There are countless women working as mechanics, crew members, tire specialists, flagwomen -- pretty much any position required to make the race industry run. They even write fictional portrayals of women racers.
This week, we leave the cockpit, sit in front of a keyboard, and join Tammy Kaehler and her mystery series protagonist, Kate Reilly, as they sneak around Indianapolis trying to solve a 30-year cold case.
Kaehler is a mystery writer who has written six books based in the world of racing -- first sports cars and now open wheel. In her way, she is generating as much public awareness for women in racing as any of the drivers featured so far.
The premises of the books follow a traditional mystery setup. A body is discovered, a case opened, a mystery solved -- but instead of a dimly lit police station, it is solved under the big lights of a track. Instead of a hard-boiled detective who's getting "too old for this stuff," it's solved by a young up-and-coming female racer.
Kaehler's most recent book, "Kiss the Bricks," is based at Indianapolis during the month of May.
On two timelines, two female racers qualify and prep for the big show. One is Kate Reilly, a contemporary racer, and the other is PJ Rodriguez, a doomed racer running the event 30 years earlier.
As Reilly digs into the mystery, she connects to the memory and struggles of her fellow driver, showing the ties that women have throughout the world of racing. PJ and Kate are not the only women that exist in the series, an important reminder that there's more going on than the press Danica Patrick gets each week.
Just as racing is viewed as a traditionally male sport, it's easy to get confused and assume that men dominate writing in the mystery genre.
"You look at the public perspective of racing and it's all male," Kaehler said. "But if you're in the world you see a lot of women around because more and more women are engineers and on crews and driving as well. Mystery is the same way. The public perspective is that it's more male, but in the trenches it's not like that. So maybe it's more about changing the public perception."
In "Kiss the Bricks," Kate is negatively compared to PJ because they're the two women who've qualified fastest at Indy. Similarities start to build up as both women can't hold on to the same speeds during the remainder of qualifying weeks and practices.
If the similarities continue, the result would be the ultimate failure and demise of our protagonist, which lends a sinister note to the book.
Kaehler knows it's a tricky situation of figuring out exactly how the media should be covering women in the sport.
Should they generate more coverage to raise awareness and drive others to the sport, like this series tries to do? Should they have the exact amount of coverage as their male counterparts in the name of blanket equality? Should every female racer be compared to Patrick or Lyn St. James instead of the men they race alongside?
The debate will go on until women are completely normalized in the sport and are no longer the "fish out of water."
"It all goes back to women are still the 'different' ones," Kaehler said. "It would only occur to people to compare them to other female drivers, not to look at their driver styles or personality and compare them to men. I've watched female drivers get questions over and over about just being a women in the car and being a women in the field. What do they think of the other women and not comparing them to the other men. I understand why the questions are asked. They are different when we look at them, but when they get in the car and put on the helmet they're not different at all."
Women in Racing
Lyn St. James | Project Podium