Beth Paretta eyeing fourth IndyCar race in 2022, more robust program with ECR in 2023

Nathan Brown
Indianapolis Star

Beth Paretta enters Paretta Autosport’s final announced event of its three-race IndyCar program with Ed Carpenter Racing already eyeing more.

That could come in just a few weeks’ time. Paretta told IndyStar on Thursday in an exclusive interview that the potential fourth race for this year that she hinted at during her team’s April new conference is inching closer to reality.

“I was hoping we would have that figured out by now, and I’m not going to say that anything’s done, but maybe by the end of the weekend even …,” Paretta said, as she trailed off. “We’re just waiting for feedback on an agreement. It is that far along, but I’m never someone who would count their chickens before they hatch.”

Paretta Autosport driver Simona De Silvestro (16) and team owner Beth Paretta (right) stand on the grid Sunday, May 30, 2021, before the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

More:Paretta Autosport, Simona De Silvestro land three-race alliance with Ed Carpenter Racing

The same goes for Paretta’s potential long-term expansion with ECR and driver Simona De Silvestro, who, Paretta said, wants to be in IndyCar for her motorsports future. Though Paretta noted she and Carpenter haven’t sat down to hash out what type of program makes the most sense for 2023, options like running De Silvestro full-time or even part-time while sharing a car while Carpenter continues to run ovals is possible.

And that’s important as ever now. In June, Chevy Racing’s program manager Rob Buckner told a group of reporters that the engine manufacturer wouldn’t be able to support more than 13 full-time programs for 2023 in what’s expected to be the final year of the current engine formula. Running 11 full-timers this year, before the loss of A.J. Foyt Racing’s No. 11 car due to sponsorship issues, Chevy will add a third full-time car for Arrow McLaren SP next year, and Juncos Hollinger Racing is eyeing a second full-time car as well.

That would mean, should Foyt only be able to support two full-time cars next year, one more full-time seat remains before the series is tapped out. A Honda official has repeatedly told IndyStar throughout this season that, despite assertions Dale Coyne Racing is ramping up to add a third full-time car, no such deal would be available under the current landscape. At the moment, Honda supports 15 full-time entries, which it considers its maximum, so unless a current entry drops from next year’s field, there’s no room.

Outside attrition, this final Chevy engine would be the last full-time seat in IndyCar until another engine manufacturer comes along – which doesn’t appear to be on the immediate horizon. The other most promising tandem hoping to break into IndyCar full-time next year, Don Cusick and Stefan Wilson, told IndyStar this week they’re in the midst of solid talks with one Chevy team they declined to name.

And given the state of the various Chevy programs – including the bond Paretta has created with ECR – it seems the potential landing spot for Cusick and Wilson would likely be at Foyt.

Ed Carpenter stands in a pit box Friday, July 29, 2022, during qualifying for the Gallagher Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“I know Ed’s happy, and I know Chevy’s really happy that we’ve been working together,” Paretta told IndyStar. “I know (Chevy) would be supportive of us because they’re happy to have us for the reasons we know.

“It’s great to see that the premise of our program (being a female-forward team that helps bring more visibility to women in IndyCar) is helping us close deals the way we wanted it to. If some of these companies had wanted to be in racing previously, they could’ve been all along. But our story’s been resonating well enough that it’s turning heads and getting people to the table who wouldn’t have considered it at all.”

At the moment, Paretta says she has a dozen women – plus De Silvestro – who are working full-time on the program or are being coached up to be able to do so in the future. Earlier this week, ECR hosted several for some pitstop training to learn the nuances of how ECR completes the job, compared to the work they’d done at the Team Penske shop back in North Carolina previously. To add to that, Paretta has also added the occasional intern, and at Mid-Ohio, they even allowed some kids from local high schools to shadow different parts of the program for the weekend.

In that same vein, next Monday, Paretta and De Silvestro are set to visit a local Nashville school in partnership with Chevy to help ring in the new school year and deliver some outreach about IndyCar and engineering. Add to that the 10 guests Paretta Autosport is hosting from new primary sponsor Acumatica for Sunday’s Big Machine Music City Grand Prix, along with others from partners Winnebago and The Henry Ford, among others.

In many ways, this weekend racing on the streets of Nashville feels like a short-term culmination of the alternate route Paretta decided to take back in the spring in terms of trying to setup Paretta Autosport for the long run.

Crew members work through a pit stop for Paretta Autosport driver Simona De Silvestro (16) Sunday, May 30, 2021, during the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“Looking back, I think we absolutely made the right choice,” Paretta said of opting to run three or four races starting in June, rather than a one-off Indy 500 ride. “This has given Simona an opportunity to have a lot more time in the car. She’s had a test day at IMS on the road course as well as so many days in the sim, and she wouldn’t have had that if it was just about the 500.

“If we want to do more next year, she’s well poised to do so because of the calendar we did. And for the rest of our team, because they’re either new to IndyCar or new to racing, and so many just fly-in for the weekend, it’s been great for these women to see what that’s like and how they might be able to juggle it with their families.”

More:Simona De Silvestro staying patient in return to IndyCar

Part of Paretta’s confidence looking past this weekend is the energy she’s seen from sponsors that’s signaled their interest beyond just this couple-race stretch.

“Acumatica told me in our first call, ‘Hey, this is not a one-off. We want to work with you more,’” Paretta said. “I’ve already talked with some other partners and have agreements for next year. Things are progressing in the right direction, and I’m more than pleased.

“I hope that the more we’re visible, the less we are a curiosity, and I kinda want that novelty to wear off.”