7 female racers awarded first Shift Up Now Foundation Sponsorship Grants
Sabré Cook, Sarah Montgomery, Michele Abbate, Ashley Freiberg, Amber Balcaen, Kelsey Rowlings and Heather Hadley are the recipients of the first ever sponsorship grants from Shift Up Now Foundation.
Seven deserving female racing drivers have been awarded the first ever sponsorship grant from Shift Up Now Foundation: Sabre Cook, Sarah Montgomery, Michele Abbate, Ashley Freiberg, Amber Balcaen, Kelsey Rowlings - all Shift Up Now athletes - with the addition of up and coming talent Heather Hadley will receive funding to help round out their 2023 racing programmes, in a major step for the organization led by Pippa Mann.
Shift Up Now has been supporting a growing number of elite female racing drivers, mainly based in the United States, helping them to fund their seasons by taking care of traditional sponsorships, partnerships and media agreements.
Alongside its for-profit activity, Shift Up Now launched a 501c3 foundation at the end of 2022 – in order to accept tax-deductible gifts, donations and grants, in a further advancement in the organization’s innovative approach. The raised funds are destined to award opportunities to outstanding female athletes.
On the occasion of Pippa Mann's 40th birthday on August 11th 2023, Shift Up Now Foundation launched a crowdfunding campaign named '40 for 40', which aimed at raising $40,000 over 40 days. The fundraising campaign surpassed the expectations and, in combination with outside donations, nearly $60,000 were available to be distributed as grant funding for deserving female athletes.
Shift Up Now management decided that six grants would be awarded for current Shift Up Now Athletes, plus one for a developing racer, in order to complete their 2023 racing programmes, in a sport so heavily-dependant on budget.
“We are thrilled by the generosity of our fans, friends, and the racing community at large,” said Pippa Mann. “To have our first campaign exceed its goal and allow us to fund even more racers than we expected gives us faith that our visibility is growing, and that our work is having a positive impact on motorsports.”
The first recipient of sponsorship grant is Sabré Cook, 29 year old racer from Colorado who has competed internationally in W Series before making her sportscar debut. An injury kept her away from the racetracks in 2022 but, having recovered from surgery, she was back stronger than ever in Porsche Carrera Cup North America, having won the Kellymoss driver shootout that secured her a full-season seat in 2023.
Cook has impressed both on track and off track, where she's worked tirelessly with sponsors.
Sarah Montgomery, 28, has been part of an all-female team in the endurance series World Racing League, as part of the Shift Up Now and Round 3 Racing partnership. In 2022, she collected five podiums and finished fifth in the overall standings, having also been the first woman to step on the podium in the highly competitive Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Series in 2019. The grant will help Montgomery return to WRL for the season finale.
Michele Abbate has competed in the TA2 class of the TransAm Series, where she drives the Ghost Energy / Lucas Oil entry. Michele - who started racing in regional SCCA Autocross, before moving to stock cars - has just returned to racing after a massive crash earlier this year at Road America, caused by a brake failure that turned out to be a big financial setback for her programme. At her return, only 8 weeks after a right-ankle injury that required surgery, she claimed a personal best of 12th at Watkins Glen.
Ashley Freiberg has been one of the brightest stars of the Porsche Sprint Challenge North America's series: at her full-time return to racing, Freiberg in fact claimed five race victories and three second place finishes in the first eight races of the season so far, and currently leads the 991 class. Freiberg had last raced in a full campaign in 2015, before having to put her racing career on hold for funding issues.
Canadian Amber Balcaen receives the fifth sponsorship grant, as she is about to make her debut in the NASCAR Pinty's Series. Balcaen consistently proved her talent in the ARCA Menards Series in 2022, with six top ten finishes and seventh in the championship standings; having joined top team Venturini Motorsports for the 2023 season opener at Daytona, she fought for the win throughout the event, eventually finishing sixth. Funding cut her season short, but the grant will now allow her to build momentum in the lead-up to her 2024 programme.
Kelsey Rowlings is the longest competing female driver in Formula Drift history, and will use the grant funds for her final Formula Drift event, as well as the Gridlife Invitational Exhibition and SEMA Exhibition.
Alongside the six Shift Up Now selected athletes, Heather Hadley will receive the seventh and final sponsorship grant, as the organization continues to support women in the most competitive motorsport championships. Hadley, 21, is the 2023 Mazda Women Initiative scholarship winner and, at the wheel of the Spark Performance #54 machine, she has performed outstandingly in her rookie season in the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup, where she already claimed two top-10 finishes in the uber-competitive series. The funds will help her for the final round of the 2023 season at Road Atlanta.
“On behalf of the entire Shift Up Now Foundation executive committee, we want to thank everyone involved,” concluded Mann. “Special thanks to all of our donors, and to everyone who took the time to share the 40 for 40 Campaign to their professional and social networks. Without you, our loyal fans, friends, and supporters, we wouldn’t have achieved this success. We look forward to a bright future of funding female racers.”