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Indy 500: More women enter motorsports careers

Purdue program helps women start motorsports careers

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — As the cars prepare to take the track for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, women have played key roles on teams at the front of the grid.

The number of women on pit boxes up and down pit lane continues to grow over previous years.

One worker on Pato O’Ward’s car says she wouldn’t be where she is without her degree from the the Purdue University Motorsports Engineering program. “I’m basically programing the computer that’s in the car as well as his steering wheel,” Lizzie Todd said while in the garage at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Todd is a systems engineer. “I’m responsible for all the radios, telemetry, electronics, anything that has a sensor, or wire, going to it on the 5 car is my responsibility,” Todd said.

When O’Ward is on the track, Todd has an even more important job: calculating fuel mileage. From the pit box, she’s in constant communication with the team strategist.

“The stand will give me kind of an idea of a lap number when we want to come in, and I will calculate a fuel number and tell basically our race caller how much fuel Pato needs to save to be able to make it to the lap that they want to make it into. It is really complicated addition and subtraction; that is all it is.”

Todd’s love of motorsports comes from her relationship with her Dad. “He took me to my first 500 when I was 8, and I saw a car go from 60 to 220 in 3 seconds, and I just fell in love.”

In eighth grade, she found the motorsports engineering program at Purdue. “That program gave me everything I needed to get started in motorsports.”

Todd feels a sense of pride to be part of a growing group of women on pit row. “There’s about 20 of us. There’s more. I see more and more every year, which is awesome.”

Her advice to other young women who want to get to where she is: “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Every question is a valid question, and you are meant to be here. If you want to be here, you are meant to be here.”