Legge hoping speedway practice time pays off
During IndyCar testing at Iowa Speedway last week, it was safe to say that no other car spent as much time on the track as the TrueCar-sponsored blue and white No. 6.
IndyCar rookie Katherine Legge was behind the wheel of that car enjoying something that she hasn’t been able to enjoy very much in her first season — adequate testing time. The Guilford, England native has had an interesting start to her career in the series, but continues to approach every race with improvement in mind.
“I think I’m going into Iowa with a lot more positives than I have been in other races because we had two half-days of testing last week,” Legge said during a phone interview on Tuesday. “I was really happy with the car and we’ve been improving throughout the year, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Although Legge may be a rookie to the IndyCar Series, she’s no stranger to open-wheel racing by any means. She set numerous firsts throughout her developmental career before competing in the now-absorbed Champ Car series from 2006 to 2007. It was in Champ Car that she became the first woman to lead a lap in series history when she led a total of 12 at Milwaukee.
Her time at Milwaukee is her only competitive time spent on ovals, however, so the early part of this season was an interesting one to say the least. Despite not being able to test with her team in the preseason, Legge has completed five of her seven races, including a 22nd-place finish at the Indy 500.
It’s that unfamiliarity with ovals that led her to spend as much time on the track as possible during IndyCar testing last week in Newton. She’ll soon be back in more familiar territory, though, when the series returns to road courses for the next five races after this weekend.
“It’s kind of new and alien to me going to Indy and Texas, and it’s been a big learning curve” Legge said. “I feel more comfortable every time we get out on one, and I think the Iowa test was good for the car, the little things like pit stops and running in traffic.”
Legge picked up her ride for the IndyCar series through TrueCar, a program that informs and empowers women in professional racing. Along with fellow female IndyCar drivers Ana Beatriz and Simona de Silvestro, she has frequently fielded questions about the role of women in the sports, especially since the departure of Danica Patrick for the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
While she understands where the questions come from, she also feels they can serve as a distraction from what is being accomplished on the track.
“We just want to be taken seriously as racecar drivers,” Legge said. “When I first raced in Champ Car and Danica was in Indy, it was a novelty to have girls in the series, but it’s really not like that anymore. We’re just racecar drivers and the car doesn’t know the difference. We’re out there to win races and be competitive, so it really doesn’t matter if you’re male or female.”
Legge believes that the presence of women in IndyCar really isn’t an issue, especially with figures such as former driver and current owner Sarah Fisher, as well as the multiple female drivers the series has seen over the past few years.
“It’s more interesting to people outside the sport because it’s new to them, but inside the sport it’s nothing new,” Legge said. “I grew up racing against a lot of these guys, so I ‘m sure they don’t see me as a girl. They see me as another driver.”
With that issue never in mind, Legge keeps her focus on improving during her rookie campaign. After seeing her speeds in practice, she and her team are shooting for a top-12 finish in the Iowa Corn Indy 250 this weekend. Moving forward, her familiarity with road courses and adequate test time could yield better results, but she’ll be fine with taking things one race at a time.
“We’re all looking long-term with myself, Dragon Racing and TrueCar. We know it’s a process,” Legge said. “We’re just trying to learn and gain as much experience as possible from this year and try to do a comprehensive end-of-season test program so we can really be competitive next year.”