Note: This is a series of stories at INDYCAR.com highlighting Women’s History Month in March.
As INDYCAR celebrates Women’s History Month, there is not a better example of women at work in the sport than at Bridgestone Americas, where the leadership core of its Firestone Racing platform is anchored by women.
Senior management is comprised of Sara Correa (Chief Marketing Officer), Lisa Boggs (Director, Bridgestone Americas Motorsports) and Cara Krstolic (Director, Race Tire Engineering & Production).
Boggs (far right, above photo) said the group represents an emerging trend in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
“There have always been women working in the paddock,” she said. “The difference is what these women are doing, and it’s a much broader range of responsibilities. It is no longer primarily public relations or marketing, for example, and you can look across the series and with the teams to see there isn’t a job or a role where women aren’t involved.
“Team Penske now has a woman (Caitlyn Brown) going over the wall (on pit stops). Paretta Autosport had women doing that last year, and the team is owned by a woman (Beth Paretta). This series has a great history of female drivers (nine have started an Indianapolis 500), and now we have women who are team engineers, marketing and communication experts, directors of programs and chief engineers for manufacturers.
“So, it’s the breadth and the depth of what the women are doing in our sport, and it’s all very positive. At Bridgestone, we have a diverse and supportive network of women. Many of the women I work with inspire me through their own experiences and provide reassurance that women can thrive in this industry.”
While Correa leads Firestone’s INDYCAR group from Bridgestone Americas’ home office in Nashville, Boggs and Krstolic are on the front lines of the paddock working in tandem for what could be described as the series’ most important partner as the sole tire supplier. Krstolic’s leadership is with the engineering and manufacturing arm based in Akron, Ohio. Boggs’ job, which is based in Nashville, encompasses aspects of Firestone’s INDYCAR program, including strategy, marketing and communications, budgets, operational elements - with Krstolic, Boggs and a larger group of teammates across multiple disciplines working closely together.
In May, Boggs will mark the 10th anniversary of her hiring, and in 2013 it was met with some surprise. Her predecessor, Al Speyer, had an engineering background, a seemingly natural fit for an automotive partner with global reach. Boggs’ path to motorsports was different.
Boggs grew up in Cleveland, a city that for years hosted one of the most popular events on the INDYCAR SERIES schedule. She remembers going to the race, as a collegian at Miami of Ohio, and her family had made watching the Indianapolis 500 an annual tradition. But to have called her a race fan would have been misleading.
“We knew who some of the drivers were – Andretti, Mears, the Unsers, Sullivan,” she said. “We were exposed to INDYCAR, but I did not grow up in a family of passionate motorsports fans.”
After college, Boggs moved to Chicago to join an ad agency, where one of her clients was Philip Morris (Marlboro brand) which sponsored Team Penske. That was 1994, a serendipitous year for Boggs to attend her first race at Michigan International Speedway. While one of Roger Penske’s drivers didn’t win that day, they won 12 of the 15 other races that season, including Al Unser Jr.’s victory in the Indy 500.
Boggs was so inspired by the experience that she began soaking in as much information about the sport as she could.
“I remember being at the track was an amazing environment,” she said. “Whether it’s the technology, the strategy, the business aspects and the people – everyone was welcoming, passionate, hard-working and smart, and it’s contagious.
“It’s like they say, once someone gets the racing bug, you find yourself wanting to go all in – the sport is tough that way. You need that dedication and passion or it’s a hard job to do.”
Boggs became fully immersed in her first full-time role as Unser’s publicist at what was then Marlboro Team Penske. She spent eight years working with the team, then seven years with Matter-Edelman Sports and Entertainment Marketing, where she was in 2013 when Speyer retired.
Boggs is the first to admit she had to learn about the technical side of the tire business, and the collaboration with race tire engineering has made the whole team stronger, she said.
“Bridgestone had a best-in-class dedicated engineering team in place – it still does – and they have been very open and collaborative to help me understand a lot of what they do so we could ultimately be a better team,” Boggs said. “My hiring was part of the company’s evolution from a more manufacturing-focused company to one also thinking about marketing and communications and brand storytelling through platforms like motorsport.”
Boggs and Krstolic are a team in every sense of the word, leaning on each other to gain more knowledge about the areas of the program the other leads.
“We can both talk about the totality of the program,” Boggs said. “I’m now able to speak about different tire specs, what we learn in testing and the importance of sustainability, and Cara is involved with things like creative ideas to tell our story and doing interviews to talk about why Bridgestone is involved with motorsports beyond the technical aspects. Those are examples of the synergy. We both agree that it’s important that we are all one team and support each other.
“Whether we’re sitting in Akron or Nashville, we’re collaborating, and that’s by design.”
The 17-race NTT INDYCAR SERIES resumes Sunday, April 2 with the PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway live at noon ET on NBC, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.