Shannon MacIntosh knows a thing or two about working her way up through racing. That 21 year-old driver has spent the last 15 years doing just that, progressing from her early quarter midget days to multiple USAC disciplines. Now, as part of the USF2000 National Championship (presented by Cooper Tires), Shannon has set her site on new challenges. The Mazda Road to Indy has called, along with a big opportunity to be featured on the cover of Seventeen Magazine. Shannon sat down with INDYCAR Nation to share all about her career, progression, chance for national media exposure, and just how INDYCAR fans can help make that happen.
So Shannon, you’re a finalist to be on the cover of Seventeen Magazine? What’s it for, and how did the opportunity come about?
SM: The contest is called ‘Pretty Amazing’. I applied a few months ago by submitting a short essay to Seventeen explaining why I think I’m ‘Pretty Amazing’. The winner will be featured on the cover of the October issue and will receive $10,000 from Neutrogena. Each of the five finalists will be heading to NYC in a few weeks for the cover photo shoot!
Sponsorship and business partnerships are a huge part of any racing program. Looking at it as a driver trying to build a successful racing program and partnerships, what sort of positive benefits could winning this sort of contest bring?
SM: Absolutely. I realized at age 17 when my family and I could no longer afford to race, that I would have to figure out how to raise the capital myself. The business partnership aspect of racing is probably the most important part these days. It would definitely be a huge opportunity to get my story out there to the 13 million monthly readers. As I’m climbing INDYCAR’s “Mazda Road to Indy” developmental ladder, it is very important that I can show potential to future partners the benefit of supporting/partnering with someone like myself.
How can people vote for you, and when will the results be announced?
SM: They can vote at Seventeen.com/PrettyAmazing. The winner will be revealed in September!
We’ve definitely seen an uptick in recent years of women competing in motorsports across a wide variety of disciplines. Do you see any female racers in particular as role models?
SM: I have much respect for all of the women who have and do compete in the top-level motorsports. I think the most important thing that I focus on, is that I am a driver just like anyone else on the racetrack. It is definitely a different game for a female climbing the ranks and competing in racing – and by seeing all of the females who have come before me overcoming adversity, I know that there is definitely a place for me to find and make history.”
You’re involved in Glass Hammer Racing, which also works on racing program opportunities for young women, right? Can you tell us a bit more about that?
SM: In June of 2010, I formed a partnership with Greg Gaich, owner of Glass Hammer Racing. Greg is a father of three girls and had always wanted to get his daughters into racing but never knew where to turn. When we initially met, there was no Glass Hammer Racing. Greg reached out to me via Twitter (@SHANNON_MAC) hoping to help me in my career as well as start something to get involved in racing too. I suggested we build a program unlike anything that was currently on the market and push it out to families like his to help young girls get their start in motorsports. This past year we’ve developed the program from the ground up. I’ve created the curriculum and we are currently hosting courses at Fastimes taught by me in Indianapolis each month. Anyone interested can go to Beatbyagirl.org and check out all the details!
You’ve made the transition this year to USF2000. I know it’s been an up-and-down season for you so far; where are the bright spots so far, and where are you hoping to improve?
SM: It definitely has been an up and down season thus far. The season came up so quick, we didn’t really get the chance to do any “proper” testing so I could learn the cars and spend time figuring out the new dynamics. Right now, the bright spots are that I’m always improving – each time I get on track I’m picking up tenths and closing the gap. I hope to improve in my consistency, confidence and understanding of the aerodynamics and other elements of formula/rear engine cars. Pushing the car to the limit is hard to do when you don’t know the car inside and out. In some respect, I’m almost starting over because the racing I’m coming from is completely different.
What’s your overall perception of the Mazda Road to Indy? Do you see evidence that awareness of it is permeating ladder rungs such as USF2000?
SM: I think it’s a GREAT platform for drivers like myself. Not only are we getting experience in the same type of cars on the same tracks that we dream to drive in the coming years, we are also being exposed to resources that are priceless that will help us as we pursue a career in IZOD IndyCar Series.
I have to ask: watching the IZOD IndyCar Series right now, do you have a favorite driver or two out there?
SM: I have always been a huge fan of Tony Kanaan—his unmatched dedication and obvious natural ability are inspiring. I am also a big supporter of Simona. She’s not out there to be anything other than a ‘driver’, and it’s clear that she is extremely talented and is going to be very successful in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Back to your own career: what are the benchmarks you’ve set for yourself through the rest of this racing season?
SM: The toughest part about that is, someone like myself is never satisfied unless they are at the top. What I’m trying to do is be a little more patient than usual but achieve a top-five ASAP. I don’t think it’s out of reach and expect (myself) to be a serious contender by the end of the season.
Make sure to follow Shannon on her website and Twitter account as she climbs the Mazda Road to Indy ladder!
Zachary Houghton runs www.indycaradvocate.com, which features regularly-updated INDYCAR, IZOD IndyCar Series, and Mazda Road to Indy interviews, commentary, and more. You can find him on Twitter at @indycaradvocate.