There are certain moments in history that everyone remembers. There are events that changed our perspective of the planet, like the first moon landing. Others that changed the way we live, like the tech revolution. And others that changed our perspectives about what was achievable, like the first majority female racing team to qualify for the notoriously competitive, male-driven Indy 500 motorsports race.
In this segment of our Women Driving the Future series, Ed Bernardon continues the conversation with Beth Paretta of Paretta Autosport. Not only has the team she put together helped demonstrate that barriers can be broken, but it’s also shown other women that careers in motorsports and other STEM fields hold plenty of promising opportunities.
Ed Bernardon: For a lot of people, the idea of putting together a team to race in the Indy 500 is only a pipe dream. The training, the money, the dedication…these can all be potential roadblocks. The race has more than a century of history under its belt, total prize money that can approach 15 million dollars for a single race, so the competition is fierce.
But for dedicated hard working and lucky few, the sweat and determination does eventually pay off. In our last episode, we heard from Beth Paretta, the owner of Paretta Autosport, a team that will go down in history for putting the first majority female race team together, and then qualifying for one of the most coveted positions in racing a place in the Indy 500 starting field..
Welcome to the Future Car podcast, I’m your host Ed Bernardon VP Strategic Automotive Initiatives at Siemens Digital Industry Software and in this episode, I continue my conversation with Beth as we dig deeper into the logistics of putting a talented team together in a short period of time. We talk about the challenges of turning people with other day jobs into a quick-on-their-feet, strong team of racing technicians, strategists, and crew members. We’ll also talk about how her team was received in this long male-dominated industry, and how she’s helping to encourage more women to think about careers in STEM.
You’ll hear all of that and more including a fun fact about her favorite all-time Indy driver in our rapid fire section near the end of this episode of the Future Car Podcast. This is part 2 of my conversation with the woman changing the face of racing,
Ed Bernardon: STEM is important, diversity is important. I want to switch to that subject. In most of your interviews, that’s the subject to talk about the whole time. Somehow, we’ve managed to talk here for almost over an hour and haven’t even touched on this – that’s perfectly okay. So, tell me that you have a hashtag “DrivenByWomen” what’s that mean to you? What’s that all about?
Beth Paretta: Driven By Women, to have women-driven, what is special about that? It’s to be a little bit broader than just the driver. Because the one thing that I really tuned into when I was at Fiat Chrysler – and then here I’m running these motorsport programs – was there are so many other things that make up a race team. And I think the product that we deliver to the fans is so focused on the driver. The reality is a race team is much broader than just the driver. It’d be like just focusing on the quarterback if you’re looking at a football team. And yes, we know that there’s a quarterback, we know what their name is. But we also know that there’s a wide receiver; we also know that there’s a kicker; we know that there’s a tight end. And I think we’re doing a disservice in the racing business to not explain that there’s all those roles on a race team too, and what they do, because not everybody necessarily aspires to grow up to be a racing driver. But then take that a step further – the skills of some of these people on racing teams are transferable to other things. So, you can actually work on a race team and be an aerodynamicist. I’ve said this for years and it actually came true. You can be an aerodynamicist for a race team, working on wind tunnel stuff, or aero setups and aero data. And then, eventually, you can maybe go work for Boeing. The woman who was our aeroengineer for the IndyCar program, who is a full time employee of Penske, who does the wind tunnel testing for the NASCAR program, used to work at Boeing.
Ed Bernardon: What better person for aero than that?
Beth Paretta: And that’s a real thing. In what other sport do you actually have transferable skills? Immediate. And that’s why when we were talking about car companies that have racing programs, why do they have it? Yes, it’s a living lab. So, there are oftentimes things that are developed on race courses, race tracks that then translate to the road car: air conditioning systems, anti-lock brakes, the safety cells, crumple zones, rearview mirror, all of those things are designed out of necessity, or because I say it’s a living lab, it’s an accelerated pace to develop things, and then they do go to the road car. So, people always wonder, “Well, why do car companies race?” That’s one of the reasons. The other thing, it’s because of marketing, because if you win – the whole “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.” – there’s something to that. Porsche is known for racing, Ford has been racing, General Motors, Chevy’s been racing, Corvettes – everybody knows Corvettes race. And you feel like, “Alright, I’m buying maybe a little watered down version of the thing that just raised at Le Mans this weekend, and you really are.
Ed Bernardon: Mentioning Le Mans, Porsche still puts the key on the left because you needed that right hand to buckle your seatbelts at Le Mans.
Beth Paretta: At Le Mans, because there used to be a thing called the Le Mans Start, where the cars were lined up, and the drivers were across pit lane and had to sprint across pit lane to get into their car. They don’t do that anymore because it’s highly dangerous. Because they were so keen to pull away from pit lane that they were a little slow with doing their belts.
Ed Bernardon: They do it on the high speed straight in the back when they’re going 230 miles an hour.
Beth Paretta: Exactly, Le Mans’s not straight because it’s finally where it’s straight where they could drive with their knee. But with that said, car companies will usually cycle their engineers through a racing program for a year or two because it is intense, they have to be very team focused, they learn in a fast amount of time, and then they kind of rotate back into the production side. So, it is a treasure trove for STEM education. These are engineering, technical and mechanical careers, hands on. And anybody who’s on a race team is a racer. Even if you’re the PR person, you’re a racer; you have that mentality; you’re wired. We all have the same version of being wired that way of being competitive, doing our best. The green flag waits for nobody. And I thought what better way to inspire kids to see, “Why am I learning this in school? Why am I learning this math? Why am I learning physics? When am I ever going to use this?” Well, yeah, you might get a PhD in physics from MIT and be a physics teacher, sure. But what about all these other things? What about aerodynamics? What about setting up an IndyCar? And yeah, there’s only 33 cars. So, how many jobs is that? But is it something that you can do for a little bit and study in college, and then go work for Boeing or Airbus or Sikorsky?
Ed Bernardon: Just getting interested if it draws you into learning those types of things – the engineering, the science, the math?
Beth Paretta: Same thing like Siemens, I know that the different kinds of software programs that you have. The stuff that people will touch in college, like Formula SAE and figure out CAD software.
Ed Bernardon: Those have all carbon fiber bodies. And learning how to design and build something like that, you have to be working at a Boeing or a racing team to prepare you for that.
Beth Paretta: And maybe racing as a kid, it’s like, we’re sort of that spoonful of sugar. You might not, otherwise, pay attention, but it’s like, “Oh, racing seems interesting, or cars seem interesting.” And you may eventually be creating blades for wind turbines. It might eventually turn into something very different, but if this is the thing that could at least pique your interest.
Ed Bernardon: Turn you in that right direction. One of the things is you’ve got this majority woman team, 70%. But you’ve said it’s not just about having 70% women, it’s about making more opportunity for all, “expanding the grid” is the word you used. So, it’s really taking talented women and men, and making opportunity for more. The diversity of experience and opinions, and bringing those together, obviously, was successful for you at Indy.
Beth Paretta: We’re a professional sports team. Paretta Autosport is a professional sports team. And the fact that it can be co-ed today, there’s not many sports. I mean, you might have a woman General Manager in the front office of a baseball team, and that’s awesome, and let’s get more of that, and let’s get a first base coach that’s a woman. But are there going to be female linebackers in the NFL? Probably not. But again, that’s okay. But racing is one of those places where it’s strategy, and it’s not just the physicality of it, it’s a combination of everything. It’s not just brute strength. So, we can have some women over the wall, but we can definitely have women as engineers and strategists and spotters. And so the idea was, we have made some advancements of women behind the wheel; we need to have more of them; we need to have more women drivers and we get that road to Indy in those ladder systems. But respectfully, let’s not just focus on the driver, there’s all these other positions.
Ed Bernardon: There’s a place no matter what your interest is.
Beth Paretta: Absolutely. And in fairness, that’s the thing is if there’s somebody in the stands, they might not want to be a driver, but they’re like, “Oh, well, I’d love to learn how to be a gearbox mechanic.” That’s cool!
Ed Bernardon: When you were in Indianapolis. So, now you’ve got this majority women’s team, obviously, Roger and all the other teams that he was supporting – I’m sure you all work together. But there’s a lot of old timers at Speedway, been there for a long time; are they all 100% supportive? I think the first woman owner was in her 20s. Her car won, but she had to sit in the stands.
Beth Paretta: She had to sit in the stands and she put the entry under her initials, so that people didn’t know it was a woman. It was “MA Yagle” instead of “Maude Yagle.”
Ed Bernardon: And I don’t think a woman could even go in gasoline alley or back there till much more —
Beth Paretta: No, not until the ‘70s. Because there were other women owners in the ‘50s and ‘60s. In fairness, they were often the wife of. So, it was a couple that owned it or a widower where the wife wound up owning it. And yeah, had to be in the stands.
Ed Bernardon: If it’s recently – if you want to call it recently – the late ‘70s or the ‘70s, there’s people still in that gasoline alley today, like AJ Foyt or who knows, people have been around forever at the Indianapolis 500. You don’t have to name names or anything, but was there anybody giving you those dirty looks like, “What do you think you’re doing here? This is a man’s world.”
Beth Paretta: Back when I announced, in 2015, the intention of this, there was a bit of that. This round, though, I have to honestly say. So, we had an open test back in April that was also televised – it was on peacock, which is an NBC property – between then and also the beginning of practice for May, there were definitely a lot of people in the paddock and in gasoline alley; people that were then looking into our garage. I think they were wondering if it was real.
Ed Bernardon: “Oh, they are all women. They weren’t kidding.”
Beth Paretta: And are the women actually picking up tools and touching the car?
Ed Bernardon: “They can’t lift those tires.”
Beth Paretta: Right. Or was it going to be a stunt, and we just had women in the suits, and then they were just going to do little things? I think they were just trying to figure out if it was real. I will say, the fact that we have the technical alliance with Penske, that helps immediately because people know that Roger wouldn’t be involved in something unless he believed in it, unless he thought it was going to be done the right way. So, that helped. It was like a shot in the arm in that sense. The smart team owners, who I’ve known for years, appreciated what we’re doing because they knew that it might increase more fans, and more fans watching helps all of us. So, I did have a few team owners that made a point of thanking me for the effort because they knew that it had value, you know, it was going to help them. I have received a few emails from people that are negative.
Ed Bernardon: Negative in what way?
Beth Paretta: Some people saying, “Why isn’t it 100% women? You guys are barely going to qualify.” Or then when we qualified last, “See, I knew you’d qualify last.” Actually, that’s really funny. And it’s always people that think they know but don’t. So, I will say, I’ve been doing this long enough that I now just laugh at it. 10 years ago, it probably would have bugged me. But I now have a better understanding of like, “Oh, that guy’s just miserable.” And I come to realize, like, that guy’s miserable when he walks into CVS, he’s miserable when he walks into Dunkin Donuts; he’s just miserable. Because who takes the time to literally write an email to a stranger?
Ed Bernardon: Just to make them feel worse, right?
Beth Paretta: Right. It’s just so funny. But with that said, there was this really funny thing that happened, and you can actually find it on Twitter, and I saw it like a couple days after and it was hilarious. So, some keyboard cowboy, the day after we qualified or the day we did, IndyCar on NBC, which is the Twitter handle for that broadcast, said, “Here’s the last row qualifier.” So, it was Sage Karem, Will Power, Simona de Silvestro, and it was just the tweet, like the update of right after bump day was done. And a guy retweeted it and said, “Interesting to note, the only woman in the field qualified last.” IndyCar on NBC retweeted the guy and said, “Interesting to note, you didn’t qualify.” That wasn’t the funniest part. The funniest part was then the replies to that tweet that were hilarious, like hundreds of replies that were like, “Hi, 911. I’d like to report a murder.” And they just were bashing this guy like, “How dare you?” And I will say, a part of this, I think, is Simona has a lot of fans, Penske has a lot of fans. There were more people rooting for us than not. And so those people kind of then did the heavy lifting of like, “How dare you?” And I definitely think that on race day, everyone was waiting to see how our pitstops would go, that was always the “Here goes nothing.” And when we had our first pitstop, which actually was not on TV. The second one was but the first one wasn’t; the camera just wasn’t on us at that moment. And in fairness, I think NBC might have either not realized we were coming in. We had four women over the wall but they did get others, and you could see them and they were real. But the thing that was amazing is where I was because the way that Indianapolis Motor Speedway is there’s fans on both sides of the tracks; you’ve got them behind you in the infield, and then on the outside. When Simona came in the first time for the pitstop, we’re all holding our breath. Because in fairness, that was the first time they were doing the pitstops wearing their fire suits. There was always like a “Here’s the first for this.” In my head I’m like, “Oh, we haven’t done this yet.” But it was that moment of like, “Let’s just get through the first one because then we can all exhale.” And I knew what they could do, they knew what they could do, but the public didn’t, because they’re all just waiting for this experiment to reveal itself. When they did the first pitstop and Simona tears out of the box to go into pit lane, the crowd cheered and cheer just erupted.
Ed Bernardon: And the crowd went wild.
Beth Paretta: The crowd went wild. And to be fair, I literally even pulled my headset off, because the headset is noise cancelling.
Ed Bernardon: That must have made goosebumps. It must have been like, “I’m so proud of them.”
Beth Paretta: I mean, I’m not a parent but I felt like these were my kids, and I was just so proud of those of us on the timing stand just looked at each other like “Okay, that wasn’t red.” For women who started in February, holy damn, was that good!
Ed Bernardon: Well, if you even think about this interview here, we’ve spent the first hour just talking about racing – I think that’s the testament here is that we can all do it.
Beth Paretta: I can talk to you about the minutiae of cars and racing, and I’ve been able to do that forever. Sometimes it’s a party trick, at a cocktail party, like, “Oh, Beth speaks car.” Well, more people can too, they just need to do it. They just need to care enough or be this much of a geek.
Ed Bernardon: And I think that’s one of your passions. You mentioned STEM earlier, how does your team promote STEM education for women?
Beth Paretta: Just to the catalyst of why that even is, is I’m not an engineer. But if I had been exposed to it, like neither of my parents were engineers —
Ed Bernardon: You think you would have been one?
Beth Paretta: A hundred percent.
Ed Bernardon: It’s never too late.
Beth Paretta: I know. Believe me, I’ve started to like, “Maybe I can get a graduate degree in it.”
Ed Bernardon: Do you like calculus?
Beth Paretta: I’d have to start over from scratch with it. But it’s exactly that because it’s all about what we’re exposed to. And that’s why a five year old girl or boy either wants to be a fireman or a princess, because it’s what they see. And as we get older, you’re exposed to the adults in your world. If your mom or dad is a doctor or a lawyer or this or that – no six year old is like, “I’m going to be an actuary,” unless their mom or dad is an actuary. You wouldn’t even know what an actuary is. And so with that said, as we progress, I always say engineering could do with a bit of marketing because it’s such a broad term. Engineers, respectfully, are not necessarily good at promoting what they do. They’re not comfortable, necessarily, talking about what they do. They’re just doing their jobs. But there’s also so many disciplines within engineering, whether it’s civil, electrical, mechanical, material. So, let’s talk more about what that is. And kids are exposed to the adults in their world. And we have different family makeups that you have, sometimes, a single parent who might not have a career; they might be working two jobs, three jobs. They want to support their child’s interests but they might not know how. So, I will say, there’s been this evolution that’s happened since 2014, when we had this germ of this idea to where we are now. 2015, I started going to corporations, trying to get sponsors, and say, “You need to invest in kids, in STEM education. You need to be targeting 10-year-olds.” And companies wouldn’t do that because they couldn’t get direct ROI. Whether it was Siemens, whether it’s Raytheon, whether it’s Boeing, General Motors, they were, “No, we’re gonna go to the college fair because we can see the ROI. We’re going to invest in this college fair and we can hire three people or six people or 30 people.” And they could see the investment and the ROI across five years, and how long did they stay. And they weren’t able to justify spending money on 10-year-olds, because there was no guarantee that that 10-year-old was going to grow up and work for Siemens. But now they realize, “Nope, it takes a village. So, if I, Siemens, invest in those 10-year-olds, and maybe they may grow up and work for Raytheon. But Raytheon invests in those 10-year-olds and I might get one of those.” And so now that’s where the shift happened. And that happened across the past five years. And that’s why you’re seeing everything about STEM education for kids, because we’ve been knocking on that door for a while. And there’s that thing about “Let’s lift the veil on what you do for a living.” I was at this thing in Indianapolis Motor Speedway a couple of years ago. And I always remember it. And I don’t even know the gentleman’s name. He works for Rolls Royce jet engines. And we were talking to middle schoolers, and his rap to these kids was way cooler than me, because – I don’t know if he said materials. I think he’s a mechanical engineer; I’m a mechanical engineer – he’s like, “You know what I did yesterday? I threw frozen turkeys into jet engines.”
Ed Bernardon: To test them to see if they explode.
Beth Paretta: And these kids were like, “What? That’s the coolest thing! I want to throw frozen turkeys into jet engines.” And it’s that whole idea, like, let’s talk about what we do versus like calculus. Why do we do it? And why does it matter? And let’s talk to 10-year-olds about what we do. Because you can affect a kid’s trajectory from 10 to 12 years old. And listen, I shouldn’t say this out loud, but yeah, I’m talking to girls, but I’m talking to boys too. It just happens that the girls are the engineers teaching the lesson. So, a girl sees that it’s a female, boys and girls get the same lesson. It’s for all kids.
Ed Bernardon:You have to have exposure so you can find that best match. After the race, you got some interesting emails, or I think comments back from some fathers about their daughters. Tell us a little bit about that, because I think that’s a great example of the impact that you’re having.
Beth Paretta: Even some guys that I used to work with. Who knew that I was working on this. But I have a former coworker who has a 13 year old daughter, and he sent me this text message a couple days after the race because they watched it recorded, so they watched it later. And he said, “Beth, when I saw the look on my daughter’s face, I wasn’t prepared for that.” So, even early on when we did the announcement, there were all these hits on the website and the immediate response. It was funny to even see the people within the Penske organization to say, “Oh, my gosh! This thing is taking off.” I’m like, “Well, of course it is.” But I knew that and I saw that because I have the perspective of a woman, I knew what the impact was going to be because I was that girl. And I was able to frame it, knowing what would probably resonate with that girl, much better than a guy is going to be able to. So, it’s been this interesting thing to see fathers of daughters say thank you, and basically seeing it through their daughter’s eyes. Even some of the men that are on my team, I wasn’t sure how they were going to react to just even being part of this because I thought, “Oh, they’re gonna think it’s like –” I mean, in fairness, because Roger Penske is like, “Hey, you guys are going to be assigned to this project for the next six months.” So, of course, they’re going to do it because it’s their job. And they’re going to do it with 100% effort because they do. But I wasn’t sure if they were going to be kind of rolling their eyes a bit. And quite literally, the opposite happened, because some of them are fathers of daughters, or have dynamic women in their lives, and were happy to be part of something. They’ve been working in racing for years and years, but now they have this added layer of like, “Oh, this actually has impact.” And how nice is that? And also to be able to mentor people that are new, there’s something rewarding about bestowing your wisdom on somebody who’s interested in learning. And I’m so grateful for anyone that takes the time to send a tweet or an email. Because just even taking the few minutes to do that is wonderful, because it also just keeps us going.
Ed Bernardon: I think you also got some other emails from husbands that said, “Oh, well, my wife usually just sends me off to the races, and go, ‘Do your boys thing.’ But now, ‘Wait a minute. I want to see what’s going on here. This could be something I might be interested in.’”
Beth Paretta: The best story I have about that, there is a gentleman who is a pit supervisor, works for IndyCar. He pulled me aside the morning of the race, he goes, “I’ve been here since the open test, I’ve been watching the progress of your women –” Because of course, the open test was like their first real live pitstops. And so you’re seeing their progression too, he’s like, “I gotta tell you, I’ve been doing this for 18 years. And I’ve been watching your women progress here. And it’s amazing to see and they’re really doing a great job. But I have to tell you something else. I have to thank you. In my 18 years of being with my wife, something happened today that has never happened before in our 18 years.” I said, “She’s watching the race?” And he goes, “No, she’s here. She’s never been here. She’s never come to the race. And she has MS, and she’s in a wheelchair.” So, this woman, in a wheelchair, wanted to be at the speedway, she’d never been before. And her husband works in IndyCar; she could have gone any time, and she never wanted to. And she wanted to be there to see it. That in itself is amazing. But the fact that he took the moment to come over and tell me this, 30 minutes before the race began. And it’s those little things that happened this year.
Ed Bernardon: Absolutely. That’s got to be what makes you so proud of what you accomplished, when you hear a little story like that. You’ve taken a team to the 500. You’ve probably learned so many things during that month of May. What would you do differently next time around?
Beth Paretta: Order our fire suits early because half of them never showed up and we had to scramble to get substitute fire suits. So, the best days, the fire suits come from Italy. They were in two boxes, one box goes missing. To the point where the whole week leading up to the race, I was getting updates every day from a major shipping company that you’ve all heard of that might be based in Louisville. And every day it was like, the update, “We’re looking, we’re looking, we’re looking.” So, half of them arrive. One of the women on our team was managing that, and just keeping us in the loop. So, then it was the scramble to find substitutes because you need fire suits to go over the wall. So, she, very adeptly, was able to get — if you look now at the pictures, you’ll see some people are not in red suits, they’re in other car suits. We quickly got them covered. We had to get screened because everything, otherwise, was embroidered but on these the logos were screen, because they had to look the part because you get sponsored obligations that you have to fulfill. So, the best was, I think, Thursday of last week, I got an email from the shipping company, “Great news, we found the box. They’re here, we got them, where do you guys want them?” I don’t know. So, my joke is like, “Good news, ladies, we know what you’re all going to be for Halloween.”
Ed Bernardon: In terms of strategy or how you approach the race, is there anything there?
Beth Paretta: We definitely struggled with qualifying in the race because of — the demise in the race was something to do with the brakes, qualifying, we’re struggling. I mean, it’s one of those things as a Monday morning quarterback as it were. Yeah, if I knew then what I know now, we would have fixed the problem. Because we shouldn’t have qualified 33rd, we should have been in the middle of the pack. If you look at the way that our race setup was during practice, we absolutely could have been. It had to do with something mechanical later on. So, like that I would have fixed. But with regards to the people that we worked with, how hard we worked, there’s nothing. Because also, anything that we learned, we’ll take forward. So, you really can’t have regrets in racing, you just take it.
Ed Bernardon: Take what you learned and don’t make the same mistake again.
Beth Paretta: Exactly. You take it as a data point and you move forward, and that’s how you get smarter and smarter.
Ed Bernardon: So, you have the suits now. You’ve got all your over the wall suits. When can we catch another race with your team? What’s the next one?
Beth Paretta: Having conversations now. I’ve got Chevrolet is very supportive. Having conversations with the sponsors now because we had just done this as a one-off for them. But we kind of over indexed. So, they’re super excited. Also the people from Rocket Pro TPO were there. And I’m talking corporate like Rocket Mortgage, Rock Ventures where there, people from Moneylion were there who’ve been fantastically supportive. And they’re already talking about more races. So, it’s now an issue of putting that together.
Ed Bernardon: Will it be before Indianapolis, the 106?
Beth Paretta: I’m hoping so.
Ed Bernardon: Any chance we can get you to announce which race it’ll be right here on The Future Car Podcast?
Beth Paretta: Too early. I wish I could. I would if I could.
Ed Bernardon: Alright, Beth, thank you so much. If someone didn’t understand the Indianapolis 500 and how difficult it is to turn left 800 times in a row, I’m sure they do now. And they certainly appreciate everything you’ve done for STEM. And all the young people out there that want to learn about science and engineering, who knows? Maybe preparing a few future employees for Siemens, if not for your team. To wrap up, we have a rapid fire section. We’re gonna shoot a bunch of quick questions at you. And you’re ready?
Beth Paretta: Yeah, let’s go.
Ed Bernardon: What was the first car you ever bought or owned?
Beth Paretta: A 1971 Super Beetle Convertible Volkswagen.
Ed Bernardon: Did you pass your driver’s test on the first try?
Beth Paretta: I did, and it was snowing.
Ed Bernardon: Oh, that made it extra hard. Was it in the beetle?
Beth Paretta: No, it was actually my mother’s Honda Accord.
Ed Bernardon: That’s good. Because the Beetle with rear wheel drive would have been a little tricky in the snow.
Beth Paretta: It would have. But no, I didn’t own that. I bought the car after I got the license.
Ed Bernardon: I bet you love to drive fast. Have you ever had a speeding ticket?
Beth Paretta: Yes.
Ed Bernardon: Tell me your best speeding ticket story.
Beth Paretta: My best speeding ticket story was I was in Upstate New York and I paid the ticket. But the state of New York had made a mistake and didn’t record the ticket as paid. So, then I got a notice to appear in court. And it was this whole big snafu. And I was prohibited from driving in the state of New York until they were able to purge it from my record. Again, because of a clerical error. So, because I couldn’t drive in the state of New York, I was trapped in New England for technically a year. I was like a fugitive if I went across the state line.
Ed Bernardon: You had to find the thinnest part of the state to escape.
Beth Paretta: Right. I keep my speed up or I go to Canada.
Ed Bernardon: Wow, trapped in New England.
Beth Paretta: Yeah, I remember at the time, I made a mixtape called Trapped in New England.
Ed Bernardon: I was gonna say that could be the name of your life story when you make a movie someday about all this.
Beth Paretta: But it was because of a speeding ticket that they didn’t, it was a clerical error.
Ed Bernardon: On The Future Car Podcast, we got to talk about autonomous cars. And we like to talk about what we call the living room on wheels. So, you’re not driving. So, in the future, your autonomous car is basically a living room on wheels, you can have whatever you want in it. So, imagine, you’re taking that five-hour trip from Boston across the state of New York, what is in your living room on wheels?
Beth Paretta: Probably my cats, some books. I love reading, that’s probably my hobby. It’s funny because, in fairness, my hobby is what I do for a living; cars and racing are my hobbies. So, the thing that I would spend the most time on is reading. And how great would it be to have an autonomous vehicle where you can peek out the window but then just read. One thing that I will say, the worst invention is WiFi on planes because I used to love the fact that you could get on a flight and nobody could reach you. It was like the one downtime you could actually plan for. So, it’s great to have, but now it’s like, “Oh, I got to do work emails.” But it was kind of nice to say, “Oh, I’ve got three hours, I could read a book.” And now you feel guilty. So, if I had a living room on wheels, how cool would it be to be able to sit and actually read for five hours.
Ed Bernardon: A library on wheels in effect.
Beth Paretta: A library, absolutely. And especially for those boring stretches where there’s nothing really to see in the middle of certain states that will go unnamed because I don’t want to offend anybody that’s from those states.
Ed Bernardon: What person, living or not, would you want to spend a five-hour car trip?
Beth Paretta: I would say now, it would be my mom. I lost both my parents. I lost my mom in 2012, and my dad in 2016. So, my dad was able to see the start of the race team, like this early push toward it. He was super proud of it. But my mom passed when I was at Fiat Chrysler. So, she was able to see the launch of the Viper program and see us doing well with the NASCAR program at the time. So she knew where my career was going. But I would just love to just catch up with my mom.
Ed Bernardon: What car best describes your personality?
Beth Paretta: A Lancia Stratos.
Ed Bernardon: Oh, very nice. What’s a hobby you have that has nothing to do with work?
Beth Paretta: Honestly, just reading. I mean, I love reading and I love travel. But usually most of the times I’m traveling, I’m going to race or automotive things around the world. But it’s funny, literally, if I did anything else, this is what I would do in my free time: I would be going to races. It’s what I did before I worked in racing, I was going to races. So, it’s one of those things they say, “Do what you love and the money will follow.” That hasn’t happened yet because again, racing is not lucrative.
Ed Bernardon: What do you wish you understood better?
Beth Paretta: I wish I understood why putting some of these programs together were so difficult. I think there’s such value in what we’re doing. And it’s a lot like pushing a boulder uphill. And I wish more people and organizations understood the value of marketing. So, I wish I understood why they don’t understand it.
Ed Bernardon: Instead of just starting to design something before they really understand if anybody’s really ever going to use it.
Beth Paretta: Absolutely. I always make the analogy how everybody thinks that they could open a restaurant: “Well, I’ve been to a restaurant, so I could open a restaurant. It can’t be that difficult.” Everybody thinks that of marketing. And I was guilty of this when I was in school. I breezed through my marketing classes, and I didn’t realize I was breezing through them because it came naturally to me. I thought I was breezing through them because it wasn’t that difficult. I didn’t realize that “No, no, it’s difficult for some people, it just came naturally to me.” But with that said, there are a lot of people who dabble in marketing. And I think that that’s such an insulting thing to say because it’s its own discipline. It’s a science with a bit of art. But there are people that — because you take it for granted. You see marketing and advertising around, so how difficult can it be? But the reality is good marketers make it look easy – it’s not. But I don’t sit there, like, “I dabble in Mechanical Engineering.” No, you don’t.
Ed Bernardon: “I dabble in turning left. It’s easy. I did it 800 times yesterday.”
Beth Paretta: Exactly. I would certainly encourage anybody to just do a track day at their local track. And then they can extrapolate to figure out “Okay, now do this twice as fast.”
Ed Bernardon: If you could have the answer to any question, what would it be?
Beth Paretta: Why are they so difficult?
Ed Bernardon: There we go, great answer. It’s perfect. If you could uninvent one thing, what would it be?
Beth Paretta: Instagram. It’s all fake. It’s all false. And it encourages you to put a false image forward. And it’s one thing as an adult. Instagram has come to light as we’ve been adults, and so we can understand that. But I find it’s so challenging for kids to understand the difference between reality and false image.
Ed Bernardon: The perfect life it seems that other people may have.
Beth Paretta: And it’s funny because obviously, I firmly believe that nobody had nefarious intent when they start some of these things. Even social media or things like Facebook. When Facebook started as a thing for college students at Harvard. There’s no way that these people could foresee where, eventually, it would go. But I wish there was a way to rein some of that in, because there’s a downside to the societal impact. Case in point, these keyboard cowboys who can write a nasty-gram to me, which, the fact that they feel emboldened to do that. And also, I think there’s a lot of people that see things that look easy and they, therefore, think that they can do it. And we’ve lost the sense of reality, and we’ve also lost common decency. And I think some social media has contributed to that more than others, has amplified it for sure. And that’s a shame.
Ed Bernardon: If you could magically invent one thing, what would it be? To replace the Instagram you just got rid of?
Beth Paretta: A thing that removes Instagram. It would be a filter.
Ed Bernardon: A double whammy on Instagram.
Beth Paretta: Yes, it would be a filter that undoes everything that you alter to your photo and to your comments. It’s inversely proportionate that the most stuff that you put on Instagram is literally not your life. So, for those of us who don’t really post a lot, it’s because we’re too busy living life.
Ed Bernardon: Tell us something about yourself that would surprise your friends and family.
Beth Paretta: I still play my bass guitar pretty often. I still am shy when I’m cold calling somebody on the phone. I hate it. I still think of myself as a shy teenager. I force myself to be an extrovert.
Ed Bernardon: Doesn’t come naturally.
Beth Paretta: No. And I know that it looks like it does, and people think that of me, but I put effort into that.
Ed Bernardon: You need your alone time every now and then.
Beth Paretta: I do. I grew up as an only child. And only children can relate to that; you have the luxury of space. And so I need that alone time. So, it’s funny because these past six months have been very public. And it’s that weird thing where you’re in front of all these cameras, and then you go back to your hotel room, and you might be by yourself for a bit, but it’s that weird balance – you kind of just like it, you kind of go back into your cocoon.
Ed Bernardon: Now, last question. You’ve been an indy fan all your life, obviously. Who is your most admired Indy 500 driver of all time, and you cannot say Simona. Who is it?
Beth Paretta: Oh, this is such a loaded question. The person who I was absolutely a fan of, who’s still one of my favorite drivers of all time, is one of my dearest friends who I still talk to all the time and is also my ex-boyfriend.
Ed Bernardon: And the name is?
Beth Paretta: Dario Franchitti.
Ed Bernardon: Oh, Dario. My wife loves Dario Franchitti. Everybody loves Dario.
Beth Paretta: Everybody loves Dario Franchitti. I was actually a fan of Dario Franchitti well before I met him. Obviously, just a fan of IndyCar, a fan of his driving. And then had the good fortune of meeting him several years ago, and then we dated for a couple of years. So, he’s just a dear friend of mine. And I will say what was really lovely when we announced the team, when we didn’t make the show on the Saturday, and then the second we made the show on Sunday for the 500, he was the first person to text me. Because he gets it, he knows that nail biting. Three time winner, and speaking of, to see Elio cross the line —
Ed Bernardon: Oh, my God! That was something, wasn’t it?
Beth Paretta: Yeah, to be a four time winner. And in fairness, I think if Dario’s career hadn’t been cut short by his crash in Houston.
Ed Bernardon: It could have been him.
Beth Paretta: He would have. I honestly believe that he certainly would have won more championships. And again, not to take anything away from Scott Dixon because he’s won so many championships since Dario’s retirement. But I think if Dario was still racing, it would have been a little harder for Scott. He would have given him a run for his money. So, I would still say Dario Franchitti.
Ed Bernardon: You know on your phone – on your iPhone, whatever it is – you can pick a photo that shows whoever is in your contacts. And my wife, when my youngest son calls her, there is a picture of him and Dario, when he met him. So, it shows you where he stands in our family.
Beth Paretta: Now that’s pretty cool, yeah. It’s funny, when Dario calls me, a picture of him in one of his cars in Scotland comes up.
Ed Bernardon: Well, listen, thank you so much for joining us here on The Future Car Podcast.
Beth Paretta: I appreciate your time. Thank you.