Created in partnership with our friends at PNC Bank.
When Jennifer Short was ten years old, her dad took her to see her first Indianapolis 500. She witnessed Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dario Franchitti win the race.
A decade later, Short saw Ganassi win again — this time, from Marcus Ericsson and as a race engineering intern with the team. That Indy 500, a spectator walked up to her and shared that his 10-year-old daughter wanted to be an engineer for IndyCar after seeing Short’s representation.
“It kind of came full circle,” she said. “[The Women in Motorsports program] not only gives women the opportunity and the space to get involved in motorsports, especially at a high level with a well-known team, [but also] creates visibility around women in motorsports.”
The program is a joint effort between PNC Bank and Chip Ganassi Racing. It includes a fully funded internship and will enter its second year this summer with a cohort of three women from schools around the country.
PNC and CGR initiated Women in Motorsports to elevate gender equity and advance opportunities for women in motorsports.
“It’s a collaboration between PNC and Chip Ganassi around putting the resources and the power of those two organizations to work to support diversity on and off the track,” said Jason Eckerle, regional president for central and southern Indiana at PNC.
“It’s very hands-on — [the interns are] part of the team,” Eckerle said. “They’re in the pits, they’re in meeting rooms, they’re part of the strategy.”
Short echoed how the program made interns feel like part of the group from Day 1.
“Probably the coolest thing that happened was that I was on the timing stand when we got poled for the 500, and it was my first week,” she said.
Being in that energy and that excitement and witnessing what they had worked so hard to achieve was a surreal experience, Short said.
“Even though I was brand new, I felt like I was part of the team in that moment,” she said.
The internship enables participants to acquire real-world experience in motorsports, while also practicing professional soft skills like networking and public speaking.
“Teaming up with PNC to launch Women In Motorsports reflects our commitment to help advance opportunities for women in the sport,” said Chip Ganassi, CGR team owner, in a 2022 release. “We’re excited to highlight the achievements of our team members and share a behind-the-scenes look at their contributions to this championship organization, which will hopefully help pave the way for female students to develop specialized skills in areas such as racing operations and engineering to information technology and athletic training, to name a few.”
On a day-to-day basis, Short worked closely with the assistant engineer on the No. 9 car. She would be on the timing stand during race weekends, monitoring live metrics and data.
“[I looked] through data after sessions had ended to analyze it and compare our stats to other cars to see where we were losing time and if there was anything we could fix, and when I wasn’t traveling with the team, back at the shop, I would help out with tasks to get the cars ready,” she said.
Short helped with the calibration of the cars and developed Excel tools that were used to track important pit stop metrics, she said.
“[It] really showed me that it’s possible to have the job that I kind of envisioned myself doing, but [the program] also really confirmed for me that I like test engineering, data analysis, optimization, and just being a part of a team that works toward those goals,” Short said.
Women in Motorsports aims to “benefit women in school that have an appetite, an ambition, to get into motorsports,” Eckerle said. Short experienced that goal in action.
“[The interns are] extraordinary women,” Eckerle said. “They’re bright, they’re ambitious, they have a passion for motorsports. They all have a story. This internship brings that dream to life.”
Gender inequity exists across industries, but promoting opportunities for women to enter and advance in traditionally male-dominated fields has long been a priority for PNC, Eckerle said.
“We’ve always been committed to [gender equity],” he said. “Women in Motorsports was a natural fit into our identity with how important it is for our company to embrace empowering women and closing that gender gap.”
“It’s not just corporate speak,” Eckerle said. “We’re living it, we’re doing things, it’s real, it’s tangible. We’re putting resources behind it, people behind it.”
Empowering women is intrinsic to PNC’s mission, and the organization intentionally implements gender equity initiatives internally and externally, Eckerle said.
“It’s just part of who we are,” he said. “When this opportunity with Chip Ganassi came up, this was something that meant a lot to both institutions. That was the genesis of it, how it all came together.”
Following a successful first year, PNC is excited to return as part of the program, Eckerle said.
“There’s a commitment that this company has to being deeply involved in the communities that we serve,” he said. “It’s part of our DNA. It aligns with our values and who we are, and for us to continue to be involved and stay involved is important to us.”
Thanks to that involvement from PNC and partner CGR, another cohort of interns will have the opportunity to develop their experience in motorsports.
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to ask to be places that you aren’t explicitly told to go,” Short advised future interns. “I would join in on meetings, so I could learn, and everybody always said yes. You’re in an environment with people that are really, really good at their jobs, and they’re brilliant, and having that opportunity is once in a lifetime, so make sure you absorb it, take it all in.
“It moves fast, and those 10 weeks of the internship will fly by,” Short reflected. “Take a lot of notes and enjoy the ride.”
Jenna Williams is a writing specialist for a research nonprofit and a freelance journalist. In her free time, she runs marathons, watches bad ’90s television shows, and (probably) single-handedly keeps Half Price Books in business..
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