Note: Wednesday, Feb. 7 is National Girls and Women in Sports Day.
The club of drivers who have raced in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge since its inaugural race in 1911 is small, with a membership of just 795 over the last 112 years.
But there’s an even more exclusive group surrounding “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” – only nine female drivers have made at least one start.
INDYCAR hopes initiatives like National Girls and Women in Sports Day (Feb. 7) will help shine awareness that the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and INDY NXT by Firestone are welcoming to female drivers, with the number of women with at least one start in the “500” reaching double digits soon.
Lindsay Brewer hopes to be one of those drivers.
Brewer, a Denver native who lives in Los Angeles, will drive for Juncos Hollinger Racing during the upcoming 14-race INDY NXT by Firestone season after racing last season in USF Pro 2000. She is the first American female to race a full season in INDYCAR’s official development series since Leilani Munter in 2007.
“Driving at the top level of open-wheel racing in the U.S. has been a dream of mine ever since I was a young girl,” she said. “To be able to take this step up and drive INDY NXT is not only exciting for me, but also a dream come true.
“To be representing America and women in a full season at this level of motorsport is something I can be proud of and is motivation for me to work as hard.”
This path began when Brewer, 26, was 11 years old. She was at a party at a kart track. In her first time ever driving a kart, she beat everyone there, including the adults.
That moment led to her dad buying her a mini max kart. A year later, her first season racing in a professional series, she won a regional championship. Brewer’s racing career progressed, and in 2017, she was on the cusp of a USF2000 seat.
But her sponsor fell through, leaving her without anything lined up.
That moment diverted Brewer to college at San Diego State, hitting the pause button on racing as she earned a four-year degree. Many drivers who take a long hiatus from racing never make it back.
Brewer didn’t want to become another statistic in that category. Her desire never waned.
“I felt this emptiness when I wasn't racing, like a piece of me was missing,” she said.
But she was stuck. Her family lacked the funding or racing connections to get her back in a seat. So, she dug deep and decided to create a brand.
By creating an identity and gaining a massive following on social media, it helped spark a new avenue in securing funding to help her return to racing, with the goal of reaching the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and Indianapolis 500.
“I know I have the talent,” Brewer said. “If I'm able to get funding through social media, it's just the way it is. I’m going to take the opportunity and be grateful for it and work really hard for it.”
Attracting sponsors through social media has sparked misconceptions about her. She reads them and is aware of comments. But there’s also a second side to that story.
“I know I've moved up really quickly, and I know some people don't think I deserve to be here just because I'm not the quickest one on the track,” she said. “At the end of the day, we all love the sport. We all love racing and are passionate about it.”
Upon graduation from San Diego State, she moved into USF Pro 2000. While on this road, she realized that there were still obstacles in the way of success. She knew she had to spend more time in the gym to withstand the rigors of more powerful cars with higher downforce, a challenge faced by all drivers.
“My biggest setback was my strength, and I know it affects my pace,” she said. “I was like, ‘I know I can get down to this apex, but I couldn't turn it, and it was messing up my corner. And I'm like this is just so frustrating because I know I'm slower because of my strength.’
“I think that flipped something internally where I just have (been) nonstop in the gym.”
Added strength helped her adapt and improve in her initial INDY NXT by Firestone test with Juncos Hollinger.
“I've overcome this by training hard,” Brewer said.
The other obstacle contributing to results lower than she wanted in USF Pro 2000 was her limited budget. Before this season, Brewer said she couldn’t risk crashing due to lack of funds to cover heavy damage.
That’s no longer an issue. She has budget to cover that risk.
“This year it's my goal to be a bit more aggressive because in the past, like, I'm a very aggressive driver, I really am,” Brewer said. “And that's why people say, once you put the helmet on, you're like a different person. And so, I'm excited to get back into that mindset. I think not be overly aggressive, but just be a bit more aggressive, and just not let any of the guys push me around.”
With those obstacles addressed, Brewer hopes her platform as a driver one step away from the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and Indianapolis 500 can inspire young girls to look at her as an example, a role model.
“You’re showing women they can do this,” she said.
That’s why Brewer lives by the mantra, “Nothing matters unless you give back.”
She knows this venture isn’t just about her. This is bigger. This is about opening doors and avenues for future female drivers as she tries to become the first American female driver in the Indianapolis 500 since Danica Patrick in 2018.
“I'm so grateful,” Brewer said. “INDYCAR has always been my dream since I was a little girl, since that that day at the karting track. Just to be where I am right now is just already like a dream come true.”