Beth Paretta isn’t ready to announce her plans for 2022, but she’s getting close enough on a number of fronts to warrant an update on Paretta Autosport’s anticipated return to the Indianapolis 500.
Before Helio Castroneves reached the checkered flag and became a member of the four-time winner’s club, Paretta’s debut as an Indy 500 entrant in May with Simona De Silvestro as her driver and a team comprised mostly of women racers garnered more positive publicity than any other program.
An instant fan favorite, Paretta Autosport’s story had the widest reach of all 33 entries with features on network television and the largest national newspapers, magazines, and websites. Reassembling the team and maintaining as much continuity for 2022 is her goal, and so far, considerable progress has been made.
Using a Dallara DW12 chassis leased from Juncos Hollinger Racing and an engine provided by Chevrolet, Paretta Autosport operated as Team Penske’s de facto fifth entry for the program’s debut. But with the recent launch of the new Porsche Penske Motorsports sports car program and the shift of available IndyCar personnel to the PPM project, Paretta will need to find a new partner team before the next chapter can be written with the No. 16 Chevy.
“I have options, and we’re going through the options now,” the former auto executive and championship-winning racing program manager told RACER. “The original plan was that we were going to continue with Penske and that changed when they really got into the nuts and bolts of what they’re doing with the sports car program. The plan was actually to do Indy and then two races to close last season, but Juncos was making their return, which made the availability of a car an issue, so it just ended up being Indianapolis for us.
“So the goal for next year is Indianapolis, for starters. I do have funding for next year, and I do have commitments and many of the same ingredients ready to return. But I also think that having our team in the paddock for a full season is what the series needs. We want to be there full-time. We have the measurables of how much the needle was moved, and we’re always wanting to grow the fan base, especially among a new category of people because that obviously helps the entire paddock. So I would hope that everybody should want us to be there and be there, because it’s just makes commercial sense. Right now, I’m just chipping away at building a proper, long-term foundation for Paretta Autosport.”
Although Team Penske won’t be running the car, the owner of the NTT IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway told RACER he’ll be there to support Paretta in other ways.
“We’ve helped her connect with sponsors and we obviously are interested in seeing her field a car at Indy, and there’s some others that are interested to run a car with her,” Penske said.
“I think that it’s a little too early to say what our involvement might be, but we’ll look at what we can do from a technical alliance perspective once she decides what she’s gonna do. I know that Indy is where they should focus because that’s the big race; she’s been there, she’s got experience.”
Penske is also keen to continue the mechanical and pit crew training his IndyCar veterans provided for the young women who were new to the Indy 500 and performing pit stops during the 200-lap race.
“She’s got some crew members who would love to come back, so I think that’s part of what our support would be,” he added. “What we could do, number one, is to help her get funded as we obviously did last year, and then see what we can do from a personnel standpoint and a technical alliance as we go forward. But she’s gonna have to make the final decision on just exactly what she’s going to want to do at this point.”
One key decision has already been made for Paretta Autosport’s 2022 IndyCar plans, and that’s the return of De Silvestro.
“I’ve always had the option there, and she’s under contract,” Paretta confirmed. “Programs are built around the best available people, and Simona did such a great job. She qualified a car that wasn’t as fast as she deserved, but you saw her will and her fight come through the entire time. She’s just fantastic, super easy to work with, wonderful with the fans. And obviously a fan favorite, which is also really, really great, and Chevrolet was super happy.”
Although Paretta’s immediate focus is locking in her team’s return to the Indy 500, she’s been in constant contact with existing team owners who might want to form an alliance like many that we’ve seen in recent years where co-entry arrangements serve as the first step towards becoming a full-time entrant.
“I’ll still lean on Roger for advice, assets, but what I really am putting together now is a multi-year look so that there’s a partnership with another team that allows us to get our feet under us, because if you look at how McLaren came in with Schmidt and Peterson, or Mike Shank came in with Andretti, it’s really a smart way to build your team forward,” she said.
“And so that’s the step where I am in the cycle, and with a new hybrid engine package coming, and new cars soon, and a lot of what I would consider to be positive changes, the environment is right to grow into eventually buying all the assets, building out the shop, staffing your own workforce, once the full foundation is in place.”