Race week is finally here for Paretta Autosport. More than a year after the Beth Paretta-owned team with driver Simona De Silvestro made its Indianapolis 500 debut, the duo is back as the program makes its first appearance with its eased Chevy-powered entry by Ed Carpenter Racing at Road America.
The Elkhart Lake road course is the opener of a three-race effort with the Swiss driver returning to the No.16 for the Mid-Ohio and Nashville rounds, and more, if the budget can be found.
“It’s so crazy that we’re heading here at Road America,” Paretta told RACER. “It’s been ages since we’ve raced, but we were in Detroit, obviously, being part of Ed’s team. And it’s the first time we’ve been part of the timing station, giving Simona a great opportunity to just sit in all the sessions and get a feel for how Ed’s team runs their business.
Paretta tried to find a suitable track for De Silvestro to test before Road America, but was unable to arrive at an IndyCar-approved location. As a result, De Silvestro’s first outing in the car will be Friday in Free Practice 1, seven years after her last road race where she placed fourth for Andretti Autosport at the 2015 Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana.
“She won’t get a chance to test before this race, but we’ll probably do a test at the end of June,” Paretta said. “So it will be before Mid-Ohio and Nashville, but we couldn’t logistically find a way to do a test; we tried.
“We were going to try to do a Mid-Ohio test, but we can’t, so we’ll probably do a test later this month before Mid-Ohio. But she spent two days in the Chevy simulator, so that’s a good start.
For his part, De Silvestro stepped up his physical training program to regain the upper body muscles and stamina needed to handle a car with nearly 5,000 pounds of downforce and no power steering.
“It’s good because even last year when we were preparing and I called her for the first time and we were putting everything in place, she immediately that week, changed her training program to get back to what was necessary for IndyCar,” Paretta said. “She’s trained a lot from the start and I don’t think she’s really lacking in one area too much.”
Although ECR will lead the Paretta Autosport entry, Paretta wants to continue her team’s core initiative of developing female racers in all roles, as she did in last year’s Indy 500, where nearly 20 women were at the heart of the program. As Paretta looks to scale her team to a full-time entry, she’ll be busy developing more women to join her on a regular basis.
“I’ve invited four of the six women over the wall back and some have previous commitments in all three races, so some will be in different races, and I’ve lost two people from last year because ‘They’re on two different teams, with different jobs,” Paretta said. “Like one of our wives, for example, Madison Conrad, she works for Roush Yates and she’s been promoted, and she supports the NASCAR Cup teams on the road, so we won’t be able to have it this year and I have to look for replacement women for the crew.
“One thing we’re looking at is if we still do like a NASCAR model where you have fly-ins that can just go over the wall for pit stops. We just want to get to where we can build a strong team of pit crews who would also be mechanics.
“My goal is to find more women for the team in the greater Indianapolis area to train with Ed’s team and Team Penske has also provided more training for our women. And we have in actually looking for athletes, maybe ex-Olympians, ex-college athletes, who could come and help us on the weekends.