Pat Caporali: Passion on the Drag Strips
Here's a woman who is passionate about drag strips, the smell of nitro, and awesome-looking race vehicles. Meet Pat Caporali. She is the public relations manager for the Mopar Brand and NHRA Motorsports.
Dig beneath the surface and this enthusiast is a woman of many interests. In her blog she writes, "I cannot be left alone with a credit card in the following places: a pet shop, a bookstore, or Lululemon."
First of all, I'm intrigued by women in the world of motorsports, and when Caporali told me some of her stories (like being a stand-in for Danica Patrick) I asked for an interview. Following are highlights from our email chat:
Holly Reich: How did you get started in this business?
Pat Caporali: I got my start as a sports show producer in radio and then a sports reporter for radio and TV in my hometown of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I developed a specialization in covering motorsports.
I then joined the world of IndyCar racing, spending another decade traveling the globe watching men and women push their human limits and those of cars going as fast as 242 mph. I helped tell their stories.
I now work for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in Auburn Hills, Mich., as the Mopar and Mopar Motorsports PR & Media Manager. This position has me going to plenty of drag strips with the NHRA (to smell nitro and see cars going 330.470 mph in 3.897 seconds in just a thousand feet!).
HR: Are there many women in Mopar? Is it unusual to be a woman in this field?
PC: Many women work for the Mopar brand at various levels. Personally, I don't think it is unusual at all, but the fact remains there are not quite as many women yet working in the automotive industry as a whole or the motorsports industry as there are men.
HR: Are you friends with the female drivers? Any stories you'd like to share?
PC: I have gotten to know quite a few female drivers in various series over the years but have not yet had the pleasure of working with one directly. It's fantastic to see these talented and skilled women compete on par with their male counterparts.
Among the ones that I have had contact with over the years in IndyCar include Simona Di Silvestro, Danica Patrick, Ana Beatriz, Pippa Mann, Katherine Legge, and Sara Fisher, who is currently a team owner but was also a driver. All these women have competed in the legendary Indianapolis 500 over the last 10 years.
I have many fun stories, but one of the stories I can share is that I was occasionally asked to stand in as a body double for driver Danica Patrick for in-car photo shoots (wearing her helmet and firesuit). I was often the only person available in the paddock that could fit into her firesuit (barely) and in her seat. (She's relatively small of stature.)
I'm also very interested in plans that are in the works for an all-female IndyCar team called Grace Motorsports (headed by Beth Paretta who worked for Dodge and SRT brands) that is hoping to run the 100th Indianapolis 500 this coming May 2016.
There are quite a few female professional drivers currently competing in NHRA in the pro ranks of Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle classes. In fact, they have combined for more than 100 NHRA national titles! There are more women competing and succeeding in the NHRA than any other motorsports series.
Alexis DeJoria, Erica Ender-Stevens, Courtney and Brittney Force, and Karen Stoffer are among a few competing full-time this year. In the NHRA Sportsman ranks (Like an AAA-type ladder series) I don't think we can even count how many female drivers, because there are so many registered and licensed that compete every weekend across the U.S.
HR: Were you always a car enthusiast?
PC: On the day I was born, my dad drove me and my mom home from the hospital in an orange 1971 Dodge Challenger.
HR: What do you do for R&R?
PC: First and foremost, I take every opportunity I can to walk with my feisty Cairn Terrier, Izzy. After that, anything that involves photography, scuba diving, travel, or food will make me happy. I have a dirt bike and have owned a sport motorcycle, as well. I have also recently started to learn to grow a vegetable garden. I had some killer heirloom tomatoes and basil this year.
HR: How do you pack for the road?
PC: Quickly and badly. I have a very large Ogio bag that I travel with. I have never traveled with a carry-on bag only. Never. Ever. I pack way too much because you never know if it will be cold, hot, or raining at a racetrack, but it usually does all three in a weekend. And there is always a dinner you might have to attend. So running shoes, heels, and flip-flops are staples in my bag.
by Holly Reich for Motor Matters
HOLLY REICH has been writing about automotive and travel since 1982. She has reported on the automotive industry for television and radio broadcast stations including; Fox News, SPEED, Car TV and Autolab. Reich has contributed to publications such as RIDES, Edmunds.com, kbb.com, Elite Traveler, automotiverhythms.com, The New York Daily News and The Washington Post. Holly is based in New York City.