IPS high school girls visit track to "Fuel the Female" careers in motorsports

Danica Patrick spoke to a large group of IPS students about women in motorsports.

SPEEEDWAY, Ind. (WTHR) – Two female drivers hope to qualify for this year's Indianapolis 500.

A handful of women actually work on the IndyCars as mechanics and engineers. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosted a first-time event called "Fuel the Female" Tuesday, designed to attract more women into jobs in motorsports.

About 60 girls from all seven IPS high schools watched the opening day of Indy 500 practice and heard from women who work in the male-dominated sport.

"They prepare themselves," said Jasmine Cinoco, a Tech High School junior who wants to join the Navy. "They work hard for their career and they make it because they worked as hard as they could. They put everything into it. Seeing that, it encourages me to do as much as I can."

The highlight of the field trip was Indy 500 driver Danica Patrick taking a break from practice to address the young women.

"I felt my heart drop like, ‘Dang! This girl is worth $60 million,’" said Washington Community High School senior De-De Moore. "That's what the internet claims. She is probably worth more. You know they aren’t going to tell you all that."

Patrick shared how she dealt with people who doubted a female driver and even overcame her own doubts.

"You have to find ways to cope with that and gain empowerment and confidence and know what you want and be absolutely determined to get there," Patrick told the girls. "It's always been a challenge. But you know what, I've never known what it's been like to be a guy, so it's okay."

"I just got to believe in myself and push myself as a female," said Moore, who will attend Indiana State in the fall. "I shouldn't believe that only men can do certain jobs."

Female drivers in the Indy 500 is nothing new, going back to Janet Guthrie in 1977. Nine women have driven in the race. But women working on the cars is less common. This year, IndyCar has its first female lead engineer, Leena Gade, who is working on James Hinchcliffe's car.

"I want to be a mechanic and I want to learn more about the whole body system of a car, how they work and the engine - what kind of engine is going to be good for the car to race better," said Tech High School Senior Diamante Aguila, who will attend Ivy Tech next fall for automotive studies.

"Man or woman, it all comes down to the same things," Lisa Boggs, Bridgestone Americas Director of Motorsports, told the group. "How do you show up as a person? Who do you want to be? What do you want people to think of you? That is 100 percent in your control."

Patrick is retiring from full-time racing after the Indy 500.

"So, this is it," she told the girls. "This is it. I’ve got two weeks left of my life here."

Danica is about to drive her last race, but the race is on to put more women to work at the track.