Can Lindsay Brewer Make It to the Indy 500?

The 26-year-old talks G-force workouts, Mario Kart and breaking down barriers

May 17, 2023 8:47 am
A three-panel photo featuring shots of race car driver Lindsay Brewer.
Lindsay Brewer regularly places top 10 in one of the most competitive racing series in the world.
Courtesy of Lindsay Brewer/C4 Energy

Lindsay Brewer wanted to go fast from an early age.

Growing up in Colorado with an adventurous family, she quenched her need for speed on jet skis and snowmobiles. During a friend’s birthday party at a go-kart track, an 11-year-old Brewer got behind her first steering wheel and was unstoppable, leaving her friends and their parents in the dust. On the track owner’s recommendation, her father bought her a go-kart for keeps. Thus began her journey in the world of motorsports.  

Brewer found success early on, and following a brief hiatus for college, rose up the ranks of the open-wheel scene quickly. This year marks her first full season competing in Indy Pro 2000, a regular stop for drivers looking to ultimately compete in IndyCar and the Indy 500. For a young woman with no family racing ties to make it in a highly-competitive and predominantly-male arena is remarkable.

And Brewer is here to stay. Fresh off inking a deal with C4 Smart Energy (advertised on on the side of her Tatuus IP-22), Brewer is training harder than ever, fighting stereotypes and chasing her dream of racing in the Indy 500.

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InsideHook: How early did you recognize that there weren’t as many girls on the track as boys?
Lindsay Brewer: Pretty early on. I was always the only girl on the track. I grew up with a brother, and cousins who were boys, so I never saw myself as any different. But the boys would definitely tease me, and if I made a mistake they would said it was because I was a girl. Of course, that wasn’t true — everyone makes mistakes on the track and the good drivers learn from them. There were definitely differences that I noticed between the ways we drove too; adults were always complimenting how cunning I was on the track while many of the boys drove angry and forced crashes. I think women might actually have an advantage in that sense, where we can be a bit more calculating. I won’t say that men and women aren’t different, but I don’t see how a woman would be at any disadvantage. 

People recognized your natural ability, but when did you start to consider driving professionally a possibly?I would say it was when I won the regional championship in Colorado. I remember my father being very proud. My dad was also my mechanic, until I reached the national level where everyone is spending money on a professional team. He’s still a huge support to this day. Both of my parents would say that I was just as good as the boys on the track, even better. I saw it in myself then. The only time they told me to stop was when it came time for college. They asked me to go and get a degree, because they didn’t see it as a viable career. 

Eventually you did return to racing. How did that happen?
I think because I had won the biggest race I competed in, that championship in Legend Cars, racing had always stuck with me. I knew that I had ability, and it was always in the back of my head. But racing is an expensive sport, and when I got to the point where I couldn’t compete anymore it was very frustrating. That only increased when I saw a lot of the guys who I beat in my career having success at that next level. I was very grateful when I was finally able to get back behind to the wheel, thanks to sponsors like C4 Smart Energy.

Do you drink it it before a race?
Before race day I stay hydrated with water and electrolytes. On a practice day I’ll drink one while I look over data and work with my engineers. I need it during my track walks, but it isn’t just on the tracks that I use it. I have a can before my races. I have felt the difference on the track. I like that there is no sugar or carbs, so I don’t feel weighed down.

What was it like getting back behind the wheel after a hiatus?
I was reintroduced to the sport in 2021 after I secured the sponsorship. I started in the touring cars, which was a new experience because I had only driven go-karts and open-wheel before then. And then in 2022 there was a huge step up for me to Indy Pro 2000. There were a lot of people critical of the fact that I had jumped up into the series so fast. They said that I shouldn’t have the opportunity because I had taken those years off. Luckily, the team owner saw my potential and knew that I could drive, no matter what the outside world was saying.

I did a lot of off-season work in the gym and testing on the track to get ready. There’s no shortcut, you need to put in the work, but it’s truly worth it. Being on the track is pretty draining both physically and mentally. I’m working out four days a week in the gym, and doing lots of reps in the racing sim. I was doing a lot of test days on the track. My first race I placed in the top ten and had the second quickest race lap, so people started to realize I was for real. 

Do you think that people were critical not just because of how quickly you rose, but also that you were a woman?
I get a lot of comments on social media who tell me that I should get back in the kitchen, which is crazy. Whenever I tell people that I’m a race car driver they don’t believe me. People in the racing world know me from my early days in the sport and what I accomplished, but to the others, they don’t think I’ve proven myself. There are people who have come from either Europe or don’t know what I have done in the past either, that question if I am here just because I have followers on social media. At the end of the day, I have to put all of that aside and continue to push forward as I always have. On social media people will comment that I am just “pretending” to be a race car driver for my posts.

I had the chance to speak with Danica Patrick, who had a great career in IndyCar. I know she had to deal with a lot as a woman in IndyCar. You have the added fact that you got pretty popular on social media during your hiatus. How did you deal with that?
I know that Danica Patrick received a lot of hate as well, which is too bad because she’s a badass driver. For me personally it’s kind of unfortunate that I took that time off of racing, because that’s when I grew a following on social media from my time in college. People knew me for being some sort of “influencer” but that isn’t really who I am. Don’t get me wrong, I still love being at the beach with my friends and wearing bikinis, but that’s not who I am. What I am is a race car driver. 

I was also disappointed in some of the women that I spoke with in the sport, who told me I should stop posting pictures of myself with my friends. I found that pretty disappointing. I don’t want to be put into a box. I can still be feminine and enjoy a beach, while being a badass driver. I know I am being judged from both in and out of the racing world because I put on makeup, but I don’t care. I won’t be confined. I think people sometimes people can take themselves too seriously. I am doing the work. I am training all of the time, studying all the data, and grinding as hard as possible. But I can still have a life. I want to travel, and hang with my friends.

Can you share a little of the kinds of training that you do to prepare for the track?
There is definitely a big physical requirement with open-wheel driving. There is no power steering and with the amount of down force there is with the big wings. There is a lot of demand on your arms. I have to go to the gym four or five times a week to do lifting or cardio. I need to put that work in to compete with the guys, who have more muscle mass in their arms, no question. This year I feel a lot stronger, and I haven’t felt fatigue in my arms like I have in the past.

There are certain exercises where I will hold a weight plate like a steering wheel and turn it around like I’m driving. You need strong legs too, because you need a lot of power to push down the brakes. I work with a training center called PitFit that works specifically with drivers. You need great core strength as well, to deal with the energy the car is putting on you. I do certain exercises for my neck, to prepare it for the g-force. The sim wheel has a bit of resistance, so that is good practice.

What it is like competing in the Indy Pro 2000?
I find these days people understand it better when I relate it to the Formula 1 series. I am in the equivalent of Formula 3. There are five levels on what people consider the “road to Indy” and I’m in the third. The finish times between drivers in first and tenth are separated by seconds. I am happy if I finish eighth, and if I say that on social media, people seem to be shocked that I am not winning every time. That’s when I know they don’t understand how intense this series is. I could go to a lesser competitive series, and probably get podiums, but I want to be driving against the best. 

Can you describe the cars you are driving in the Indy Pro 2000?
It’s a Tatuus chassis. The car has 275 horsepower but the car only weighs about 1200 pounds, making it very light. The car goes very fast, and looks like a Formula 3 car with the halo. It looks like a F1 car but maybe a little smaller. I am probably doing around 160 miles per hour at top speed. Because of the wings, the cornering speeds are very high, which is especially tough to control. You are taking corners at 110 or 120 miles per hour. It can be tough on your neck. There is a reason they call open-wheel cars the “fighter jet cars” because of the way they can maneuver. Getting back into any kind of normal car after a race weekend, it is shocking how slow it is. 

Getting into crashes are also a pretty regular occurrence in motorsports. How have you dealt with getting back behind the wheel after?
I don’t want to say you crash all of the time, but you crash all of the time. I crashed just the last testing session the other week. Luckily, it was just a minor event, and three other drivers had crashes too. Back in 2021 at Road America, I dropped a tire outside of “The Kink” which is known as one of the sketchiest corners in the US. My car pitched sideways and I ended up going straight into a wall going 90 miles an hour. I had to let go off the wheel, I smashed into the wall, and my car was finished. I was in the Honda Civic Type-R. If you aren’t having incidents like that then you aren’t pushing hard enough. You try to ride that line, and sometimes you are going to go over it. I don’t care if you are the best — if you’re Lewis Hamilton, even — you’re going to get into accidents.

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Do you think that drivers ever try to push you farther because you’re a woman?

People definitely try to push me around because I’m a woman, especially when I was a rookie. I probably wasn’t as aggressive in certain incidents as I should have. I had always been aggressive before, coming up, and I needed to get back in that frame of mind. I think especially the guys in Europe thought they could push over me. I they expected that they could. But then they actually see me on the track, and they realize that that is not the case. I become a different person when I put that helmet on.

How do you recover after a long day on the track?

I use a massage gun when I am sore. I do cryotherapy to help me recover as well. I will do that between my practices and race day. You sweat so much during a race day. So after I want to eat a lot of food and drink a lot of water. I probably lose about four pounds in the car. One of the most important things to me is the meal after I race. I love to have some pizza and some spaghetti.

Looking back, do you have an explanation for how you understood racing at such an early age?

I won my first go-kart race that I ever participated in when I was 11, and people were shocked. They asked me how I learned how to drive so quickly, and I told them it was because I played all of these racing video games growing up. I used to play Mario Kart a lot. I was so good at that game. I was competitive whether it was go-karts or racing in a video game. These days I’m doing more time with the racing sim cockpit from Sparco. I use it to learn the tracks I haven’t driven on before. 

What character did you play in Mario Kart?

Peach. Obviously. I guess I have always been a Peach girl. 

Do you have any drivers that you are a fan of or admire in racing today?

I met Lewis Hamilton a few months ago at CODA and he is so nice. I can’t say that I am a fan of many drivers, since I came up with a few of them in the early days. Lewis Hamilton is also into fashion like myself, and I think I can consider myself a fan of his. He said he knew who I was, which kind of made me freak out. As far as teams, I’m a Ferrari fan and I hope that they can get it together. I saw Charles Leclerc had a great result recently, which makes me hopeful. 

What are your aspirations for your career in motorsports?

Being in the series that I am in right now is a huge accomplishment in itself. If I get a top ten finish, that is huge for me. It’s really competitive and we have some guys who have come over from Formula 2. My teammate is a British Formula 3 driver, and he’s pretty competitive himself. I am the only woman in my series. These days I want to show some good results. I’m looking forward to some top ten finishes, maybe I can nail a top five. Eventually, I would love to compete in the Indy 500. That is a dream for me.

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