Tuesday, April 28, 2015

5 Questions with Pippa Mann, Revisited

Racing driver Pippa Mann will return to the Indianapolis 500 this year for the fourth time, and it’ll be her second time “going pink.” That’s right, she’s returning with her pink racecar, supporting—and supported by—the Susan G. Komen foundation.

Pippa’s starting a big campaign aimed at rounding up more support … but not for her own funding, though she scrambles as much as any racecar driver for that. No, she’s aiming to get us all involved with the mission to end breast cancer forever. Along the way, she’ll celebrate the fighters and survivors by carrying their colors into battle on the racetrack.

I’m going to #GetInvolved, and I hope you will also. To kick things off, here are five questions Pippa answered last year before the “greatest spectacle in racing.”

Tammy: Why do you love to race?
Pippa: I love the adrenaline, the feeling of speed, of controlling that powerful car underneath me. I'm competitive, so I love beating the boys on their own terms, too. Much like the horse riding I started with, it's one of the few sports where we get to play together and compete as equals. I love that about motor sport.

What's your racing goal or dream?
Haha, this is easy! Winning the Indy 500 one day!

But I personally have a second goal, pertaining to the Indy 500, that I feel very strongly about. Currently I am the only female pole winner ever at IMS, which I achieved in Indy Lights in 2010. In a race, so much can go wrong, so much is dependent on everything else around you. In qualifying, it's just you and the car your engineer has managed to give you—there are still all sorts of factors that come into play, but so many fewer than on race day. One day I want to repeat my feat from Indy Lights in an IndyCar at IMS. I want to be on pole for the Indy 500.

Aren't racing and the fight against breast cancer a strange combination?
You might think, but here's a different perspective: The Indy 500 reaches millions of people. Literally, millions. Millions here in the U.S., millions across the world. There are around half a million at the track itself when you combine race day and carb day attendance together, before we even get into the people who come out for qualifying weekend. The parade through downtown Indy on the Saturday before the race is the third largest parade in the U.S., after the Rose Bowl parade and the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, and it's also televised nationally.

The potential reach, to hopefully connect with people via this pink car—this entire pink program—and to raise awareness, is massive. Don't think of this as a motor race. Think of it as a national platform at one of the biggest, most prestigious sporting events of the year, with a female athlete to help spread the word. Then it's a campaign on this same, amazing national platform, to try and raise funding by those who want to get involved in a bigger way, too.

Why is this pink car so important this year?
When I was a teenager, who just started racing, I never wanted pink anywhere as a part of my racing program. I didn't want to be perceived as "the girl" on track, I wanted to be perceived as good, someone who the other drivers either respected—or given karting was, ahem, occasionally something of a contact sport—even someone they feared and knew not to mess with. Pink didn't really fit into that vibe.

That was an attitude that took me a long time to grow out of, and the first time my thoughts about it really changed was actually due to Sarah Fisher again. My first year in the U.S., in 2009, I vividly remember her car at Homestead, when they turned her entire program pink during breast cancer awareness month for Susan G. Komen. I had never seen that before, and it stuck with me.

Now here I am, five years later, with my own pink Susan G. Komen IndyCar. This time, instead of running it for breast cancer awareness month, we're running it at the Indy 500. It's a program I am incredibly proud to have put together, and I am proud to be associated with such a great organization and with a cause that means so much to me. We are using our program to raise awareness and funding [through #GetInvolved], and my helmet is changing color for the first time in over 10 years to match our program.

Then there's the completely secondary reason why this program is kind of cool, and this is something I have only grown into admitting over the past few years.

Let's face it, 99% of little girls do like pink. I have worked with so many young karters, and met so many little girls who are race fans out at the tracks over the previous five years. They are always so pleased to be able to cheer for me when I'm driving, and so sad when I'm not. Completely aside from the big reasons why I want to run this car, to me, it's kind of cool that all those little girls who are fans now not only have a girl to cheer for in this year's Indy 500, but also can cheer for a girl in a pink car!

Tell us how different it is to say "my race is no longer about me"?
I'm a racing driver, and we have a bad habit of thinking of ourselves first and foremost nearly all of the time. So yes, it is pretty weird not only to say that, but also to feel it, and to know it deep inside, too. I'm not out there racing for just me and my team this year, and this car means so much more than racing a car with just a standard logo on the side.

This isn't even really about racing anymore. It's about using this race, and the entire Indy 500 event, as a platform for a campaign to raise awareness and funding for a disease that one in eight women in the U.S. are diagnosed with. Every time I say “one in eight,” I am reminded how scary that statistic is. My family has been touched too, but we're not the anomaly, we're the rule. That's why this is not about me or my family personally. It's about everyone who has been affected or touched in whatever way. This is much, much bigger, and way more important than me.

Follow Pippa at @pippamann and find out more at PippaMann.com.
Photo credits: Chris Owens (more).

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