Kate Gundlach isn't just one of the few female engineers in IndyCar, she's also one of the sports best.
“I gather all the data, I make sure all the data is accuracy, I am responsible for it’s accuracy, I am responsible for fuel management,” Gundlach explained of her role.
“The thing you notice the most is just how thorough she is and it’s continuous work, she puts in the effort and it’s a pretty stressful job that can make or break races and she just stays calm and gets through it and we’ve won races and championships thanks to her,” Scott Dixon said.
Last year, when Dixon won his fifth series championship, Gundlach and her fellow Chip Ganassi Racing engineer Danielle Shepherd became the first female engineers to be part of an IndyCar Championship, an accomplishment they weren't aware of until later.
“We didn’t realize it until someone mentioned it to us and we were like, ‘okay, here we go, I guess that’s a thing now,’” Gundlach, who's been with Ganassi six years, three of those with the #9 car, explained. “It’s never been pushed, it’s never been highlighted I guess which is kinda nice to think that oh it’s just one giant bubble with engineering, that’s what we do, it doesn’t matter who you are, we don’t see gender.”
Gundlach has always felt at home in a garage, explaining, “I would travel around with my dad to all the different vintage motorcycle races, we come from a family of tinkerers.”
And Gundlach is encouraged seeing the push toward STEM education for girls and emerging opportunities for women in motorsports.
“I wish I had something like that growing up, I think we all do,” Gundlach said of these programs. “Just to see the opportunities that they are getting it’s so good, and it’s an honor to help show them what you can do or be a stepping stone for them.”
“It’s cool to see but it’s been part of what I have been doing for so long now that it’s definitely becoming the norm,” Dixon said of the women who have played integral roles on his Ganassi teams.
While Gundlach helped Dixon to a fifth IndyCar Series Championship last season, there would be nothing sweeter than following that up than seeing him capture his second Indy500 victory and kiss that yard of bricks.
“It would be holy ground,” Gundlach said with a smile.
Practice for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 begins Tuesday at IMS. Qualifying is set for Saturday and Sunday, with the race on May 26.