De Silvestro, Mann return Indy 500 grid to multiple females after one-year hiatus


One of the better parts about the Indianapolis 500 over the last decade or so is that there have become multiple female drivers in the field on a regular basis.

It’s back to two this year after a one-year dip to just one, with Simona de Silvestro and Pippa Mann both completing successful qualifying attempts for the 99th Indianapolis 500. De Silvestro is set to roll off 19th, Mann 27th next Sunday.

Both drivers bounced back nicely after adversity early during practice week threatened to set them both back.

De Silvestro’s car suffered a fuel leak which led to a fire; Mann had an accident exiting Turn 4. Both crews repaired their cars – in Mann’s case building up a new backup – and they returned to the tracks.

Mann is set to make her fourth ‘500 start, third straight with Dale Coyne Racing and second straight in the pink No. 63 Susan G. Komen Honda. Mann is also doing a #GetInvolved campaign to raise funding and awareness for breast cancer, with more info linked here.

“This is absolutely incredible; it’s hard to describe how amazing the Dale Coyne Racing crew guys are,” Mann said. “When I crashed the main car we didn’t have a backup car. We didn’t even have a spare tub sitting around. It was an absolute monumental effort. It’s so important to have this car in the show with the money we are racing for the Susan G. Komen campaign.”

De Silvestro will make her fifth ‘500 start, and returns after a year’s hiatus missing last year’s race. She’s now driving for one of the top teams in Andretti Autosport, and her No. 29 TE Connectivity Honda should be a car to watch. She is the 2010 Indianapolis 500 rookie-of-the-year, with a 14th place finish.

“It’s the trickiest four laps you have to do, you’re always hanging on out there,” de Silvestro said. “I’m always more nervous for qualifying. I’m happy to be in the show, Andretti did an incredible job to get the car together again. Qualifying was OK, it’s going to be really good in race trim, I think.”

As for the multiple females, it marks the eighth time in the last nine years this has happened. Here’s a recent history of females in the race, dating 10 years back to 2005:

  • 2014: Pippa Mann
  • 2013: Simona de Silvestro, Pippa Mann, Katherine Legge, Ana Beatriz
  • 2012: Simona de Silvestro, Katherine Legge, Ana Beatriz
  • 2011: Danica Patrick, Simona de Silvestro, Pippa Mann, Ana Beatriz
  • 2010: Danica Patrick, Simona de Silvestro, Sarah Fisher, Ana Beatriz (Milka Duno did not qualify)
  • 2009: Danica Patrick, Sarah Fisher, Milka Duno
  • 2008: Danica Patrick, Sarah Fisher, Milka Duno
  • 2007: Danica Patrick, Sarah Fisher, Milka Duno
  • 2006: Danica Patrick
  • 2005: Danica Patrick

The weekend also featured the launch of the new Grace Autosport team, led by Beth Paretta with Legge set to drive in 2016, which seeks to become the first all-female team on the grid.

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
Align Media

ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”