The significance of AJ Foyt Racing signing Tatiana Calderon for the upcoming NTT INDYCAR SERIES season can be measured multiple ways.
Driving the No. 11 ROKiT Chevrolet, the 28-year-old Colombian will be the first woman to drive in an A.J. Foyt car since Super Tex loaned a backup machine to Janet Guthrie for Indianapolis 500 practice laps in 1976, and the first woman in seven years to compete in INDYCAR’s season-opening race. Simona De Silvestro was the most recent, driving for Andretti Autosport in the first two races of the 2015 season. De Silvestro was the only woman to compete in INDYCAR last year, making her sixth career start in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
Calderon is familiar to some in the INDYCAR paddock as she started her career in Star Mazda (now Indy Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires) as a Juncos Racing teammate of championship-winning Conor Daly in 2010, when she finished 10th. She also has competed against several other NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers, including Alex Palou, Pato O’Ward, Felix Rosenqvist and fellow rookies Callum Ilott, Christian Lundgaard and Devlin DeFrancesco in other formulas over the past decade.
“Yeah, a lot of familiar faces,” she said.
Calderon, whose family owns car dealerships in Bogota, has driven nearly a dozen different cars on different continents over the past decade, including an LMP2 sports car with the all-female Richard Mille Racing Team in both the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the FIA’s World Endurance Championship. She has spent the past few seasons racing in Japan, making nine starts over the past two years in Super Formula, the series Palou used as a springboard to INDYCAR. Calderon’s best finish was 12th.
“I think Super Formula is a great preparation for any single-seater series,” she said. “It’s a super-quick car, very tricky (to drive). Also, I had to learn how to communicate differently. The culture (in Japan) was very different, as well, but I think that has prepared me more for this opportunity.”
INDYCAR’s season begins Sunday, Feb. 27 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding (noon ET, NBC and INDYCAR Radio Network).
Calderon got her official introduction to INDYCAR during a July 2021 test with AJ Foyt Racing at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Her first test of 2022 was Wednesday at Sebring International Raceway alongside new teammate and fellow rookie Kyle Kirkwood, with INDYCAR veteran Dalton Kellett on hand.
Calderon’s final preseason test will be Feb. 14 at Sebring.
“A lot of things to take in,” she said. “But I think it was a great preparation with Super Formula and sports cars that I have been racing the last couple of years, to help with fuel save, with tire save and pit stops and all that. I think it’s been quite good for my career.”
Daly said it’s “crazy to see” how he and Calderon both have landed in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES after all these years.
“She’s been awesome,” he said. “Her family is great, great people all across the board.
“I’ve obviously followed her journey since we were teammates. I keep up with her every now and then, talk to her every now and then. It’s cool to see what’s going on.”
For now, Calderon will focus on the road courses and street circuits on the INDYCAR calendar. She hopes to test on an oval to “see how I feel, see how my confidence with the car comes.”
“But of course, who wouldn’t love to do the Indy 500 one day?” she said. “(But) we’re just taking it step by step.”