demonstrates that gender does not have to be a barrier in relation to success in all areas of racing.”

Grace Autosport will continue to provide updates with regards to team sponsors and personnel in the months to come. For more information, please visit www.graceautosport.com.