The first majority women’s team makes history at the Indianapolis 500 while promoting STEM
The Indy 500 is a race steeped in history. It’s 110 years old and keeps rising in popularity, particularly among women. And many of these women aren’t just in the stands, they’re down on the track taking center stage in the action. For them, the race isn’t just a part of history. It’s a place where history is made.
In this segment of our Women Driving the Future series, Ed Bernardon interviews Beth Paretta, owner of Paretta Autosport. As the first majority women’s team to ever participate in the Indianapolis 500, they’re making history while inspiring more and more women to explore careers in STEM by showing them what’s possible.
In today’s episode, part 1 of a two part talk, you’ll hear why this race is so historically important, and how Beth Paretta was inspired to build her predominantly female team. She takes us on a deep dive to understand racing as a business, and explains why the marketing aspect of the sport has to be relied upon so heavily. You’ll also hear what it’s like to be in the pit at the Indy 500, and an interesting story about her rocky, but impression-making, first meeting with the legendary Roger Penske.
Some Questions I Ask:
- What’s so difficult about making all those left turns in the Indy 500? (2:38)
- What are the top challenges when building an Indy 500 team? (10:08)
- How did you train your over the wall team in such a short period of time? (21:08)
- What did that feel like those 75 minutes of riding the bubble? (33:11)
- How did that first meeting with Roger Penske go? (42:45)
- What car designer do you admire? (57:40)
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- What it’s like in Indianapolis leading up to the Indy 500 (4:19)
- The differences between cars racing in Formula One, Indy 500 and NASCAR (8:39)
- The definition of a Factory Driver (15:53)
- A day in the life of working in the pit at the Indy 500 (25:01)
- Transforming a hobby into a career (39:00)
- Standing out by holding your ground (51:48)
Connect with Beth Paretta:
Connect with Ed Bernardon:
Ed Bernardon: Development of new technology is the foundation for the future of transportation, and racing plays a key role in development of that technology. In particular the Indianapolis 500, has shown time and time again how racing is a leader in the introduction of transportation tech. The first rearview mirror was used by the winner in the first Indy 500, which was in 1911. Seatbelts and disc brakes were also first used in the Indy 500 race. And racing continues to bring us technology breakthroughs to this day. But it also provides a platform to attract and introduce scientists, engineers of tomorrow, to what it’s going to take to build our mobility future. And it introduces them to STEM, to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
— intro music-
Welcome to the Future Car podcast, I’m your host Ed Bernardon VP Strategic Automotive Initiatives at Siemens Digital Industry Software and joining us for this week’s Future Car podcast episode in our Women Driving the Future series is,Beth Paretta, the owner of Paretta Autosport. Beth has a long career in the automotive industry, is active in using racing to promote STEM, and and her racing team made history just a few weeks ago as the first majority woman’s team to ever participate in the Indianapolis 500.
Beth, welcome to The Future Car Podcast.
Beth Paretta: Thanks so much for having me.
Ed Bernardon: Before we get into your experience at the race this year, I want you to try and explain to everyone what it really takes to race in the Indianapolis 500. And in full disclosure, I was born, I grew up in Indianapolis, and I lived there until I went to grad school, and I still go back every year for the race. So, if you’re from Indianapolis, we are, of course, quite proud of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – it’s the racing capital of the world. And the Indy 500 has 350,000 people every year – it’s the largest live attendance of any sporting event in the world. But when I moved to Boston and I would mention the race, they thought I was talking about a marathon. And in fact, they would say to me, “Hey, what’s the big deal? All you have to do is turn left; I turn left and right when I go to the grocery store.” So, turning left, albeit 800 times in a row, why is it so difficult? What’s so difficult about making all those left turns in the Indy 500?
Beth Paretta: It’s so funny because I think we have the opposite experience. I grew up in New England, and I was aware of the Indy 500 because I started watching racing as a kid – literally as a five-year-old, flipping through channels on my own and found it on my own, and was just mesmerized by it. And in some ways, I think I still have that same reaction when I watch it on TV. I find something sort of soothing about it. I mean, especially now I’m so much more engaged, and so I know many of the drivers myself, or I know the teams involved. And so there’s always that added human element. But I was always fascinated by it. Even when I was a kid and didn’t know what was going on.
Ed Bernardon: What fascinated you about it?
Beth Paretta: Well, to be fair, just to really boil it down and distill it as a really little kid. I mean, it was just like the colors and the sounds and this and that. And it was something to them. And then as I watched it more and more, I would then recognize the cars. And I’m talking literally as a five-year-old, six-year-old, like the way that that someone that ages engaged with watching television. Maybe the repetitiveness allowed me to then started to see the patterns and feel like I could recognize a car and it was like an early thing to engage with. But exactly there’s that opposite thing where it was on TV, I didn’t know how big it was because it was just a memorial day weekend race. It was a tradition; we’d always have our family cookout. And it was often, it was finding the TV because the race was on. And it was just sort of that background noise, but we were aware of it. But I didn’t know how big it was to people from the Midwest, specifically Indiana, and then drill down even further to Indianapolis. I didn’t realize all the other pomp and circumstance that comes with it. And it’s one of those things that I now have such a different appreciation for, let alone the fact that now we’ve competed. But the fact that the month of May has so much pageantry within Indianapolis itself, and again, the broader greater Indianapolis area – the fact that people decorate their houses, and there’s a parade, and all of these things. So, I would absolutely say to anybody, and I do actively say to anybody; we talk about bucket list things to attend, and it is like the Kentucky Derby. And it’s one of those things that if somebody invites you to the Kentucky Derby – the Super Bowl, the Indy 500 – whether or not you are a racing fan or a fan of whatever that is, you say yes, because it’s an event. But I guarantee you that if you then go to that Indy 500, and especially if you go to the few events that lead up to it so that you are immersed in that pomp and circumstance and that tradition, it will grab you differently. Because the fact that this race is 105 years old; the first was in 1911. And the fact that there are traditions that maybe some of them are from the first race and then some of them were created across the next 10-20 years that still exists today, there’s a charm to that that we don’t really have in — The Superbowl is plenty of years, 50-plus years, but this is 105 years old. There’s few events that are that old that are still continuously running like the Boston Marathon is one of them, as you mentioned, or the 24 Hours of Le Mans, when there’s always that discrepancy between “How many years is it?” Versus “How many did it run?” Because they never ran in World War II. But even if you don’t consider yourself a racing fan but you might be a history fan, you start digging through the layers, and there’s some fascinating stories. And I think that transcends a bunch of people turning left. Now, let’s go a step further. It’s not a bunch of people turning left; it may look like that on TV but that’s kind of the deception of seeing it on TV. It’s far more difficult, there’s far more going on than you realize and the casual fan may realize. And I believe that if those casual fans knew more of what was actually going on, I think we would create more fans.
Ed Bernardon: What is actually going on? That’s the thing.
Beth Paretta: It’s sports for geeks, man. It’s engineering, and it’s building a better mousetrap, and it’s strategy; it’s not brute strength. It’s like a big game of chess out there, and what team’s strategy is going to win the day? And again, you can have strategy, but then the strategy goes out the window when somebody loses a tire, and then there’s a yellow flag, and everybody has to kind of rerack the deck. So, there’s a bit of those nail-biting moments if you actually know what’s going on. And the good news is between the IndyCar website or even just watching a race, the commentators to do a good job of explaining some of that stuff. So, I would say that even if you don’t consider yourself a sports fan, because those of us that are in racing, we kind of refer to racing, and then stick and ball sports. And most of us don’t necessarily follow stick and ball sports as closely only because of time, because we’re usually at the racetrack, so we didn’t see that baseball game.
Ed Bernardon: Well, a lot of people don’t even think that racing is a sport, but race drivers are some of the top athletes, certainly, from a conditioning standpoint in the world.
Beth Paretta: Absolutely, I mean, in that race, like you say, you’re going 230 miles an hour for 500 miles.
Ed Bernardon: In stifling heat usually, not this past year but most years.
Beth Paretta: Yeah. But now that they have the aero screen, it’s actually hotter because they’re kind of like in a little bubble; they lose 10 pounds of water weight. If you look at drivers, they’re they’re fit. They take the G forces on their neck; they all have big necks because they have to withstand the G forces. But no, there’s a lot more to it than turning left. And the thing about the Speedway, it’s such a big track; the wind direction is different in the four different corners. So, you know, you have headwinds, crosswinds – that affects. I mean, think about when you’re driving on the highway – especially if you’re in a larger vehicle – and there’s a gust of wind, and you actually feel the way that that pushes your car; imagine if you were driving 500 miles like that.
Ed Bernardon: If you had to say, in general now, not particularly your situation, but in general, what would you say are the top three hardest things that you need to do to get ready are to race in the Indianapolis 500?
Beth Paretta: For a driver or for a team?
Ed Bernardon: For a team.
Beth Paretta: Pitstops. So, we had to train up our crew, which we’ll talk about. So, people might watch Formula One, and I will say, I mean, I’ve watched Formula One for years. And again, these are open-wheel cars, IndyCar open-wheel cars, so they look a lot like Formula One cars.
Ed Bernardon: To many people, they think they’re the same.
Beth Paretta: The easiest way to explain the difference between the two is Formula One is a little lighter weight, little more horsepower, so they’re going a little bit faster. People always confuse also, like I’ll say, “We’re in the Indy 500.” And they’ll be like, “Oh, I don’t watch NASCAR.” NASCAR and IndyCar are different. So, my best analogy for that: all racing is not the same; there’s sports car racing. Open-wheel refers to the fact that you can see the tires are exposed, so they look like little rocket ships with the tires exposed. And then NASCAR are stock cars, and those originally originated as cars out of they were showroom’s stock, out of a dealership. So, NASCAR, IndyCar, Formula One, sports cars – sports car is like a Porsche versus a Ferrari, kind of like what you see at Le Mans Ford versus Ferrari if you saw that movie. But the best analogy I can make is in racing, the car is the ball. So, you might be a basketball fan, and you might watch a little bit of baseball, but you might be more of a fanatic of one versus the other.
Ed Bernardon: It’s the equipment you need.
Beth Paretta: It’s the equipment. So, there’s different rules, different venues. And so same thing like different arenas – so that’s the difference between NASCAR, IndyCar, sports cars. So, why is somebody a fan of one and not the other? Just because it’s something that you’d like more. You might like baseball and you don’t like hockey, but they’re all sports and they’re all — but you could also like all of them.
Ed Bernardon: What do you think that top challenge is? Top two, three challenges, whatever it is, top of your head?
Beth Paretta: To be a good team in IndyCar, to be a good team at the Indy 500 you have to have, obviously, a top driver with top skill.
Ed Bernardon: Finding a good driver then, that’s got to be up there.
Beth Paretta: Absolutely. You have to have a good driver. You have to have good equipment. And it all boils down to money because it’s how much do you spend? It does cost a good amount of money. And you can have a smaller team that’s a little scrappier. And sometimes they don’t have the money to invest in the equipment, the people, the time, and sometimes that will show. So, when you have these small teams that want to just enter the 500 and do well, it’s a really big feat for them to do that. Because the teams that are running a full season, they benefit from consistency; they’ve been working together for a couple of years; they are a well-oiled machine. So, what’s interesting about the Indy 500 versus other sports is a regular IndyCar season, there’s like 16-17 races, and every race on the calendar is about, let’s say, 22 cars, depending on the year. But the Indy 500, it’s a larger field, it’s up to 33 cars. And you can have some years, like this year, we had 35 cars vying for those 33 spots. So, it’s always cut at 33 – that’s the tradition. So, you could have some years back in ‘80s, ‘90s, you’d have teams that would show up that wanted to just enter the 500. What’s cool about that, you say, “Okay, well, how do you get from 22 cars up to 33 or more vying for those spots?” Those are those what we call one-off teams; they’re just going to right race that one race. Now, oftentimes, they’ll grab a driver from NASCAR or from Formula One – it’s got to be somebody that knows what he or she is doing. But you basically bring that driver, some money, and you rent or buy a car. But if you’re a team like Andretti that might run four cars all season or five cars all season, they’ll have a sixth or seventh spare car that they can take off the shelf and run.
Ed Bernardon: Better be careful, don’t crash too many times, right?
Beth Paretta: Well, that’s exactly it. Because then that’s kind of what our issue was back in 2016, because you have your regular car, and then you have a spare because you’re there for a couple of weeks, and you’ve got practice days. And sometimes if you have a little bit of damage because you might have an incident on track, you can fix it and get right back out there. But if the damage is too much, and you total your car just like you would total your car on the road, you’ve got to find a backup car. And there are times when people have then crashed their backup car, and then they’re out; they can’t even go to qualify for the race. So, if you look at history, that’s happened.
Ed Bernardon: You touched on racing and money; racing is a business, and like any business, you have to have the money to fund it. It’s a startup, you’re starting the business, you have to make it successful. And you decided, I think it was mid-January, “We’re going for the race. We’re going to find a driver. We’re going to find a car. We’re going to do all the things that you were just talking about.” And you’re going to start a business that has a front office, it has marketing, sales, whatever you want to call it. Tell us about the challenges of how you got from January 19th “We’re going for it” to being in the race?
Beth Paretta: Peek behind the curtain. I actually put it together in August, but we announced it in January. But because we announced it in January, there were a lot of elements that we couldn’t work on until January, until we announced it. So, some of this stuff was in place. But then a lot of the big stuff was not because it was top secret. In fairness. I’ve been working on it for many years behind the scenes. I also have a very lovely network of people that I’ve cultivated over the years that I’ve worked with. So, some of those calls were easy and quick because they knew my intention, they know me, and some of those conversations were short. But I met with Roger Penske, back at the end of the summer last year, to talk about this. And he knew that I’d been working on it. So again, it was a short conversation; it was like, “Okay, well, who do you want as your driver?” And this is like end of August, beginning of September. And I said, “Well, Simona de Silvestro is the best available driver.” And he, without hesitation, was like, “Oh, my gosh! She’s fantastic.” So that was the first call. And then I called Chevrolet second because you need to have an engine. And in IndyCar, you have either Chevrolet or Honda. And back when I tried to do this a few years ago, I went to both of them and pled my case, as it were.
Ed Bernardon: Begging maybe, if you’d say that.
Beth Paretta: A little bit. In fairness, it’s like, “Hi, may I please buy an IndyCar engine?” They’re not going to sell them to just anybody because you have to be a real entity. And they both said yes then but in fairness, I will say that what I was able to build more holistically was Chevrolet was just a great fit. I am based in Detroit, I have a team technically based in Detroit. We’ve been doing our training down in North Carolina because we’ve been working with Team Penske. But I like the connection of racing to industry, which is kind of the whole impetus behind all of this. So, the fact that General Motors is in the backyard here, I love the way that authentically all ties together. Roger Penske was actually keen for us to run a bunch of races this year. And then when it came down to because Simona de Silvestro, our driver, is a factory driver for Porsche. It came down to us looking at the calendar and how it would all work together. And we kind of mutually settled on, “Let’s just do the 500 to start, and then we’ll see where it goes.” So, I should well say then the next call was to Porsche because I had to say, “Hello, may I please borrow your driver?”
Ed Bernardon: “Just one weekend, and maybe a few weeks ahead of time.”
Beth Paretta: Yeah, I mean, please, not much. She doesn’t need much work. And I will say – just to put it in perspective for folks, obviously, this was all behind the scenes – Porsche is at their core, they are racers, so they got it without hesitation. They know how important the Indy 500 is on the global stage. And good for them also from the business side to realize, because I’m a firm believer, like, I’m not going to hide the fact that she’s a Porsche factory driver – we’ll mention it. So, they love that as well. It does help that Roger Penske is the largest Porsche dealer in the world.
Ed Bernardon: Maybe he put a good word in for you here or there.
Beth Paretta: We knew that that was in our back pocket but we didn’t even have to do that because Porsche got it instantly. And fair play, to understand what a factory driver is. So, Simona is a factory driver, that means that Porsche pays her to race and develop race cars for them. And to be a factory-funded factory-paid driver is what every racing driver aspires to eventually be. You’re a professional racing driver when either a team or a manufacturer is paying you to race. It’s the day job, and do you get a company car? Yes, you do. And you can imagine what her company car is.
Ed Bernardon: What is her company car?
Beth Paretta: I don’t know if I can say – she has a 911 and she also has a Cayenne because sometimes she has to go long distances on the Autobahn and carry a lot of stuff. But I will say, she is the first woman factory driver for Porsche. And again, those jobs are coveted, there aren’t many of them. So, that certainly speaks to her talent. So, the first call was Roger Penske and working out our agreement, second was to Chevrolet, third one was to Porsche. And then behind the scenes, I was doing a lot of the building, then I worked on hiring the PR person, and then all things were quiet until we did the press conference, which was in January.
Ed Bernardon: There are so many aspects of racing. And the obvious ones, of course, are always the car, the driver. But it is a business and there’s the front office. In racing, for the most part, it’s a marketing business; you’re trying to attract sponsorship. Certainly, you’re developing technology, but in the end, you got to bring in those sponsorship dollars to keep things going. So, setting all that up in such a short amount of time. Well, I guess, really like you said, you had since August. But that’s also a big part of what you had to do.
Beth Paretta: It’s huge. And in fairness, that was actually one of the things we couldn’t talk about.
Ed Bernardon: Not until you announce, of course.
Beth Paretta: Not till you announce. And so you’re always afraid of things leaking out because you just don’t want anything out before you’re ready to have all those announcements out, until you have your ducks in a row. So, the reason why racing is a business. And yes, I mean, I like to say that Parretta Autosport is a marketing company and our experiential is a race team. One of the things I’m proud of is my background is business and marketing and operations. I’m not an ex racing driver. A lot of teams are owned by ex racing drivers who have to learn the business after; they kind of back into it because they’ve worked their whole career to be the racing driver and have success there. And so then by default, they’ve got to back into or hire the other folks to do that other thing. So, I’m coming at it as a business person, a marketing person, and then I can hire that specialist race strategist and those sorts of things. The reason why racing is different than other sports, like baseball or whatever.
Ed Bernardon: Besides not having a ball.
Beth Paretta: No, it’s the car. But what’s really fantastic is – so if you look at the IndyCar Series or the NASCAR series – every team is in every event. Whereas for baseball today, it’s like, “Okay, the Cubs are playing the Dodgers, the Red Sox are playing the Yankees.” So, on any given day, there are like 40 games, and they’re all over the place. So, your whole audience doesn’t really start watching all together until you start getting into the playoffs and then like the World Series, or everybody watches the Superbowl. But during the season, the audience is fragmented. In racing, the entire audience watches on Saturday or Sunday the whole league.
Ed Bernardon: It’s like having all the football teams playing the Super Bowl at once.
Beth Paretta: At once, every weekend. And so, in one sense, that’s great because your eyeballs are all together and it’s very focused. The negative of that is the team, me, Andretti, Ganassi, Penske, we don’t have an arena. So, the way that a baseball team makes money is ticket sales. And when they’re not using their arena, maybe they have the Rolling Stones concert. But it’s a way for them, the team owns the venue and they can sell the diet cokes and the hotdogs and the T-shirts, and that’s how they generate revenue in addition to sponsorship and all those other things. A race team doesn’t have that; the only way that a race team makes money is sponsorship. So, it’s a completely different business model. So that’s why every car says Rocket Mortgage, Rocket Pro TPO, or Moneylion on the side because I need that money; that’s how I pay my people is by having it say, Rocket Pro TPO, and Moneylion, and Carolina online. And then, ideally, I then have to work with Rocket Pro TPO and Moneylion so that they get value out of that exposure. One thing that’s nice, of course, of our team is if you saw the media impressions of from when we announced to January through the end of the race, we got a disproportionate amount of attention, regardless of the terrible end to our race with a brake issue that caused the brakes to lock up and Simona gently to hit the wall. Thank God, gently.
Ed Bernardon: That’s probably just a grace, not hitting the wall but the fact that you got all those great impressions online that you’ve done a great job on the marketing side. Another aspect of racing is they say racing is won and lost in the pits; you can work for hours Indianapolis 500 to gain a few car lengths or whatever it might be, then you pull into the pits. And if you can’t change those tires – refuel – quickly, then you’re going to lose all that hard work the driver put in. What did you have to do to train your all-woman, as they say, over-the-wall team in such a short period of time? How did you make that happen?
Beth Paretta: I think that that’s one of the things that makes racing so exciting is that the fact that there is this unknown curveball of pitstops. Because Formula One, over the past few years, has eliminated mid race refueling. So, if you haven’t watched Formula One in a while, I encourage anybody to turn it on just to even see a pit stop because they’re two seconds long. Your brain can’t even see what’s happening because they come in, they change tires. In and out there. I think there’s 300 people on a pit crew in Formula One, I’m exaggerating, but if you look at it, it’s like flurry of activity. And then you can’t even see the car because there’s sort of swarming. It’s like a swarm of bees. Before you know, the car is already pulling out a pit lane, and you’re like, “How did they do that?” In IndyCar it’s different, and I love that it’s different – my opinion. The pitstop is about seven seconds. Now, seven seconds is very short but it’s enough where your brain can watch it; you can see stuff going on, you can see a bit of a flurry of activity, and you can make mistakes.
Ed Bernardon: Which is the exciting element of racing.
Beth Paretta: It’s the exciting element. It’s like, “Listen, we watch hockey for the fights. We watch racing for the pit stops to see if somebody is going to drop the gun, or get the wheel nut on, or does the car stall? Does the driver accidently stall?” And all of those things are heartbreaks. And those are the things that make you sit on the edge of your seat. And we always say, truthfully, racing — I’ve been in many 24-hour races, those are endurance races. Those races have a lot of attrition where you can have a car failure, can have crashes, you can have this but you can also kind of fix the car and get back out, and literally be off the track for like 20 minutes because you’re repairing your car, and still finish the race. So, in the Indy 500, it has to be a lot cleaner than that. But there have been times where somebody bobbles it in the pits, or even a driver has spun their car, and they wind up being, literally, in the middle of the race, they’re the last car, and they still come back to win. And those are always those sort of “come from behind” hero stories that make history. And I wanted us to have women that could go over the wall.
Ed Bernardon: And just to explain for our listeners, the wall is the pit wall. The car comes in, you have this low wall, what is it? Maybe two feet tall, if that? The car comes in at very high speed, some of the people jump over the wall, some are ready there and get to work and don’t mess up.
Beth Paretta: And in fairness, even though we say “over the wall,” there’s also a couple of people that are right behind the wall. Again, this really low wall. And you’ve all seen it, it’s cinder blocks. So, it’s like painted cinder blocks, and you jump over it or whatever, and that’s in pit lane. The ones that are over the wall are the ones that are on the side where the cars come in zooming in, and the car is limited at speed, it’s at 60 miles an hour, which, 60 miles an hour is very fast.
Ed Bernardon: You get a speeding ticket in some places going that fast.
Beth Paretta: Absolutely. And you can get a speeding penalty in IndyCar if you’re over that speed – there’s always a pit limiter speed. And to put it in perspective, just so that people can understand what’s going on here. So, these cars are coming off of Turn 4 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and coming into the pit entrance. And at about Turn 4 when they’re coming around that corner — we’ve radioed to them to come in; we’ve told them that a lap before. And so we say, “Pit this lap.” And then we usually hear Simona over the radio that goes, “Copy!” It’s basically all you hear from her the whole race. It’s really lovely.
Ed Bernardon: That’s good. She’s not complaining then.
Beth Paretta: Oh, God, she’s the most even keel. She’s the loveliest driver. And what’s amazing too is how well respected she is among the other drivers in the paddock. She is the real deal. And if you saw how well she qualified, I mean, yes, we were the last car on the grid who qualified. But anyone who knows what was actually going on with the setup of the car and what she was fighting to get that car into the grid, literally, I had drivers coming up to me saying, “I saw the data afterward, I could not have done what she did.” And I’m talking like seasoned veterans of Indianapolis saying that to me and to us. So, it’s a testament to her skill. But to put in perspective, when you’re coming in off a pit lane at an Indy 500, you’re at about 215 miles an hour on Turn 4. And when you’re coming in a pit lane, you’ve got to get down to 60 miles an hour in a short physical distance. So, to go from a 215 down to 60, it’s a lot, you’re slowing down and then you’re kind of coasting into where your pit stall is. So, as soon as you stop on your marks, because we have a little flag there so she knows which pit stall is hers, and the car chief is out on the corner kind of waving, so she’s seeing where to pull in. So, she pulls in and stops basically on a dime. And that crew jumps over the wall. So, that’s one wheel nut in the center, so they’re removing that wheel nut, taking the wheel off, putting a new one on and tightening it. And they have to do that in about five seconds. They have to wait for the car to stop. So, boom! It stops, now the clock starts; put the gun on the nut reverse, switch the gun so that now the gun is going to go the other direction to then tighten. And when that goes wrong, you will see a driver lose a wheel on the track. And that happened this particular race to another driver, and it can happen that quickly. And then I will say, too, not every stop but many stops are also refueling. So, we have somebody that’s putting the hose onto the car and full refueling – basically, from almost empty to full is about 6.2 seconds. So, that’s always the constraint: can we change those tires less than it takes to fuel? And the fuel is governed. So, every team up and down pit lane. Because they actually regulate what’s called the flow rate: how fast is that fuel coming out of the hose? And these are things that are in the rulebook. People say like, “We’re just taking left turns.” Oh, no, everything’s regulated. So, you can try to cheat and make the fuel flow faster. But if you get caught doing that, that’s a huge penalty – you cannot do that. So, the fuel, there’s actually a restrictor in the hose so that it flows at the rate that it does. So, the good thing about that is every car, up and down the grid, to refuel it’s 6.2 seconds. So, we knew when we were training, these women had never gone over the wall.
Ed Bernardon: They have other day jobs, bartenders.
Beth Paretta: Dog groomer, assembly person at Team Penske, somebody does engine tear downs at ROUSH, somebody was a diesel mechanic in the Coast Guard, somebody runs a landscaping business but had been a tire specialist in racing before, this is just what they’re doing now is their day jobs.
Ed Bernardon: What does the tire weigh? The rear tire, the big one, what’s it weigh?
Beth Paretta: Like 30 pounds for the rears.
Ed Bernardon: The tire and wheel together?
Beth Paretta: Tire and wheel together, yeah. But what’s amazing is if you look at the pitstop up close, the car comes in and you’re kneeling down. So, think about lifting something that’s 30 pounds. You’re normally standing, you’re lifting it up. So, these women and men up and down pit lane — So, there the the thing, as long as we’re faster than the fuel, we’re the same as Ganassi and Andretti, because they are guys, they have the same constraint that we do. So, even if Andretti can do it at 5 seconds, and we’re at 5.2, not a big deal.
Ed Bernardon: It’s not like Formula One where they are battling for tenths of a second there?
Beth Paretta: It’s almost that, it’s just a shade slower. And you could still ball it up in the pits. But think about this. So, the car comes in and you’re kneeling down, so you’re on both knees. And you’re taking the wheel off. So, you take the nut off, you take the wheel off with one arm, you take it off with your right arm, and then you’re grabbing the new one with your left arm.
Ed Bernardon: So, that’s 30 pounds per arm. And it’s not an easy thing to grab either.
Beth Paretta: It’s not easy. So, you have to be ambidextrous in your strength.
Ed Bernardon: And then you have to put it exactly on the wheel hub, and then grab the nut, and the nut has to go on —
Beth Paretta: And then grab the gun, make sure that now you’re tightening. And can you do that in five seconds? These women can.
Ed Bernardon: I take a bartender or dog groomer. On day one, they go to pit training, how fast could they do a tire change on day one? And what did it take to get down to the time you really needed to compete in the race?
Beth Paretta: The way that you start is on a static car. It’s basically just like a dummy car in a garage. So, it’s a car that’s shut off. And Indy cars have a pneumatic system for the jacks. So, whereas NASCAR, they literally have a physical jack and they lift up the left side, and they go around and they lift up the right side. In IndyCar they put in an air jack, and there’s little feet under the car that as soon as they put in the air jack —
Ed Bernardon: The car just pops up?
Beth Paretta: Pops up.
Ed Bernardon: I want one of those in my car, that would be great.
Beth Paretta: Wouldn’t that be so nice? Like when you go to Jiffy Lube, they just boop! And the back boop!
Ed Bernardon: And an oil change in 6 seconds too.
Beth Paretta: Easily. I got places to be. I don’t have time. So, the air jack person is a person that’s over the wall too, their responsibility is to go over and immediately put the air jack in, jack the car up. They are watching to make sure everybody’s job is done because as soon as they release that air jack, the car lowers back down. So, obviously, you don’t want to do that too early. Like if you’re still trying to change the wheel, change the tire.
Ed Bernardon: A lot of coordination going on there.
Beth Paretta: And you see that. So, these are the little things that if you know. Now when you watch a race and you see a mistake in the pit stop, you’re like, “Oh, I know what just happened; that guy took the air jack out too soon.” So, that’s why, like anything, if you know what’s going on, it’s a little bit more interesting. So, anyway, these ladies go to training at five o’clock in the morning because we had to find a time that they can all train together, which wouldn’t interfere with their day jobs, and the idea was early mornings. They could do it. It was easier for them to go early morning. So, they go in, they would train, and also some gym time to work on that upper body strength because, again, that 30 pounds, they were starting on that static car that boom got jacked up, and then they could try to change the tires, and their first pitstop was 18 seconds. So, they did it in 18. And it’s funny because I’ll say that to people, they’ll start laughing. In your first pitstop, any of you would be 18 seconds. So, it has no like, “Oh, that’s hilarious. It took them that long.” Really? How fast can you do it, sir?
Ed Bernardon: So, they started at 18 seconds. In fact, they are so determined that I believe your trainer, your pitstop trainer actually had to stop her because her hands were bleeding, and said, “Hey, if you don’t stop now, you’re not gonna be able to practice tomorrow, take it easy, pace yourself.”
Beth Paretta: The dedication of these women. They all have this amazing work ethic. And the thing about racing, too, is – and you can say this of anybody up and down pit lane – it’s not for the mediocre. Everybody that’s in it – any role – you’re driven. I mean, it’s a difficult job. It’s a grueling schedule. And you’re all competitive. And you all want to do well. So, some of that was just making sure that they paced themselves because they all had this fire in them to do their very best. And they also saw this, kind of, carrot at the end of the stick of “If you do well, you’re going to be in the Indy 500.” And how many times in your life does somebody pat you on the shoulder and say, “Do you want a shot at the Indy 500?” And in fairness, a couple of these ladies had no racing experience, so it was a bit of an abstract, like, “Yeah, that sounds cool. Indy 500, I don’t really know.” But then, as they started getting involved in it, in fact, that was one of the women who wound up being so focused coming in a half hour early to make sure she was hanging the wheel on the hub correctly. She had no racing background.
Ed Bernardon: Is she a race fan now?
Beth Paretta: We all get bitten by the bug. She’s now bitten by the bug. So, guilty.
Ed Bernardon: I want to ask you one last thing about the race, and then talk a little bit about your career. But you mentioned 33 drivers in the race, and there’s days of qualifying to prove that you’re worthy. They call that 33rd position, the bubble. When you’re on the bubble —
Beth Paretta: 31, 32, 33.
Ed Bernardon: Oh, my God. And if you’re the 33rd and there’s still people to qualify, it is probably one of the most nerve wracking events to experience in racing, I would imagine. I’ve never been on your side of it. But just watching it and watching the crew with those scared looks on their faces “Are we going to make it?” what does that feel like those 75 minutes of riding the bubble?
Beth Paretta: It’s funny because for as many times as I’d seen it on TV, there’s sort of that weird thing of like, “Oh, my God, it’s me right now.” I’m standing on the timing stand. So, the reason it’s called the bubble is because, again, this particular year, we had 35 cars trying for these 33 spots. Qualifying for Indy 500 is unique, because it’s two days of qualifying: day one is spots 1 through 30, and day two is spots 31, 32, 33 for however many entrants are on the bottom of the list. So, this year, it was five cars trying to be in the top three of five. And after our first run, we were the third of five. And so those other two cars, 34 and 35, are trying to go out and bump us out of that spot. But when you are 33, sitting there like we are, you’re a sitting duck, because each car, those other two cars go out and they’re trying to post a time faster than us. If they go faster, then it’s our move to try to bump them back. But that moment where they’re going out, you’re just sitting there watching the clock, watching the time, watching their speed, looking at three different monitors of data. And all you can do is just hope and be ready to go back out in case you get bumped, like, “We’re gonna go out again.” So, it’s that weird balancing act of keeping an eye on everything, but also being ready to go run another sprint – Simona is in the car ready to go, the crew is ready – this is the sort of a funny thing – and everyone’s watching, everybody is watching you. So, I had my phone on the timing stand, where I’m standing during the race. So, I’m standing looking at all these monitors. I got a couple of text messages from friends and family members that were like, “Oh, wow! You’re on TV right now. Like I can see you, you’re on TV right now.” I’m like, “No kidding.” The funniest thing is I have this photo that somebody took, which was all of the TV cameras facing me —
Ed Bernardon: Did you say “Hi mom,” at least?
Beth Paretta: Exactly. I can tell I’m on TV, guys. I can see a hundred TV cameras pointing at my face right now. And I will say it was the one time in the past year and a half, I was super happy to be wearing a mask.
Ed Bernardon: Well, some people might be thinking, “Oh, 33rd, the last position.” But Fernando Alonso didn’t make the race with McLaren, one of the top racers. And right next to you, in the 32nd position, was Will Power. Will Power is a winner of the Indianapolis 500. He’s an IndyCar Champion.
Beth Paretta: An amazing qualifier as well.
Ed Bernardon: And you qualified right next to him. There you go.
Beth Paretta: We did. And as I said, Will Power and Simona were plagued by the same issue with the car. We were battling the same little engineering snafu. Admittedly, I would never wish ill upon anyone. In one sense, I’m glad that one of our team cars was going through the same thing because we were able to share data and figure out the problem. Although, I had this technical alliance with Team Penske, which allowed us, they could use us as like a fifth car for data from their four cars, because that’s what happens is like on a practice day if you’re a team like Penske and you’ve got four cars, you set up, like literally you kind of set up A, B, C, and D, and you send the cars out, and then you’re looking at those data points coming back. And that helps you figure out which one is good, which one’s not so good. And obviously, this is why it’s sports for engineers. Because then you’re like, “Oh, okay, we’re building that better mousetrap; set up C is working, set up A is not so good.” And as time goes on, you start to then, set up the other cars in the best setup of those four. Well, because we had this technical alliance, we were able to see that data and share that data, and they were able to take our feedback as well – it’s just accelerating that curve of information. Will Power’s car and Simona’s car had the same challenge, which I’m grateful for because sometimes when you’re the only one with a problem, it’s a lot harder to solve it; you can drive yourself crazy because you’re going to start changing too many things, like anything, you want to just make subtle changes to see where the difference is. So, I’m glad that that happened because it also showed people that this can happen to anyone and that we weren’t 33rd because of Simona. In fairness, we got in the race because Simona is so good because the car that we gave her.
Ed Bernardon: It’s a team sport.
Beth Paretta: It’s a team sport, yeah.
Ed Bernardon: You should be proud. I mean, like you said, you started talking about it in August. Officially in January, you were able to get into the race, and McLaren and a former Formula One champion wasn’t able to do what you accomplished. So, certainly a lot to be proud of.
Beth Paretta: Well, I’m a big Alonso fan, so I don’t ever think of it that way. But that’s funny now that you say that. Oh, and little tidbit, the car that we were using, I leased the car from Juncos – and Juncos is the team that bumped Fernando Alonso. So, that car has been successful at getting in the grid at Indy before.
Ed Bernardon: Well, if you’re listening, Alonso.
Beth Paretta: I gave Alonso a free car back in 2012. So, I mean, hopefully he’ll remember. So, hopefully, I’m still in his good graces.
Ed Bernardon: We also work very closely with — Well, now it’s Alpine, and of course, he’s rejoined them this year. We work very hard to help them with all the software and everything that we make here at Siemens to help them be successful. But let’s talk a little bit about your career. You’ve been in the automotive industry all your career, but your degree is actually in communications, broadcasting, and film. So, obviously, those were your early interests. How do you go from broadcasting and film into racing, or the automotive industry?
Beth Paretta: I wanted to be a documentary filmmaker. I kind of double majored in history as well. So, I wanted to make documentaries. But when I was in school in Boston, I actually worked at a ski shop, and I soon learned that I really loved business. I wasn’t really exposed to it, and so I kind of went the business route. And then after school, after undergrad, was working in the ski business, and again, I was like, “Yes, it’s a fun business.” And I was skiing a lot, but I was actually very interested in the business side of it, which then prompted me to get an MBA. And when I was finishing grad school, I realized I didn’t want to stay in the ski business. So, I made a concerted effort to say, “Okay, what else am I passionate about?” It was always automotive and racing. I had been reading car magazines since I was five. I knew everything about every car on the road. And I thought, “Alright, well, let me see if I could find a place for myself in automotive.” It was more just a super hobby of mine. It wasn’t like I come from an automotive family, I kind of found my way there.
Ed Bernardon: Weren’t you a Professor, an Associate Professor at Harvard, somewhere in between there? Does anyone ever call you professor, still? Do you ever see any of your former students at the track?
Beth Paretta: It was only a year. It’s funny because there’s a couple of people that I’m still on LinkedIn, who are my students. And it’s one of those things I don’t ever really tell people about that time. But yeah, when I finished grad school, my mentor in grad school – amazing man called John Marino – then started teaching at Harvard. And he needed somebody to teach with him because actually Harvard had made a mistake where the class was supposed to be limited to 15 students. Basically, a class that I had taken from him called Applied Entrepreneurship; at Harvard, they called it New Enterprise Development, it was the same idea. It was basically like starting a business in the course of a semester, so that all of the students would learn and touch different aspects of starting a business. In theory too, when we did it, when I was in grad school, you were allowed to actually take the class twice, as long as the second time that you took it, you had to be in a different role. So, if the first time you did marketing, the second time, you had to do finance. And it was great, because you can push yourself to do something that wasn’t in your wheelhouse, and make yourself learn another discipline, and quite literally start businesses. And in theory, some of them that they might have started might still exist today. But that idea of starting a business while in school, you get that nice comfort, that safety net.
Ed Bernardon: You can always go back to school in case it doesn’t work out.
Beth Paretta: Exactly. And you have these resources, and you could do all this research in a safe environment. So, anyway, he was gonna teach it at Harvard. And Harvard was supposed to limit the enrollment, and they accidentally didn’t. And so there was a glitch, and so there were like 45 students, and he’s like, “I can’t teach this to 45 students, would you co-teach it with me?” And so that’s how it happened. And then we did it for two semesters.
Ed Bernardon: Where you’re able to go with all this knowledge you had about business.
Beth Paretta: One of the things I would say, people are like, “What’s the secret to success?” And I would say, “It’s mentors.” Having mentors in different industries. And then therefore, because I can look at different mentors that I’ve had, but then I also think then you have a responsibility to mentor others.
Ed Bernardon: And what a great case study that make for Harvard Business School, I’m sure, getting that race team up and going —
Beth Paretta: Start a race team. I would teach everybody not to do it.
Ed Bernardon: Well, that’s what they say, right? If you want to make a million in racing, start with two. That’s the way it works. Now, you went to work at Aston Martin, and that’s when you met Roger Penske. And I think there’s a very interesting story behind your first encounter with probably the person that I don’t know if he helped you the most but certainly had a great deal to do with your success at Indianapolis. But how did that first meeting with Roger go?
Beth Paretta: So, when I joined Aston Martin, I was the operations manager for the eastern half of the United States. So, my territory was Montreal to Miami, and I had 19 dealers. And at the time, Roger had three Aston Martin dealers in the United States: he had, basically, Washington DC, Scottsdale Arizona, and San Diego. He has since sold two of them, so he still has Scottsdale but he doesn’t have the other two. But at that time, he had this dealership in Washington DC areas, Tysons Corner, Virginia. And it was one of one of the dealerships that I had a call on. So, as an operations person for Aston Martin, I was basically the liaison between the dealer network and the factory. So, I worked for Aston Martin, and it’s a small company, so you wear many hats. So, it’s making sure that the dealers have the cars they need in stock, that the service is going well, that the dealers are doing marketing events in their areas, figuring out the product portfolio. It was a really lovely job, and I did it for about four and a half years. But soon after I joined, I still remember this vividly. And it’s one of those funny things, Roger Penske is, obviously, brilliant. But what makes him brilliant is he has a memory for details, and he can bounce from subject to subject. I remember being at a dinner once with him, like an industry dinner, where quite literally, I was sitting at this table and the North American Head of Mercedes was there, the then Head of Chrysler was there, I was there from Aston Martin, and there was somebody there from Automotive News, the trade journal. I saw him talking to the gentleman from Mercedes about that month’s lease programs, and then he’s talking to the guy from — it was a guy, Jim Press, who’d been at Toyota but now is running Chrysler – he was talking to him about that weekend’s truck strategy and NASCAR. And then he turns to me about Aston Martin and the stock levels between the Scottsdale store and the San Diego store. And he was able to just sit there and talk to these three different people about this minutia. And normally, when you see an executive doing that, they usually have an assistant in their ear, who’s like, “This is so and so for Mercedes.” It’s like glad handing like you’d see a politician do. That was that moment, I was like, “Oh, this is who he is. And this is why Roger Penske is Roger Penske.” So the reason I say that is when I had this initial incident with him. In my mind, it was a big deal because it was Roger Penske. And I, in some ways, always wonder what he remembers or if he would even remember. So, this is why I know he remembers is because we were flying down Indy. And this particular story he’s brought up but there was like this other little thing that he brought up, he’ll be like, “Oh, yeah, remember that time we’re having dinner in New York City.” And I was like, “Oh, my God, I remember because I’m sitting next to Roger Penske. But he remembers it too. So, what happened was, here I am working for these dealerships. And part of what I had to do was police the dealers. When you have a luxury brand like that there are rules about advertising. There’s a reason why you never see Louis Vuitton on sale; it’s part of the corporate, there’s rules, they don’t have it on sale. So, for a brand like Aston Martin, we had rules of how you could advertise the selling price of the car; you could sell it for whatever. You can’t have a discount in the ad because otherwise it’d be a restraint of trade; you can’t dictate what somebody can sell something for. But I can tell you that you can’t put a national ad that says, “Aston Martin Vantage $89,900, 17 to choose from.” And they did that. And it’s funny because I’ve never actually divulged that part of the story. But it was Black Friday. It was the Friday after Thanksgiving. I was actually home in Connecticut, I get this frantic call from another dealer, because the dealers all police each other.
Ed Bernardon: “Hey, Roger’s getting away with murder.”
Beth Paretta: Roger did this ad because what happened was they went to go put — it was the General Manager of that store in Washington DC went to go put an ad in the Washington Post. And they’re big advertiser in the Washington Post because in addition Aston they had Audi, Porsche, and Mercedes. So, they did a lot of advertising. This is back in 2007. So, there was still a lot of advertising in newspapers, especially for car dealers. However, the Washington Post, thinking that they were doing them a favor, decided also – even though they only paid for a print ad – we’re gonna run it online, and have it be a digital ad. Problem is when it’s online, it’s national – everybody sees it. So, I get this frantic call from a dealer who is apoplectic, rightfully, because there’s this deep discount ad that you’re not supposed to do, and now it’s nationwide. So, I’m like, “Oh, my God!” So now I got to spring into action. So, I called the General Manager of the store and I said, “I’m gonna be there on Monday morning at 10am. This ad needs to be pulled. The print ad has already gone to print. Yes, we’ll pull it. We’ll make sure that they take it down.” But you can’t like unring a bell. So, I was living in Boston. And so I booked my flight for Monday morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and I am going to walk in and we’re going to have a meeting. And I think we might have said, “There’s going to be a cease and desist.” And all that stuff that, you know, I’m going to march in there in my suit with my little scarf around my neck, and I was formidable. This is like the area General Manager for Penske, who I hadn’t actually met before; I was mostly dealing with the Store Manager and whatnot. But of course, I have to elevate it. So, I fly down there, and I’m going to have this meeting at 10am. So, I walk in at like quarter of, and I’m in the little waiting room outside his office. And right five minutes before 10, he opens the door and comes out to shake my hand, this local General Manager guy, very lovely gentlemen. And as he turns to lead me back in his office, where we’re going to have this meeting, he nonchalantly says, “Roger Penske is going to be joining us via conference call.” I was like, “Good. Okay, that’s great.” And in my head, I’m like, “Oh, God, what?” Because when I was in grad school, my two business heroes – because I’m focusing on automotive at this point – my two business heroes were Roger Penske and Sergio Marchione. So, the fact that I, eventually, within the next five years have ended up working for both of them is ridiculous to me. And have argued with both of them is amazing. So, anyway, we start this meeting, and I was like, “Listen, we need to talk about this ad.” And Roger, rightfully, digs his heels in and starts telling me why they ran the ad and why it was reasonable. And I just went back at them and I said, “This is a violation of this.” I say argued, so yeah, we argued.
Ed Bernardon: It wasn’t the calm voice you’re using right now, though?
Beth Paretta: It was not. Well, he said, “You know, listen, I’m just trying to move some metal.” And I said, “I’m trying to protect a brand. I understand what you’re trying to do but these short term actions disrupt the market. And I need to maintain a market. You’re maintaining one store and I’m maintaining 34.” So, we went back and forth, obviously, politely, but you know, the way that you would just argue a business point. We end the conversation and we hang up the phone. So, just to set the scene, I’m sitting across the desk from this General Manager who I’ve just met, and the phone is in the middle on the desk. So, it’s just this disembodied voice of Roger Penske, the unmistakable voice of Roger Penske. We hung up the phone, because the meeting was done and we hang up, and it’s probably like 10 minutes. But we hang up, and I look at this guy – his name’s Bob Farrell – and I look at him. And again, I just met him two minutes before the call, so I don’t know this guy, I don’t have a rapport with them. And it was that moment of — because your adrenaline is up when you’re in an argument anyway, let alone let’s add the layers of who I’m arguing with and why. And I’m like, I mean, I’m 30 something years old, and none of that was lost on me. We hung up the phone, and I looked at Bob in the eyes, and I just said, “Oh, my God! I just raised my voice to Roger Penske.” And I said it without any filter, it just came out of my mouth. And I said, “Oh, my God! I just raised my voice to Roger Penske.” And he looked at me and he smiled, and he said, “It’s okay. He’ll respect you for it.” And I was shocked. Because in fairness, they didn’t mean to, but they did violate one of the dealer tenets. So, it wasn’t like I just came off hot.
Ed Bernardon: You rightfully stood up to him. And in the end, he respected you for it, and it paid off. In the long run, many, many years later, it paid off.
Beth Paretta: I didn’t meet him in person, by the way, until a month later. He came to the Detroit Auto Show. And about like a week before the Detroit Auto Show, which I would be attending, I got an email from his admin, Mary Lou, and she’s like, “Will you be at the Detroit Auto Show? Mr. Penske would like to meet you in person.” And I’m like, “Oh, here we go.” Because I didn’t know, I mean, yes, this guy said this, but I didn’t know. And then, yeah.
Ed Bernardon: Now, as a former Harvard professor in the area of business, to all those aspiring business people or future race car team owners, do you recommend that they raise their voice in a first meeting with someone? Or is there a certain situation where it makes sense? Obviously, it worked for you.
Beth Paretta: It comes down to just integrity and holding your ground if you know that you’re — Listen, it wasn’t just about knowing you’re right – because everybody always thinks that they’re right – it was respecting yourself and your position. And don’t just acquiesce because somebody has, we can put everybody on a pedestal. But that doesn’t mean that you’re going to — I wasn’t going to make an exception for him because he was Roger Penske, he had to play by the same rules that everybody else did. And in fairness – and he would say this, too – I would have said that to any other dealer. I was going to treat them all equally because it comes down to the only thing you have is your own integrity and your own reputation. So, if I’m treating everybody fairly, that’s going to go a long way. In that sense, you can be okay with raising your voice. If you know your stuff, then you don’t have to be intimidated. Or don’t allow something like that to intimidate you from not doing your job. And the one thing that Roger will say is he knows that I was just doing my job.
Ed Bernardon: And I’m sure he wants to surround himself with people that know how to do their job. Let me ask you about one other thing in your career; you later went on to Fiat Chrysler and you worked on the Dodge Viper, and I believe that Sergio Marchionne hired you.
Beth Paretta: The person who really hired me and scouted me was a guy called Ralph Gilles, who is a designer and is one of the best. He’s now the Global Head of Design for Stellantis, which was FCA. Ralph Gilles and I met in New York City, actually, at an automotive news dinner – and he wanted to hire me because they were spinning off the SRT brand. SRT, which was a trim level, they wanted to elevate it to be almost like an American AMG. Ralph had permission to go outside of the company, because it was being elevated and so they wanted somebody with some luxury experience, so that’s where the Aston Martin experience tied in and performance and all that. So, Ralph Gilles was at the time the CEO of Dodge and the CEO of Motorsport; because I would be working directly for him, there was a rule that if you were going to work directly for a CEO, you had to get the blessing of Sergio, who was the chairman. And so they flew me to Detroit. So, he got the final call of yay or nay. And so I interviewed, one on one, with Sergio Marchione, for 45 minutes, in his office. And he did smoke two cigarettes during the interview.
Ed Bernardon: What an Italian.
Beth Paretta: He was, yeah. He was amazing. And what’s amazing, too, is it’s funny because when people see him, they think he’s gonna have this real like Italian accent, but he grew up in Windsor, Ontario, in Canada, so he has full on Canadian accent, full on American/Canadian accent. It’s always interesting when you have an interview when somebody is courting you for a job. So, I was nervous because it was Sergio Marchionne, but I wasn’t particularly nervous because I was still employed by Aston Martin and I liked the job I had. So, it was like this interesting dynamic. But what was really cool is, right before I met with him, I had to meet with human resources because they needed to advise me on what it would be like to meet with Sergio. So, I meet with the Head of Human Resources, and they’re like, “So, just be yourself.” “He can be unpredictable.” And they meant that in the sense that he’s very conversational. And so what was interesting – he would ask a question, and sometimes when you’re in the middle of answering it, he would ask another question in a completely different direction. It was like talking to a pinball.
Ed Bernardon: He’s testing you maybe.
Beth Paretta: A hundred percent. Everything was a test with him – everything. And when we first sat down, he was like, “Well, tell me about Aston Martin.” I was like, “What do you mean?” He’s like, “What’s your current lineup?” And so I started telling him about the cars in the line, and I realized what he was doing was just trying to make me comfortable. But I think he was also trying to gauge my understanding of cars. Because in fairness, not everybody in the car business is a car person, which was shocking to me.
Ed Bernardon: Well, you’ve been a car person your whole life.
Beth Paretta: And I’m not from Detroit. I get that “local Detroiters” because it’s a factory town. It’s just kind of where you work. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re passionate about it. I said, “What’s your favorite car?” He’s like, “I have an RS6.” And I said, “Avant?” He goes, “Yeah, and it’s been tuned. It’s over 700 horsepower.” And I was like, “Really? Well, can you be seen driving it?” He’s like, “No, I’ve got to have it.” I said, “Do you have it here? Meaning in the US.” He goes, “No, it’s in Turin.” And I said, “Can you even drive it?” He’s like, “I have to have my guy take it.” And then I said, “Do you wear a false mustache?” And he’s like, “No, but I should.” And we were just having this whole conversation. And what was great was – again, it’s those tests – he goes, “I have an RS6.” And the fact that my reply was, “Avant?” We immediately knew I’m fluent in car. And those are those moments where you immediately can establish your street cred.
Ed Bernardon: And that goes a long way with somebody like that.
Beth Paretta: It goes a long way with somebody like that because it was being yourself.
Ed Bernardon: I was wondering, What car designer do you admire
Beth Paretta: And in fairness, the other one that I like is Lorenzo Ramaciotti. So, Lorenzo Ramaciotti worked for Fiat Chrysler, and he penned the 550 Maranello and a lot of significant Ferraris. And it’s funny because Ralph Gilles, who was the American head, and then you had Lorenzo Ramaciotti, who was like the European head. And I don’t like fan girl out but there was one time I was with Ralph Gilles and we’re in Metro Airport in Detroit, and Lorenzo Ramaciotti was…of course, they know each other. So, he introduced him to me, and the whole time I was looking at him because he’s this famous car designer. But there’s only three times I’ve geeked out but quietly; me geeking out is just staring at them. The other time was Michèle Mouton; I met her in Mexico City.
Ed Bernardon: Michèle Mouton. Yes, I know her quite well.
Beth Paretta: She’s lovely. And then the third time was Sabine Schmitz, may she rest in peace. I met her at the Nürburgring.
Ed Bernardon: In fact, we were trying to get Michelle on The Future Car Podcast. I’ve known her from a project we were doing in rally. And she is actually working on a movie of her life right now. She said, “Ed, I’m too busy. But you know what? Would you mind if Susie Wolff stepped in?” And she was like you, team owner, all-electric racing series, Formula E. You know what? It’s similar to you in many ways: STEM is important, diversity is important.
That’s part 1 of our talk with Beth, join us again in two weeks where we continue our discussion and dive into the role of women in racing, STEM and what the future may hold for the Paretta Autosport Indy team. As always For more information about Siemens Digital Industries Software, make sure to visit us at plm.automation.siemens.com. And until next time, I’m Ed Bernardon, and this has been the Future Car Podcast.
Beth Paretta – Guest, Owner, Paretta Autosport
Beth started her automotive career working in automotive dealerships before becoming a Business Development Manager for Volkswagen of America’s Credit division. Beth was next recruited to be the Operations Manager for Aston Martin the Americas. After gaining unique experience in retail operations and luxury brand management, Beth was hired by former Chairman Sergio Marchionne and then-CEO of Dodge, Ralph Gilles to join Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) in 2011 as the Director of Marketing and Operations for their performance division, SRT – Street and Racing Technology – and Motorsports where her teams earned earned three National titles. In 2015, Beth launched Grace Autosport, a professional race team of women and an initiative to promote STEM education for girls as the ultimate example of applied science. In 2021 she launched PARETTA AUTOSPORT to lead diversity initiatives across professional racing disciplines starting with the NTT Data INDYCAR series and the Indianapolis 500 Mile race and Became first Indy 500 female team owner with a female driver.
Ed Bernardon, Vice President Strategic Automotive Initiatives – Host
Ed is currently VP Strategic Automotive Initiatives at Siemens Digital Industries Software. Responsibilities include strategic planning and business development in areas of design of autonomous/connected vehicles, lightweight automotive structures and interiors. He is also responsible for Future Car thought leadership which includes hosting the Future Car Podcast and development of cross divisional projects. Previously he was a founding member of VISTAGY that developed light-weight structure and automotive interior design software acquired by Siemens in 2011, he previously directed the Automation and Design Technology Group at MIT Draper Laboratory. Ed holds an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, B.S. in mechanical engineering from Purdue, and MBA from Butler.
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The Future Car Podcast
The tech-driven disruption of the auto industry cuts across domains, from silicon and software to sensors and AI to smart traffic management and mobility services. Get the chip- to city-scale story in regular interviews with technologists at Siemens and beyond.