Editorial: IndyCar, Penske provide strong example of jumpstarting diversity efforts

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It has been heartening to see the number of companies and organizations that have announced goals related to diversity and inclusion since last year’s police protests and racial unrest.

Of course, announcements are easy. Implementation is harder. And implementation that leads to impactful change is harder still.

But we are impressed with the work so far by IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which in July announced their “Race for Equality & Change” program, an effort to promote diversity and inclusion across the IndyCar industry.

The entities—both owned by Penske Entertainment Corp.—pledged $1 million to “fuel internal and external programs and initiatives that will create fundamental change.” (We love the pun.)

Among the initiative’s goals are to recruit and develop a diverse workforce at all levels of IndyCar, encourage leadership and ownership within the series, and establish a procurement program to help the series, the Speedway and the teams do more business with minority-owned firms.

In just more than six months, the effort has made two significant announcements.

In December, IndyCar announced a new racing team owned by Rod Reid, an African American business leader and former team manager, that will compete in the USF 2000 Series, which is part of the sport’s “Road to Indy” system.

Key to the announcement was that Team Penske—owned, like Penske Entertainment Corp., by famed IndyCar owner Roger Penske—will mentor the new team, called Force Indy. In fact, during its first season, Force Indy will be based in Concord, North Carolina, so it has better access to key personnel at Team Penske, which is also located there.

Force Indy plans to hire and develop Black men and women mechanics, engineers, staffers and drivers.

Just a month later, IndyCar announced it would work with Paretta Autosport—owned by Beth Paretta, a longtime motorsports executive—to put a woman driving for a predominantly woman-run team on the Indy 500 starting grid in May. The announcement came less than five months after the rescheduled 500 ran without a female driver for the first time since 1999.

That team will also be mentored by Team Penske, which will provide technical assistance in the effort to get a car in the race. The team has already picked a female driver—Simona de Silvestro, a veteran of five Indy 500 races—and plans for women to be included in additional team operations such as competition, administration, logistics, marketing and public relations.

Of course, as Penske Entertainment CEO Mark Miles said, “It will be up to Simona and the team to qualify the car for the grid, but knowing Beth, I know that her team will be up for the task.”

We applaud these efforts, which could diversify not only who is working in IndyCar but who is watching the sport, as well. And that expansion of the fan base would be good for IndyCar and the IMS, which is good for Indianapolis.

We look forward to what the Race for Equality & Change will announce next and hope the effort serves as an example for other businesses and organizations.•


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2 thoughts on “Editorial: IndyCar, Penske provide strong example of jumpstarting diversity efforts

  1. Thats Awesome let’s get some federal funds together as well…. To fund people of color to have more race teams. It’s about time Women and minorities get there opportunity to have an equal chance at this sport. Racing is finally waking up. Go Big Guy GO.

  2. While I’m always happy to see more diversity in any sport or endeavor, I have never been a fan of segregated-track (no pun intended) opportunities. I don’t want to be the best woman selected for anything, I want to be the best person. So why isn’t this initiative more about funding training and opportunities for under- and unrepresented group members and encouraging the major teams like Andretti, Ganassi and–yes–Penske to have minority and women drivers? Pull up the driver pages for these teams and you see one woman on the Ganassi page, driving on the electric vehicle team. It’s a start, but a very slow one.