Women in IMSA: The various roles they play
Women in IMSA: The various roles they play
After an overview piece earlier this week, here is the second part of the number of women in IMSA.
Women are everywhere in the IMSA paddock. Check in with most teams or the series itself, and you’ll see a bevy of them.
While not exhaustive, this list should cover a good number of the key players, beyond drivers.
Some of IMSA’s strongest leaders are women. There are several programs in the paddock that benefit from women helping to direct and guide them at each event.
At Cadillac Racing, Laura Klauser guides the six-car Cadillac DPi-V.R program. This program has been the standard bearer in the DPi category since the platform’s introduction. As the program manager for the winningest brand and multiple time IMSA champion, Klauser has helped foster both a competitive yet collaborative effort among all the teams.
New to IMSA this year is Heinricher Racing, led by program manager Jackie Heinricher. Heinricher’s balanced both a successful business career launching a biotechnology firm, along with developing a burgeoning racing career of her own. Together with Meyer Shank Racing and Caterpillar, Heinricher helped bring together an all-women driver lineup to GT Daytona for the full season.
Turner Motorsport has had a key female working with its leadership for some time. As Turner’s director of logistics and operations for nearly eight years, Lynda Randall has kept the Massachusetts-based customer BMW team going strongly at the front of GT fields in multiple series and with multiple generations of BMW products. Yet every year, Will Turner’s team contends for wins and titles. That’s not by accident.
These are but a handful of the leaders from the management side among a much greater footprint of women in the IMSA paddock.
Whether it’s within IMSA itself, on pit road, on the technical side, marketing side, or PR/communications side, it’s impossible to navigate the IMSA paddock without noting women who make a positive difference to the sport.
Some of IMSA’s strongest leaders are women. There are several women in the paddock who have made incredible contributions to their programs or tracks over the years.
Michelin North America’s motorsports marketing manager is Sarah Robinson, who plays an integral role in Michelin’s presence in IMSA. Primarily, she works with teams, guides marketing and activation programs and ensures Michelin guests receive a great at-track experience.
But where she enjoys her time most away from her job description is working from her engineering background, and racing during the year as many weekends as possible. You can usually find her in a BMW.
One of IMSA’s top characters and most popular people is VIR track owner/race promoter Connie Nyholm, who along with her team have restored VIRginia International Raceway to become one of the top road racing facilities in North America. Through a series of capital improvements and investments, along with helping to cultivate a fanbase from around the Mid-Atlantic region, and working with a number of automotive brands, Nyholm’s contributions to VIR are immeasurable.
At Wayne Taylor Racing, Krista Riley is lead for partnership management. The WTR team is renowned for its partnership engagement and connection in the paddock with primary partner Konica Minolta front and center. But, it’s not the only one, as the team works diligently to continue to pursue other partners such as AMETEK Electronic Systems Protection and CIT, both of whom are new in 2019. The team’s preparation is one of the best in the paddock and Riley has a lot to do with that.
Whether in event operations, PR/communications, marketing, timing & scoring, administration and registration, IMSA has a wealth of women who make the series work.
The list of those in this group shot include Rebecca Rawski, Lindsay Fox, Emily Nash, Tracy Sanderson, Chance Stewart, Alexis Kutscher, Sarah Serle, Tiffany Lodder, Jamie Eversley, Jennifer Klein, Carol Mueller, Meagan Thompson and Karla Brown.
Cindy Robinson and Wanda Simons, who ensure everything runs smoothly at IMSA registration, are pictured below.
IMSA’s teams and drivers couldn’t tell their stories without public relations representatives and communications professionals. Luckily, there are a bevy of women in the paddock who have worked towards executing those goals and promoting their clients with their work.
As PR/communications pros, these women have to pitch media opportunities, handle social media accounts for multiple clients, keep drivers and teams on schedule and always be able to adapt for last-minute arrangements or asks.
There is a great blend of experienced professionals along with a younger generation who have grown up with social media as part of their upbringing and continue to develop at each event. The seven individuals pictured above are merely a handful of the people who ensure news keeps coming from the teams.
While PR/communications is a separate task with marketing, often, their efforts are integrated to help fulfill the clients’ marketing needs and goals. This means that these pros have to collaborate and stay in touch with the clients and sponsors to deliver the maximum results.
Pit lane group
For several women in IMSA, pit lane is home. It’s a place where they help direct traffic, provide insight to the paddock and fans, and guide every on-track session.
IMSA Radio’s Shea Adam is the conduit between the broadcast booth and the paddock and fans as IMSA Radio’s pit lane reporter. Adam has been part of the Radio Show Limited team since 2012 when she made her debut a that year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Able to transition between the pit lane and the booth, and having developed a great reputation for fact-finding and informing at every opportunity, Adam has become one of the most trusted voices in sports car racing. She’ll pass off credit though and ensure that justifiably goes instead to RSL managing director Eve Hewitt, the “responsible adult” who works tirelessly to keep RSL running smoothly.
Pit lane officials Jamie Eversley, Juli Hall, Tori Barker and Morgan Healey may not be household names but are four key cogs in ensuring pit lane runs smoothly for all teams and competitors. Starter Tani Miller literally ensures the race gets going, along with her colleague Dennis Paul.
Healey’s background was as a champion go-karter, and is thriving in her role as one of the pit lane staff team. She explained more about her background and growth here, as part of this overall piece on the pit lane team for Sportscar365. Eversley plays many roles, among them driving trucks and working with the pit lane staff. Her brother, Ryan Eversley, races for the HART team in IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge TCR competition and is co-creator of the successful “Dinner with Racers” podcast series.
As noted elsewhere within this piece, while this covers a number of team personnel, it isn’t exhaustive. That’s proof of how many working women there are within the paddock.
Mazda Team Joest has several women making a difference to its program. Leena Gade sets the bar high as race engineer for the No. 77 Mazda RT24-P. Gade is the first female race engineer to win at Le Mans, having done so three times (2011, 2012, 2014). Gade is part of a team that also includes Laura Dietrich, Swenja He Uer and Dawn Carpenter-Bell who play various roles within the operational and marketing sides of the program.
Beyond Riley at Wayne Taylor Racing, Hali Money also works as a support engineer for its IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R) and Lamborghini Super Trofeo programs.
Corvette Racing’s 20-plus year program wouldn’t have thrived as much as it does without the efforts of Robin Pratt and Anna Hoye, two fierce competitors who subscribe to the team’s tireless work ethic and execution. Pratt, wife of team co-owner Gary Pratt, has worked with the team in all its areas as it’s risen from a small race shop to now having engineering offices, a manufacturing department, composite fabrication and race team bases. Few, if any are as fierce as Pratt within the IMSA space.
Hoye is one of the rare female over-the-wall members in IMSA, and her presence helps ensure the team’s pit stops are as fast and flowing as possible. She noted prior to last year’s Motul Petit Le Mans how once mistakes arise on track, it’s the team’s job to limit the damage – and that was proven out by their rapid repairs to save Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen’s GT Le Mans class championship.
Performance Tech Motorsports has long fostered a family atmosphere. Team principal Brent O’Neill’s wife Gwenn O’Neill keeps the team moving forward and is an integral part of the team’s day-to-day operations and planning. Their daughter, Danielle O’Neill, is a regular at the track at most IMSA weekends supporting the team’s efforts.
At Compass Racing, Jill Beck has played a major role overseeing the team’s partner activation and marketing efforts, notably its ability to begin working with McLaren Automotive and securing Richard Mille as a sponsor. This means she also manages the finances and logistics for the team and company. The team’s active in both the WeatherTech Sprint Cup and MICHELIN Pilot Challenge.
A graphic designer earlier in her career, Beck is the founder and executive director of Race Day Foundation, which helps make a difference for sick children for those fighting life-threatening illness. She’s more active there behind the scenes, but several years ago she led a campaign for NF Hero and philanthropic artist Jeff Hanson, recipient of The NASCAR Foundation’s Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award.
Scuderia Corsa has two key women in roles, with team manager Alice Menin and hospitality manager Simona Picciau. This is a team that has carved a successful championship-winning pedigree over the year and both of these two seek to keep them at the front. So too does the defending GTD champion team, Paul Miller Racing, where Chris Stapleton oversees their hospitality.
Within the MICHELIN Pilot Challenge, Becky Mishtawy (team coordinator, Atlanta Speedwerks) and Amy Martin (PR lead/team coordinator, KohR Motorsports) also play key roles.
Mary Morris is a former director of operations at Daytona International Speedway and has been an integral part of Mercedes-AMG Team Riley’s event operations since its inception in 2017.
Porsche Club of America (PCA) hosts the Porscheplatz corral at most IMSA events, and Lynn Friedman is the chair.
The women who support Michelin’s motorsports program all make significant contributions to the health and overall dynamic. Robinson was noted above; here are a few others.
Working side-by-side along with Robinson is Jessica Cunningham, Michelin Motorsports account executive at Jackson Motorsports Group. Cunningham’s role at JMG involves ensuring the client fulfills a number of tasks, and she works closely with Robinson and other Michelin staff to ensure dealers and guests have an incredible at-track experience.
Elizabeth Young (Motorsport Tire Specialist) and Madison Cline (Tire Service Specialist) literally help the wheels go around for Michelin at-event. As an MTS, Young is assigned a zone to work with one or more teams on pit lane to check their pressures and cambers and optimize their tire performance at an IMSA race weekend. Cline is one of three family members at JMG, along with brother Mason (IMSA Sales Coordinator) and their father Arch (IMSA Program Manager) who are on-the-ground early at event and working to ensure supply, mounting and fitting back at JMG headquarters.
Then, there is Amanda Jeannette, Michelin’s motorsports videographer extraordinaire. With a background in restaurant work and sales before moving into video production, Jeannette worked with the American Le Mans Series through 2013 before Michelin brought her on-board starting with the first two endurance races of the merged 2014 IMSA season. They’ve never looked back. Jeannette has been an integral part of Michelin’s at-track creative content team for six years, as well as a vital resource to Michelin on other projects. With a consistently upbeat spirit and tireless work ethic, Jeannette has become an invaluable vendor to the overall health of the program.