(WXYZ) — Fans attending or watching the 2021 Indianapolis 500 are about to see more women behind the pit wall.
Paretta Autosport, which will have the No. 16 Chevrolet race car, will be the first entrant in the Indy 500 from a team that is female-owned, female-driven with a largely female crew.
The team is owned by Beth Paretta, the former director of SRT Motorsports, who is based in metro Detroit. The No. 16 Chevrolet will be piloted by Swiss racer Simona De Silvestro, who was the 2010 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year.
Paretta, who has a background in racing and motorsports, saw an opportunity to get more women involved in the sport over the years.
"We can show that this is a place that's welcoming to women, that women can do this as engineers or mechanics," Paretta said. "Everybody focuses on getting more women drivers on the grid, but what about all the other roles?"
Paretta said she thought her team would be a good opportunity to lift the curtain and grow the sport to women.
Currently, the team is training several women to potentially be on the pit crew for the Indy 500. Some of those people Paretta has known and others who have joined the team came from others.
"These are women that we're training up right now. We'll see if they're ready to go over the wall," Paretta said. "They're all athletic, but some of them are also mechanically minded and have mechanical experience"
That mechanical experience is important, Paretta said, because in IndyCar, the people who go over the wall are also typically mechanics.
One thing Paretta wants to make clear: "This is not a stunt."
Paretta Autosports has a technical alliance with Roger Penske and Team Penske, which doesn't happen often in the sport. She called it a "big endorsement."
Recently, Rocket Pro TPO, a division of Rocket Mortgage, came on as the primary sponsor of the vehicle. The two organizations plan to create a Rocket Accelerator campaign that will highlight female leaders in both the racing and mortgage industries.
Another sponsor, MoneyLion, has a campaign to help women gain financial literacy.
Paretta is also hoping to get younger kids involved in STEM education earlier. She said while working in the auto industry, she knew they were recruiting from college, but those kids will want to get started earlier.
"We want to always encourage STEM education for women. Racing is STEM," she said.
Paretta Autosports will have several events this year for young girls, both in-person and virtual. They're planning to have some kids at the track, but even if there are boys and girls there, Paretta said it's important to see a woman teaching it.
"The girl gets that," she said. "The young woman gets that little subtle thing, while the boy still gets the content."
Paretta said the first goal is to qualify for the Indy 500. 33 cars will qualify for the race, but there are more than 33 cars attempting to qualify. If they qualify, the goal is to do well in the race.
Long-term, Paretta wants to do a couple of more races this year, and use that as a stepping stone to do a full season in 2022. Eventually, she'd like to get an expand the team and possibly grow into another series.