I’ve been a fan of motorsports for most of my life. Having grown up in Long Beach where a massive grand prix happens every year was definitely a factor in that. During the other months of the year when there weren’t race cars battling down the street from my house, I was watching Indy Car (back then known as CART) and F1 on TV.
Honestly not much has changed since then. Which is kind of a problem. See, when I was younger and going to the Grand Prix of Long Beach or watching racing on TV, I never really saw very many race car drivers that looked like me. I’m black by the way…if you’ve been reading this site for a while you probably already knew that. If not, I’ll give you a moment to take in this shocking development.
Are you good? Great, let’s move on. The point I’m making is that for the most part there hasn’t been much diversity in American Motorsports, or even global motorsports in general.
I’m not saying it’s never happened. Takuma Sato is a two-time winner of the Indy 500. Women like Janet Guthrie, Lyn St. James, Sarah Fisher, Pippa Mann, Simona de Silvestro, Danica Patrick, and more have been representing women in motorsport for decades now.
The issue is while I’ve been able to name a handful of diverse drivers, there really are only a handful to speak of. When considering the top level of motorsports the diversity of ethnicities and gender is massively disproportional.
Credit due, some series are trying to remedy that with concentrated efforts. NASCAR has its driver diversity program and Lewis Hamilton is backing his own efforts as well.
Yesterday and the Indy Motor Speedway, a new team was revealed that will hopefully make great inroads to making Indy Car more diverse.
The team is called Force Indy (not to be confused with Force India). The team owner and principal is Rod Reid who is African-American and has 40 years of experience in motorsports.
Force Indy will run in the USF2000 series which is part of the Cooper Tires “Road To Indy” ladder program which helps elevate young drivers to Indy Car.
Rodger Penske has invested in the team and will be providing some of the key personnel from Team Penske to mentor Force Indy as well.
Rod Reid stated that the Force Indy Racing Team will focus on hiring people of color and women as not just drivers but engineers, mechanics, and staff.
Force Indy makes their USF2000 debut at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, in March, 2021. They haven’t announced their driver line up yet though it wouldn’t be unrealistic to expect that to happen in January 2021. Though, that is speculation on my part.
Either way, I’m really excited to see how things develop for Force Indy. Hopefully it is a start to seeing more diversity in Indy Car and other motorsports around the world.
For more info check out the official announcement below
AFRICAN AMERICAN-LED OWNERSHIP GROUP TO COMPETE IN ROAD TO INDY
December 03, 2020 | By Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Team Penske to mentor new team as it launches competition in 2021 USF2000 Series
African American business leader and former team manager Rod Reid has announced the formation of Force Indy, a race team set to compete in the 2021 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship.
For 30 years, USF2000 has been the formative step of the popular Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system, which culminates in scholarship opportunities in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. This program has grown into a proven pipeline for open-wheel racing’s future stars.
Force Indy Team Principal Reid brings years of karting and auto racing experience and a recently expanded relationship with NXG Youth Motorsports Inc., which has introduced more than 2,300 students from under-represented communities, ages 11 to 15, to the educational benefits of the sport. Force Indy’s race team will focus on hiring and developing Black American men and women mechanics, engineers, staffers and drivers.
“I started a race team in 1984, and I have always had a desire to have a team of talented individuals who look like me in the professional ranks of the sport,” Reid said. “I have been in and around the sport for 40 years, and this is just the culmination of years of hard work. I simply cannot wait to see this race team on the track this spring.”
The Force Indy announcement includes a mentorship from the legendary Team Penske, winners of a record 18 Indianapolis 500’s and 16 NTT INDYCAR SERIES championships. During its first season, Force Indy will be based in Concord, North Carolina, as it receives guidance from Team Penske’s key personnel.
“When the IMS and INDYCAR acquisition happened a year ago, I was pleased to learn of the work Rod Reid was doing,” Indianapolis Motor Speedway Chairman Roger Penske said. “To lend our support to an effort like this is a natural. Together, we’ll work to not only get this new team off the ground but continue to support it and its mission as it continues down a path to compete at the top level.”
Force Indy will make its debut at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, March 5-7, 2021. The team will use No. 99 on the car in honor of the late Dewey “Rajo Jack” Gatson, who drove a roadster with that number toward the end of his career in 1951. Gatson, one of the winningest African American drivers and mechanics in racing history, never received an opportunity to race in the Indianapolis 500.
Overall, the initiative is part of a broader picture in the INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway “Race for Equality & Change,” announced in July. The goals include recruiting and developing a diverse workforce throughout all levels of INDYCAR and IMS, ultimately creating a community that fundamentally transforms the sport.
“Rod is a passionate leader and talented team builder who has demonstrated a fundamental commitment to equality and opportunity in our sport,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “IMS has been privileged to be a partner with Rod and NXG for more than a decade, and we know he’ll bring the same commitment and drive for excellence to Force Indy.”
Sponsorship and driver for Force Indy’s inaugural season will be announced at a later date.
“We are fortunate to have Team Penske offer guidance and race-winning experience,” Reid said. “Roger’s experience will be an invaluable resource in creating a successful organization. There’s no better time than now to start a team.”
For additional information, please visit the team’s website: www.ForceIndy.com