Every week for the last three months, a crew of women have arrived at Team Penske’s race shop near Charlotte, North Carolina, to train in the wee hours of the morning.
From 4:30-6 a.m. Monday-Thursday, these women go through physical training and practice pit stops before heading to their regular jobs for the rest of the day. It’s been a grueling schedule, but the end result – being a part of Paretta Autosport at the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge – is worth it.
The depth of talent, hunger for more and anticipation for this historic moment can be told through every member of the all-women competition and business crews team owner Beth Paretta has put together. Paretta Autosport was unveiled in January, six months after INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced its Race for Equality & Change program.
“Hopefully it's resonated with people to be more than another team, another entry, trying our best,” Paretta said. “We're trying to do a lot more and trying to provide opportunity and hopefully some inspiration, both for kids and for women everywhere, to push and work hard to also know that anything might be possible for yourself.”
To appreciate this powerful movement happening in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, look at Mallorie Muller, who has trained since February to be an Aeroscreen tear-off attendant and a tire changer for the No. 16 Rocket Pro TPO/Paretta Autosport Chevrolet driven by Simona De Silvestro.
Each week, Muller leaves her husband and 4-year-old daughter as she commutes from Gainesville, Florida, to make this dream a reality. She drives eight hours on Sunday to get a solid night’s sleep before her alarm sounds at 3:30 a.m. so she can make it to training.
After training, she works remotely as a freelance management consultant for a California-based company, which made the training process easier because she doesn’t begin work until noon (ET). Although she’s not scheduled to start work until noon, Muller said she often works in the morning to allow herself more time with her family when she’s back in Florida.
After training on Thursday morning, Muller drives back to Florida to spend time with her husband and daughter before doing it all again.
Leaving her daughter each week has been tough, but Muller is chasing a dream of being in motorsports, something she once tried to do before deciding the time wasn’t right. Now, this is Muller’s chance, and she wants to show women across the world, as well as her daughter, that hard-fought challenges are attainable.
“I think that’s important to teach my daughter,” he said. “That’s what keeps me through having to leave her. It’s been really hard. Leaving five days a week is tough. But I have to tell myself that one, it’s temporary; two, she has an amazing support system beyond me; and three, this is important for her to see that I am living a dream so she knows that she can live her dreams.”
Muller has been at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week for Indianapolis 500 practice.
After just two days at the Racing Capital of the World, Muller and her teammates had already seen the impact their team is having. When Muller saw Paretta Autosport merchandise, and specifically kids’ apparel, an overwhelming sense of pride came over her.
“When I take a second, I see the racetrack, I’m a part of press conferences, and I realize that we are part of something bigger than ourselves,” she said. “This is what it’s all about. And not just in this industry, but letting girls and women think outside the box. If you work hard and are ready, an opportunity can come.”
Muller is one of nine women on the competition staff that come from all walks of life and have dedicated hundreds of hours to this moment. Some were recruited from NASCAR to work at Paretta Autosport, while some come from sports, and others, like Andra Buzatu, just recently left the military.
Muller has no mechanical or engineering background, although she is a race fan and once went to NASCAR pit crew school, where she met the coach that eventually recruited her to Paretta Autosport. She was a competitive cheerleader in college and competes in CrossFit in her spare time.
It is still to be determined if Paretta Autosport will compete in NTT INDYCAR SERIES races outside of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 30, but if former automotive executive Paretta has her way about it, don’t be surprised to see this team at other races this year or next.
And if that’s the case, count Muller in.
“I’m all in,” she said. “We’ll work it out. I would love nothing more for this program to continue and for it to be my full-time job. My husband is super supportive, and that helps. I think it would’ve been hard if I didn’t have such an amazing support system at home. I don’t know, other than how do you say no to an opportunity like this?”