Race week is finally here for Paretta Autosport. More than a year after the team owned by Beth Paretta with driver Simona De Silvestro made its debut at the Indianapolis 500, the duo are back as the program makes its first appearance with its Chevy-powered entry facilitated by Ed Carpenter Racing at Road America.
The road course in Elkhart Lake is the opening of a three-race effort with the Swiss driver who will return in 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 headed here at Road America,” Paretta told RACER. “It feels like forever since we’ve gone racing, but we were at Detroit, obviously, integrated with Ed’s team. And it’s the first time that we were integrated on the timing stand, giving Simona a good opportunity to just sit in all the sessions and get a feel for how Ed’s team goes about its business.”
Paretta tried to find a suitable track for De Silvestro to test ahead of Road America but was unable to arrive at a location that IndyCar would approve. As a result, De Silvestro’s first outing in the car will take place on Friday in Free Practice 1, seven years since her last road course race where she placed fourth for Andretti Autosport at the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana in 2015.
“She won’t get to test before this race, but we are going to do a test probably at the end of June,” Paretta said. “So it’ll be before Mid-Ohio and Nashville, but we couldn’t logistically figure out 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’re going to do a probably test later this month before Mid-Ohio. But she has gotten two days in the Chevy simulator, so that’s a good start.”
For her part, De Silvestro has ramped up her physical training program to regain the upper body muscle and endurance needed to wield a car with nearly 5000 pounds of downforce and no power steering.
“It’s good, as even last year when we were getting ready and I first called her and we were putting everything together, she immediately that week, changed her training regimen back to what was needed for IndyCar,” Paretta said. “She’s been doing a lot of training all along and I don’t think she really lacks in any area too much.”
Although ECR will be running the Paretta Autosport entry, Paretta wants to continue her team’s core initiative to develop women racers in all roles just as she did at last year’s Indy 500 where nearly 20 women were centrally involved in the program. As Paretta looks to grow her team into 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 over-the-wall women back and some have previous commitments during out three races, so some will be at different races, and I lost two people from last year because they’re on two different teams, with different jobs,” Paretta said. “Like one of our women, for instance, Madison Conrad, she works for Roush Yates and she has been promoted, and she’s supporting the NASCAR Cup teams on the road, so we’re not going to be able to have her 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 robust team of pit crew that 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 offered more training for our women as well. And we’ve actually been looking at to try find some athletes, maybe ex-Olympians, ex-college athletes, who can come in and help us on the weekends.”