Dani Ben-Ari
The Driving Range

Linda Conti has spent 35 years traveling the racing world from Lime Rock Park in Connecticut, where she spent a year working as the first female mechanic hired by the Skip Barber Pro Series, to Japan, Australia, England France and Portugal, etc., with Formula 1 teams, not to mention NASCAR, and the IndyCar Series. This includes becoming the first female team manager in the Indianapolis 500 history in 1999 for a team she co-owned with husband David. Yet, nothing can compare with her trip to the Brickyard this year where she is set to act as the spotter for driver Simona de Silvestro as part of the “all-female” Paretta Autosports team.

Simona de Silvestro, Indy driver

While there is no guarantee that their No. 16 Chevy will be able to make it from 33rd starting position on the grid to zooming under the flag first ( let alone make it into the top 10 finishers), Paretta Autosports has already made history by becoming the first female-owned team with a female race car driver and predominately female crew to qualify for the Indy 500 since it began 105-years ago. Still, the thought of being there this year has caused Conti to “get chills.”

“We’ve had women throughout in different sectors. But to see a whole team that’s focused on women forward, giving women the opportunity in every single part of the team, I think this is groundbreaking.”

Linda Conti is the most experienced woman on the team. She worked her first Indy 500 in 1997 and became the first woman to manage a team two years later in 1999.

Linda’s dream of being “on the fast track,” began when she was just 13. At the time her father, flat-track motorcycle racer Nick Pultorak, promised her that he would buy her a Volkswagen Type 3 Fastback for her 16th birthday if she would first learn to rebuild its engine.

Following high-school graduation, in 1982, Linda not only enrolled in Wayne state University to study finance, she also enrolled in the Automotive Technology program at HFC (then Henry Ford Community College).

“I was the only woman in the class. The men saw me as sort of a curiosity” reminisced. When they saw how skilled I was with the tools, we were equals. I learned a lot there.”

Linda Conti and Mario Andretti

That training then led her to an internship at GM, where she worked on experimental engines, before becoming a professional racing mechanic and a long relationship with Penske. She is presently one of three spotters for Team Penske (which is providing technical support for Paretta).

Although she will not be part of the Paretta pit crew for the big race May 30, Conti will be found perched high above Turn 3 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where she will act as the “eyes in the sky” for deSilvestro, feeding her vital information via two-way radio and keeping her alert of what is going on on the track during the race including traffic conditions to keep them safe.