Lindsay Brewer: "I’m getting to do what I love"
Lindsay Brewer's first year in USF Pro 2000 was a season of many firsts - including impressive top-10 finishes. Straight in the deep end, Brewer laid the foundation for a promising 2023 season - as she gears up for the opener at St Petersburg.
We spoke with the American driver about racing, social media, sponsorships and her goals for the future.
Social media is undeniably one of the most crucial aspects of communication in motor racing nowadays, as expanding the reach for sponsorship value becomes increasingly vital to secure the necessary funding. One driver that has quickly grasped the importance and worked on this side is certainly Lindsay Brewer, 25 year old American who is set to enter her second season in the USF Pro 2000 championship – and to this day one of the few female drivers on the Road to Indy program.
A business graduate, Brewer has cultivated her social media presence to reach over 3.5 million followers across her platforms – more than a few F1 drivers – as the young American hopes to eventually translate that following into opportunities to climb the ladder of her biggest passion: motor racing.
Dream big and work hard for it: this is the common experience for any racing driver across the world and Lindsay Brewer is no exception. With the big goal of the legendary Indy 500, the Colorado-native competed in several karting series across the US, before making her racecar debut in 2019. While her career was put on hold until 2021 – as she focused on her business studies – Brewer returned with a clear goal, willing to work hard and to challenge herself.
And, while relatively still in a junior stage of her open wheel career, Brewer has soon been able to reach the USF Pro 2000 championship – roughly comparable to a F3 level in Europe – as one of the highest ranked female drivers on the Road to Indy before the arrival of British star Jamie Chadwick in IndyNXT.
Just like her journey up to the echelons of the Road to Indy categories followed an unconventional route, Lindsay's interest in the sport was sparked by a seemingly mundane moment – which eventually evolved into a promising career.
"I went to a birthday party when I was 11, and it was at a go-kart track. I asked my dad if I could try out the go-karts and one of the pro-karter boys there let me drive his”, she recalls. “I ended up placing faster lap time than the pro-karters and from there on, my dad helped buy my first kart and for the next few years, we traveled around the country in an RV so that I could compete."
"The feeling of being behind the wheel, being in the flow, and just the fact that I’m getting to do what I love”.
This is what she loves the most about the sport, and what she is fighting for.
“I definitely missed being in the seat” – she tells us, mentioning the years of inactivity due to her studies. “However, I made some really good friends during that time and actually that was where I grew my social following, so although there were probably hundreds of hours of seat time I missed in that period of time, I also gained a lot in other ways and grew personally.”
“Also, because I gained a business degree, it has helped me a lot in navigating the world of racing which is mostly driven by a lot of B2B sponsorship."
Since her return, Brewer has certainly challenged herself in competitive environments. In her first appearances in the SRO TC America in 2021, Brewer joined the Skip Barber Racing School team in a Honda Civic Type-R TC, immediately showcasing some good speed: she scored three top-ten out of her first three races in the TC class, claiming a personal best of sixth in TC and eighth overall at Sonoma and COTA – a track that she describes as her favourite.
In a 20-car field, Brewer continued to battle for the top-ten also at the following rounds. Meanwhile, she started a testing program in F4 machinery and raced in the Skip Barber Formula Race Series, where she got the laps in and tried to build experience in open wheel racing.
It was then time to put her improvements to test, and Brewer joined the IndyPro 2000 championship in 2022, in a part-time campaign that saw the now California-resident making significant progress at the wheel of the Exclusive Autosport Tatuus and claiming two top-ten finishes among some of the most promising names of junior motorsport.
Despite having joined the field after missing the first two rounds with a late deal, Brewer made a promising debut that leaves the young driver with a good basis to build on.
"Last season was all about running laps and seat time”, she explains. “I think there was a misconception that I was coming into IndyPro 2000 to try to rise to the top. I skipped USF and went straight into the deep end, but as a driver, I tend to drive towards where the competition is”, she continues, in a honest conversation about her rookie season. “It was a humbling experience, and I now know that if I can get more seat time in the off-season, and work on my strength a bit more, I can become more competitive in 2023, in anticipation of an Indy Lights seat after that."
It was certainly a season of 'firsts': in her partial campaign, Brewer had her first ever race on an oval, as well as the first run on a street circuit. The feeling of speed and the technique required on ovals in an open wheel car – compared to stockcars, where she had some previous testing experiences – was something she says she quickly learnt to enjoy.
"The mid size ovals are a bit easier than the short ovals, which gives you some time to let the car do its thing a bit more”, she explains. “I’m lucky to have Exclusive Autosport, as their oval setup is really game-winning, as you saw by my teammate Louis Foster last year.”
“I learned to love the ovals after driving them for the first time in 2022 in an open wheel - I had previously tested at Hickory in some stock cars and the feeling is so different and I really do enjoy it in the IndyPro 2000 equipment.” - she continued.
Her debut couldn't have come in a more iconic place for motor racing: the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – and Brewer claimed her first top ten on the road course layout.
"I was ecstatic”, she says, remembering one of the highlights of her past season. “IMS was somewhere I had driven quite a few laps at with Skip Barber in their F4 equipment, and I’m glad I got to debut there. I can’t wait to be back again”, she adds. “It’s one of my favorite tracks in the US and I hope one day I’ll be able to do the oval!"
On the other hand, street circuits are something she feels will require some more time to master. “Street circuits were a bit of a risk for me. I wanted to bring the car back in one piece, and frankly, from a physical standpoint I demanded more of myself after that” - she says. “[In] open wheel cars like Indycars, without power steering, everything is amplified on the street circuits, so I’m going to make sure I put more time in the gym so I can be on par with everyone else."
Nevertheless, Brewer scored her second top ten of the season on the challenging Toronto Street Circuit, with a tenth place in race 2. Still, she says her training routine has significantly changed as she focuses on single seaters, and has been working on that aspect.
“I´ve had to up it significantly”, she adds. “I do a combination of a crossfit type regimen along with help from the people at PitFit. As a smaller driver at 5’4” and 105lbs, I need to get my strength up to that of my teammates and competitors whom are 150lbs or so on average. I plan on pushing myself harder in the off-season in order to make sure strength is not an issue in 2023."
Brewer still managed to run solid races in her 5-event campaign, tackling iconic racing venues such as Indianapolis, Road America, Toronto, World Wide Technology Raceway and Portland.
"Honestly, being able to jump into tracks I had never been to showing up without practice time because of our budget, and being able to show that in a few days I could adapt, cut seconds off each session, and then start running with the pack” is what she would describe as her highlight of the year.
“It really was a learning year for me, and now I hope I can get enough seat time and work on my qualifying strategy so that in 2023 I can start competing more."
At the 2022 finale in Portland, Brewer also sustained a wrist injury that eventually prevented the Exclusive Autosport driver from rounding out her season with yet another top-ten, but she has since then fully recovered and she's eager to get back on track.
“Glad it wasn’t a fracture but unfortunately it prevented me from keeping my top-10 position through the rest of the weekend back in Portland”, she recalls.
The beginning of the past year was also important for an opportunity that allowed Brewer to go up against some of the world's most exciting female prospects in F4 machinery, as she was selected for the W Series selections in Arizona, where 15 young drivers were assessed at Inde Motorsports Ranch ahead of the third edition of the all-female championship that supported F1.
"It was a great experience to meet so many women in the industry, and I made some friends there”, Brewer says. “Inde Motorsports Ranch was a fun track that reminded me of my go-karting days. Eventually my team including my manager Chris Young, and my driving coach James Davison, along with the help of some Indycar drivers I’ve grown up with helped me with the decision to go compete in IndyPro.”
“I knew the cars would be faster than those in the W Series – which are similar to the USF series – and I wanted to try to push myself and to compete against everyone”, she continues.
After claiming three titles in the series, British racer Jamie Chadwick will eventually step up to IndyNXT in 2023.
“I do hope the W Series produces some more women in the sport though, as it would maybe help us all”, Brewer stresses. “I also like that it gives women more seat time, as nothing replaces that. Jamie Chadwick has been really great in that series and I hope she does well in the US on the Indycar ladder as it’ll provide us even more exposure in the sport here."
While the European racing ladder has proven to be financially unsustainable for most drivers and with structural difficulties to move up the ranks, the Road To Indy program has been often praised for its scholarship-funded paths up to the main series. All the champions up the ladder will in fact receive scholarships to be spent on stepping up to the next level.
"It is a really well organized and regimented program”, Brewer explains. “I love that the competition is fierce and that makes it exciting. I have tried testing in other types of racing series’ such as stock and sports cars, and eventually I want to race in those as well, but currently, I truly enjoy open wheel racing and racing against some of the future Indycar drivers. I believe the statistic is 80% or so of the Road to Indy graduates go on to drive Indycar."
Traditionally a platform that has promoted a decent number of female drivers, the Road to Indy program has seen women entries slightly drop off in the last couple of years. Brewer hopes she can be a testimonial for the younger generations of female drivers.
"I think it's a sport where men and women can compete on a relatively equal level. Most other sports are so different in physical demand and strength, and motorsports, although holds a differential, still gives us a relatively equal chance and I really think that’s a cool thing, that we have a coed sport that is one of the most followed sports in the world."
Still, one of the biggest hurdles faced by female drivers has been securing the necessary funding, in such a budget-heavy sport where getting sponsorship for female athletes is harder than one might think.
"Honestly, there’s a misconception that because we are a minority in the sport that we are going to be marketing phenoms and that we have an ability to raise more money to support our seasons”, says Brewer. “Racing is an incredibly expensive sport, and one of the most interesting ones in terms of economics. When a driver gets sponsored, they usually have to put 100% or close to 100% of their sponsorship money back into their training and running the car.”
“As women, we actually tend to get less sponsorship offers and so we don’t, on average, get as much seat time as men do. If you’re quote unquote 'commercially marketable' as a female in the sport, you’re also not taken as seriously. However, I like when I can prove people wrong, I guess that’s the competitive nature in me."
Her social media following goes in the direction of trying to offer brands a platform also outside the race track – but also brings its own challenges. "Social media is obviously a double edged sword”, she tells us. “I enjoy trying to showcase to people out there that pushing the boundaries is possible, and having a following does help get the message out there, especially in racing. I have a following across all the platforms I’m on, somewhere in the 3.5M range, and I try my best to use it to bring positivity and inspiration to the people who care to follow what I’m up to.”
“The other edge of it, is obviously the negative connotations that are assigned to someone whom is still trying to produce results and whom has a following. However, to those whom question my motives, if you’re a true motorsports fan I hope all those who are out there will understand that I’m passionate about this sport as a pro athlete, and I hope that my following will only encourage more people to be passionate about this sport as well."
Her words leave no doubt that genuine passion is what drives Lindsay Brewer to accept the challenges and prove herself on track, inspired by some of the sports' greatest.
"I would say Lewis Hamilton and the Andrettis”, she replies, when asked about her role models that inspired her when growing up.
“Nowadays I still am a big fan of Lewis, and of people like Romain Grosjean who made the move to Indycar and is doing a fantastic job of helping market the series and build the viewer base. I’ve grown up driving alongside a bit of the Indycar and F1 paddock, and it's great to see people I’ve karted with who have gotten to where they are now."
And that's where Brewer – who also keeps an eye on the other side of the pond – ultimately aims to be herself one day: on the grid of the biggest events in the sport.
"I want to eventually drive the Indy 500”, she says. “Thats something I’ve wanted to do since I was a child. At some point too I’d love to drive the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and of course in that trifecta, Monaco, in anything honestly!”
The road is not going to be linear, but dreams are made of powerful energy and Lindsay is ready to put in the hard work. And she will continue to do so by continuing to be herself as an athlete and as a young woman.
“As a driver, I’m just thankful to have the chance to go for the opportunity to drive up to the top of the Indycar ladder.”
"As a woman, I try to maintain a healthy family and social life - as motorsports demands a lot of time, travel, and dedication - I´m lucky to have a group around me that understands all of that.”
“For as many people who have been negative, I feel like for every young girl I inspire to get into a go-kart and try racing, I’ve maybe helped to inspire a dream."
And this is, even before the start of the racing season, already a very important career achievement.