Jackie Heinricher has set her sights on the NTT IndyCar Series as her next goal in team ownership.
As founder and CEO of the Booshoot biotech firm, Heinricher combined her success in business, love for driving and knack for relationship building to form Heinricher Racing, which debuted in partnership with Meyer Shank Racing in 2019. Featuring an all-female driving squad in the No. 57 Acura NSX GT3, Heinricher launched the program with primary backing from heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar, and as the team evolved for 2020, Mobil 1 and other sponsors were found to continue with MSR in IMSA’s GT Daytona category.
With Jim Meyer and Mike Shank preparing to leave GTD at the end of the year for IMSA’s DPi class as part of Acura’s factory presence, and incorporate a second, part-time IndyCar entry to its stable, Heinricher is ready to forge ahead without MSR as the Ohio-based team has reached maximum capacity.
In light of MSR’s directional changes, a growing interest in the Indy 500 — mixed with a strong desire to fix the absence of women in the field of 33 drivers — has turned Heinricher’s attention to open-wheel racing where she intends to fill a female team ownership void.
“I’ve been working really hard on partnerships for 2021, and one of my goals is to field a woman driver in at least the 500, if not a few more races, and then look at IMSA,” she told RACER. “It’s been such an amazing experience partnering with Mike Shank, and I am so thrilled for Mike with all of his years of work coming together with his Acura prototype deal. It gives me an opportunity to step out as an owner, and trying to continue to push some accomplishments in racing.
“Certainly, I’m really focused on trying to bring women back into IndyCar, and IMSA, and so I’ve been developing the kinds of partners that are going to stay and help out, so we can build on what we’ve started. I’m trying to bring diversity and inclusion to the sport, and I’ve had such an amazing year working with some amazing drivers, but I really want to go back to the core of what we started in 2019. I got knocked down pretty good at the end of 2019 when we lost our main sponsor, but I’m a big girl. I know that sponsors ebb and flow. I didn’t take it personally at all, and we found new clients, and we’ve kept going. And now I have a new goal.”
Heinricher says she was motivated to consider IndyCar for the first time after the establishment of Roger Penske’s new Race For Equality & Change program, which aspires to fix the notable absence of women and people of color in IndyCar in driving, team, and ownership roles.
“Absolutely,” she said. “I think it’s kind of a perfect storm, because I’m in a position to be able to do this with the proper experience as a CEO and leader. It was tough seeing Sarah Fisher leave the series as the last woman to own a team, but I think there’s just a wonderful opportunity now to develop a team, follow in the footsteps of some of the great team owners, and to figure out how we can keep driving this initiative forward. But first, it’s being able to build something enough to track the proper partners, because we know this all comes down to funding. That’s one of the things that I have poured myself into and invested heavily in, and it’s beginning to pay off.”
Like her introduction to pro racing with an IMSA co-entry run by MSR, Heinricher says she would look for the same type of partnership in a new co-entry effort for the Indy 500 and other rounds.
“I would obviously have to run with somebody, and I would have to be mentored, as I have been in IMSA with Mike Shank,” she added. “Mike’s mentorship has just been enormous for me. I would be looking to do a similar thing in Indy. I’m excited by the initiatives going on there, and I think the time’s right; here’s a lot of excitement around what Roger Penske is trying to do there. If you look at all the transformational things happening in racing with respect to socially responsible movements, I think it’s a perfect time to enter. But I still have some work to do first on the business side, and to learn about where partnerships with (IndyCar) teams might fit.”
In Heinricher’s perfect business model, she’d find a home in IndyCar and build a pipeline to develop next-generation female driving talent.
“That’s one of the things I’m really focused on, and I think that’s where I’d like to continue to try to bring to bear some of my time and leadership,” she said. “I think if you look at this as more than just IndyCar, we can get women into Road to Indy, but unfortunately we’ve got to go about it from kind of backing into it. It’s harder to get the money.
“But that’s what I’ve taken on my shoulders, which is how can I build this team and bring it to clients where we can start to foster these young, really talented women, and get them on to the road to IndyCar? We absolutely can start to build more of a base of really talented women that can compete at that level. I just can’t accept failure here.”