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IndyCar on NBC’s Katie Hargitt looks to ‘fuel’ more females in motorsports

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Katie Hargitt joined the IndyCar on NBC team in 2015, but was no stranger to motorsports or media work.

Hargitt is a former racer herself – she raced quarter midgets starting at the age of nine and moved into USAC midgets at the age of 15, and she continued racing until she was 21 – and began pursuing a career in media while at Ball State University.

She quickly got the attention of USAC and became a pit reporter with them, alongside several other gigs within the media realm.

“I loved it. I loved telling people’s stories, even just around little (Muncie, Indiana), but I loved it. And I loved the people I got to meet, and the stories I got to tell,” Hargitt told NBC Sports in discussing her early media career.

She quickly developed a demo reel that eventually got the attention of Mike King, then the lead announcer for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network, who offered her a “tryout” of sorts at the 2013 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and her Verizon IndyCar Series reporting career was off and running.

Fast forward to 2018, her fourth season as a part of the IndyCar on NBC team, and Hargitt began looking at a new venture. She took note of several successful women within the IndyCar paddock, but also knew there were a lot more out there with the potential and the skill to work in the motorsports realm; they just lacked the connections and/or the resources to break into it.

“Ever since getting into IndyCar professionally, and racing in general professionally, I have seen this need for resources for women who are not necessarily drivers, because the women drivers are able to get attention, and therefore resources. The women behind the scenes – the mechanics, the engineers, the business women – don’t necessarily get that same attention, therefore, no resources,” Hargitt explained.

The idea led her to speak with Terry Lingner, producer of the NBCSN IndyCar telecasts, which then led to a conversation with Teresa Sabatine, Indianapolis Film Commissioner.

What she initially thought might be a single-day event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, one that would highlight all the motorsports careers young women could aspire to, quickly grew into something much bigger.

Now a non-profit dubbed Fuel the Female, Hargitt’s newest venture aims to do exactly what its title says: metaphorically fuel girls and women to pursue careers within motorsports, or even in other STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and business fields. In short, Hargitt hopes to use it to help empower women, no matter their career path.

“Now we are working on developing a scholarship for women who want to get into motorsports and need some assistance in their education. We’re developing a mentorship program, and we’ll also have some networking opportunities – so, just general events that anyone would be able to attend,” she said in discussing her objectives and the projects associated with them.

All told, the process has taken Hargitt by surprise, notably because of how quickly it has gone.

“Everything is happening so fast,” she exclaimed. “I feel like it should take years to get to where we are, just because of the incredible amount of support I have received, not only from people in the paddock but the general public.”

She’s even planned and held the first event for Fuel the Female as well. Back in May, during practice week ahead of Indianapolis 500 qualifying, Hargitt and the Fuel the Female team organized a day in which 60 female students from Indianapolis Public Schools came out to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to meet and hear from a number of women who work within IndyCar in varying capacities.

Such women included Danica Patrick, Kate Gundlach (an assistant engineer for Chip Ganassi Racing), Cara Adams (the chief engineer for Firestone Racing) Lisa Boggs (the director of motorsports for Bridgestone Americas), Jessica Mace (a mechanic at Andretti Autosport), and Kate Guerra (Sr. manager, national media outreach, with INDYCAR).

And while Hargitt was certainly excited to kick off her program with such an event, she was also more than a little nervous.

“I was terrified going into the day, because I didn’t know what to expect with high school girls,” she revealed. “It could go one of two ways. They can either be fascinated and interested and want to know about motorsports, or they can be completely tuned out. Luckily, it was the first option.”

Hargitt credited people like Lauren Guidotti (community outreach manager at IMS), Anne Fischgrund (Sr. manager VIP services at IMS), and Allison Melangton (Sr. VP of events for Hulman Motorsports and IMS) for helping to ensure that things went off without a hitch, and added that the students’ involvement was genuinely incredible, with their willingness to be interactive and ask questions of the speakers making the event all the more powerful.

“We had fantastic students, and I was particularly impressed with one school in particular. All the girls introduced themselves to the speakers and shook hands with them and wanted to know more about their careers and reached out to us on social media – they wanted to know how they can stay involved and how can they know more about motorsports. I went into the day thinking ‘If we can change a handful of girls’ minds about what they can do with their lives, we’ve succeeded.’ And I think we did that.”

Katie Hargitt (right) and Kate Guerra (left) during the first Fuel the Female event in May. Photo: IndyCar

More events and plans are in the works, with recent projects including a slew of profile pieces on various women who work in racing – Brie Rentz (communications director at Ed Carpenter Racing), Gail Truess (AMR Safety Team driver with INDYCAR and pace car driver with the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires), and Lauren Stewart (owner and operator of Lauren Stewart Promotions, and fiance of the late Bryan Clauson) are among those who have been profiled. Danielle Shepard (engineer at Ganassi) and Amanda Lund (engineer at Andretti Autosport) have also been featured on their Facebook page.

Hargitt described that her ultimate goal is to start raising funds to establish things like the aforementioned scholarships and mentorship programs to help up and coming women break into motorsports. And with their first big event already in the books, Hargitt can already see the potential impact of it all. She particularly noted how the students reacted to Danica Patrick’s story, specifically her ventures outside of the sport.

“They were like ‘(Danica) is in her 30s and she did what? Like, she has businesses? You think I could have a business?’ ‘Yeah, girl, you could have a business!’ ‘Oh my gosh, here’s what I want my business to be in,'” she said of conversations she had and overheard among the students. “Just, their brains really start to turn and their minds start to change – ‘if she can do it, I can do it.’”

Hargitt added, “Seeing these women build their own brands and their own careers, and watching the students’ eyes open up was enough to fill up my heart for a lifetime.”

More information about Fuel the Female, including ways to get involved and donate to the cause, can be found on their website.

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Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.