Interview with JWR Alumni Kate Gundlach, engineer for Scott Dixon on winning the Indy car Series Championship
JWR Alumni, Kate Gundlach celebrated her first Verizon IndyCar Series Championship as a team engineer when Scott Dixon won his fifth IndyCar Series championship in 2018.
Kate works with the team's race engineer, Chris Simmons, and gave her thoughts to Autoweek after Dixon claimed the title at Sonoma Raceway in September 2018.
By INDYCAR | Published: May 16, 2018
Katie Hargitt woke up one morning earlier this year and realized there was no time like the present.
Hargitt has been in motorsports for 18 years, first as a short-track open-wheel driver and now as an NBCSN reporter on Verizon IndyCar Series telecasts, She often wondered how she could help to find a path for more young women to work in the world of racing, especially in the engineering, mechanical and business side of the sport.
“A few months ago, I woke up, and I thought: ‘This is the year of the woman. We can’t miss this opportunity to bring out young women, empower young women to achieve their dreams and show them all the successful women in the Verizon IndyCar Series paddock.’”
“Fuel the Female” was born. The new group aims to empower young women to pursue careers in motorsports and other science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-related industries. Fuel the Female’s inaugural event took place Tuesday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with 60 Indianapolis Public Schools female students visiting the track for the day and learning more about the exciting world of motorsports.
A variety of women with prominent careers in motorsports spoke to the girls in the North Chalet and the Firestone Suite at the track, sharing their experiences and encouragement about a career in racing, including Indianapolis 500 driver Danica Patrick; Kate Gundlach, assistant engineer for Chip Ganassi Racing; Cara Adams, chief engineer for Firestone Racing; Jessica Mace, mechanic at Andretti Autosport; and Lisa Boggs, Bridgestone Americas director of motorsports.
As the organization grows, Hargitt hopes Fuel the Female will serve as a door for an exciting new world for young women.
“As a reporter, so many times I see young girls up against the fence, looking for someone that looks like them in pit lane,” Hargitt said. “And there’s only a few of them. So I hope that girls come out to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway or they come into a Fuel the Female program and it lights a fire in them and a passion in them for motorsports so that we can grow that few into an army.”
Visit fuelthefemale.org to learn more about Fuel the Female, to join the foundation.
Ohio-native Graham Rahal scored his second career race victory in the Verizon IndyCar series this past weekend at the MAVTV 500, at Auto Cub Speedway in Fontana California. Graham is the son of Bobby Rahal, an SCCA National Champion and Indy 500 winner, and currently drives for the team that bears his name.
Graham tasted Runoffs Gold in 2005 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, after a dominating performance behind the wheel of his Anderson Walko Racing Formula Atlantic. The then 16-year-old driver still holds the record as the youngest Runoffs National Champion in SCCA history.
In 2008, Graham scored his first win in the newly-merged Verizon IndyCar series at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Since that time Rahal has been a front-runner in the series, but was unable to finish in the top spot of the premier professional open-wheel series in the United States. The win pushes Graham to the fourth in the Championship.
On behalf of each of us at SCCA, membership and staff alike, we congratulate Graham Rahal on his win out in California. Keep up the good work!
Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen the great success of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system created by Tony George, Jr. and Jason Penix. While much emphasis is placed on the graduation of drivers from one series to the next, they’re not the only ones picking up skills and looking to advance into the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Drivers move up from karts or small formula cars such as the 1600cc Skip Barber machines into the USF2000 National Championship. From there, they step up to a higher-horsepower, more aerodynamic sensitive Star Mazda machine, and then into the 450hp, 190+ mph Firestone Indy Lights racers. A number of drivers have already demonstrated how successfully each of these series have prepared them for the next level of competition.
We need only to look at former Star Mazda champion, and Indy Lights driver Conor Daly and his first win in the highly competitive GP3 series. The IZOD IndyCar Series is now replete with graduates from these junior formula series, with the notable standouts being James Hinchcliffe, and former Indy Lights champions JR Hildebrand and Josef Newgarden.
Seldom given any airtime and recognition in the press, many of the mechanics and engineers in USF2000, Star Mazda, and Indy Lights are also seeking to move up the ladder and one day find themselves on the grid on Race Day morning as a participant in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
For one young engineer, that dream will be realized this month as Star Mazda Quality Control Engineer Kate Gundlach, a mechanical engineer graduate from the University of Pittsburgh, will join forces with Simona de Silvestro at HVM Racing beginning with this year’s Indianapolis 500 Mile Race as the teams Data and Electronics Engineer.
“I worked with HVM during the Long Beach Grand Prix weekend and was very pleased when they offered me the DAG position on Simona’s car. I was very impressed with Simona and the HVM team, with their level of professionalism and presentation. It’s a huge change, moving from working for a series to working for a team, but the professional – and personal – education I received while working for the Star Mazda Championship has prepared me to hit the ground running in IndyCar and be confident that I can contribute to Lotus HVM Racing’s success.”
— Kate Gundlach, #78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy Lotus/Dallara HVM Racing Data and Electrical Engineer
It’s fantastic to see the graduation of professionals of all kinds through the Mazda Road to Indy program. It benefits the teams at the higher levels by creating a pool of experienced and seasoned engineers and mechanics from which to recruit. It also benefits the teams at the lower levels by providing a clear and tangible avenue for career advancement beyond the initial job for which they were hired. Successful recruiting of the best talent means first having the ability to provide them with a dynamic career environment.
Ms. Gundlach’s example should be a ray of hope and a model for young aspiring race engineers.
At 19 years, 3 months and 2 days, Rahal becomes the youngest winner in IndyCar history at the time, breaking a record previously established by Marco Andretti at Sonoma in 2006.
After overcoming a spin early in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Rahal passed Ryan Hunter-Reay, who was driving for Rahal’s father, Bobby, to take the lead after a Lap 64 restart and led the final 19 laps through the checkered flag for his first IndyCar victory.
Rahal’s victory is also notable as it is the first victory for Newman/Haas Racing post-reunification and comes in his first start in the reunified IndyCar Series.
After competing as a rookie in Champ Car’s final season in 2007, Rahal missed the 2008 IndyCar opener March 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway after crashing his car in a test, the team lacked parts to fix it.
“It can’t get any sweeter than this,” Rahal told ESPN after the win. “Especially after last week, not racing. Certainly, this makes it a whole lot sweeter.”
Graham is one of our alum! Graham won the SCCA National Championship Runoffs in the Formula Atlantic category in 2005 racing for Anderson Walko Racing.
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