Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach: Trio embraces Women In Motorsports campaignINDYCAR
Chip Ganassi Racing, in conjunction with PNC Bank, has established a Women In Motorsports campaign and internship program - and Danielle Shepherd, Angela Ashmore and Anna Chatten welcome that with open arms.
Ashmore is a data systems assistant engineer for NTT INDYCAR driver Marcus Ericsson, Chatten is a gear-box mechanic for INDYCAR driver Jimmie Johnson and Shepherd is the lead engineer for the No. 2 Cadillac on the IMSA side for Ganassi.
The trio is working the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach this weekend, having the time of their lives because they love their jobs.
This program is something that could invite more women into what remains a male-dominated sport.
“I like to think of myself as just a person on the team,” Ashmore said. “But, obviously, I notice that I’m one of the fewer women in the field and around the paddock. And it does make me a little bit proud to feel like I made it and it’s not an easy path and there maybe aren’t as many opportunities that are open to you. At least, obvious ones.
“So it makes me proud that I had a passion and that I made it work. Yeah, actually, I think it’s a really excellent initiative that PNC Bank is sponsoring.”
Chatten and Shepherd echoed those sentiments.
“Yeah, for sure, it’s definitely a long time coming,” Chatten said. “Chip Ganassi is one of the most accomplished race teams in the INDYCAR paddock. So for him to be able to support an initiative like that with PNC Bank, it’s amazing.”
Said Shepherd: “Yeah, I mean, I think it’s a great opportunity. It’s great to get women a chance to do something and get a specific internship that they are not necessarily the majority candidate for.”
Shepherd added that the presence of women in motorsports is growing since she stared in the business six years ago.
“But, hopefully, this is just a way to heighten that growth and keep pushing it forward,” she said.
They are passionate
Ashmore talked about what this job does for her.
“I love the competitive atmosphere because I’m a very competitive person, but there is also this instant gratification when you work on something,” she said. “You know that weekend or that day or even minutes after you do it or you implement some change, if it was successful or not.
“There’s also a quick turnaround, so if you have a bad day, it’s not long until you have another chance to redeem yourself.”
Chatten has been in the business for 20 years, though she took a break from full-time work while she became mother to two daughters, now ages 6 and 7. She is back in the saddle on a regular basis.
“Well, I grew up around motor racing so my dad was kind of my first interest to motor racing and he bought a go-kart and we raced go-karts as a kid with him,” she said. “Part of the deal was like when I go to the race track if I work on my own stuff.”
Chatten seems happy to be a role model of sorts.
“If there are some little girls that come to the race this weekend with their dad, I hope they see me and know that’s a possibility, if that’s something they want to do,” she said.
Shepherd wasn’t sure what she wanted to do when she entered college, but she ended up majoring in math and physics. She said she has always been a fan of INDYCAR and Champ Car from a young age.
“It’s just the excitement of racing and the competition and it’s kind of the direct feedback of your results,” she said. “Like, if you’re doing a good job, you can actually see what’s happening around you and everything, so it’s just the competition of trying to push things forward and just trying to make cars go faster.”
Shepherd worked on Indy cars for five years before switching to IMSA. She intimated that everyone on the Chip Ganassi team is made to feel at home.
“I mean, I know we sit here and we talk about it and everything,” she said, of being a woman in a male-dominated sport. “But in like a day-to-day basis, it really isn’t a thing. Everybody on the team treats you the same way.
“I feel like I’m here at Chip Ganassi because I’m a good engineer and a good fit for the position, not because I am a woman. I know I’m doing things not a lot of women have done and, hopefully, I can use that as inspiration for other women to come through.”
Part of the Women in Motorsports campaign focuses on gender equality. Chatten was quick to say she is dealt with fairly by Chip Ganassi in that regard.
“Yeah, I for sure think that my compensation in the INDYCAR paddock is on par,” she said. “I think what’s unique here is it’s still so male-dominated that it would be really glaringly blatant if they chose not to, so it couldn’t really happen that way, I don’t think.”
The internship program was made available to women in college.
“Teaming up with PNC to launch Women In Motorsports reflects our commitment to help advance opportunities for women in the sport,” Ganassi said, in a news release. “We’re excited to highlight the achievements of our team members and share a behind-the-scenes look at their contributions to this championship organization, which will hopefully help pave the way for female students to develop specialized skills in areas such as racing operations and engineering to information technology and athletic training, to name a few.”