Name:

Jessica Mace

Age:

26

Region:

Great Lakes/Midwest

Hometown:

Bellville, Ohio

Racing Class:

Race Control

Sponsors:

NA

Day Job:

Mechanic for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

Favorite Food:

Mexican

Favorite TV show:

“Heart of Dixie”

Favorite Movie:

“Gone With the Wind”

Favorite Book:

“The Joe Pickett Series”

Favorite Track:

Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

Dream Racecar:

Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Car
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At this year’s Indianapolis 500, something genuinely historic took place, whether you knew it or not. Jessica Mace became one of three women ever to go over the wall and change tires during the Indy 500.

Her introduction to racing began long ago when her grandfather was a club racer. Bitten by the racing bug, Mace finished her associate’s degree at the University of Akron, then found work that summer at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course near her home in Belleville, Ohio.

“I started working the corners doing flagging and that turned into working for their race control and then I get a job offer from NASA, so I flew out to California and worked with Robert Kinley and Jerry Kunzman,” Mace said in an interview the week before the Indy Lights race at Indianapolis. “I got all my training from the NorCal region.”

After she trained in Northern California, which included working race control during the 2009 25 Hours of Thunderhill race, NASA Midwest/Great Lakes Regional Director Dave Royce reached out to her and asked her to come work race control in those regions. Mace said yes, moved back to the Midwest and worked race control and safety dispatch for those regions.

“They keep a pretty strict time schedule, so we had to make sure the cars go on track when they’re supposed to and get checkered at the right time,” Mace said. “I usually had three timers going, one for when the checker was, one for the five-minute mark and one for the actual length of the session. So that was a lot to keep track of, and sometimes you had two or three radios talking at you, between grid, corner workers and safety. It could be very calm or very chaotic. It just depended on what was going on. I enjoyed it, as crazy as it got.”

Mace has benefited from her network of racing friends and acquaintances. For example, a woman Mace worked with at Mid-Ohio, Helga Klein, recommended her to people at Grand Am. One thing led to another and Mace went to work in race control for the Grand Am series. The first race she worked was the 24 Hours of Daytona, an assignment in which her training at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill paid dividends.

While Mace was working for Grand Am, she got an offer from a racing team out of Michigan that ran NASA and the Continental Tire Challenge. She handled the parts inventory, helped load trailers and worked wherever she was needed, all the while asking questions. Lots of them.

“What’s this for? Where does this go? Any question I could ask, so I learned where the parts went and what they were used for,” she said. “Well, they ran Spec Miata, so I started doing the NASA events again, but working as a mechanic. It’s kind of come easy to me. It’s all been self-taught. It’s just asking a lot of questions. I was working on Spec Miatas and from there I found another position working for a Continental Tire team as a mechanic. I’m pretty quick with this stuff and have a good attention to detail, so that helped a lot, definitely.”

Burton Racing won the 2013 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge championship while Mace was on the team, which provided her the springboard she needed to vault into the Indy Lights series. Mace tested with the team first, and landed a spot with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, which had won Indy Lights championships in 2004, 2006 and 2007, and from 2010 to 2013.

“It’s one of the best Lights teams you can be with,” Mace said. “They’ve got numerous championships and a bunch of their successful drivers are running IndyCar now. Josef Newgarden, James Hinchcliffe, Simona De Silvestro drove for them. So they’ve got some people who have been successful in their program, and they’ve gone on to be successful in racing.”

Mace is living a dream, for sure, but she’s worked hard to get where she is. Working for a racing team, let alone one fielding three cars in the Indy 500, could be considered a glamorous life. However, there are dirty jobs that come with her position. She handles all the uprights on the Indy Lights team, which are packed with grease. Cleaning them is no easy task, nor is prepping a wrecked car to be rebuilt or mopping up a bad oil leak before repairs can begin.

“The long hours are tough,” she said. “This team is one of the better ones I’ve worked for as far as timing at the track. We like to get in, get our stuff done, get it done right and let’s go home. The travel is great, but you see the airport and the racetrack usually. You don’t get to see all the sights, like go to the ocean or go to a museum or something like that. It’s track, airport, hotel. Repeat.”

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Mace said she learned a lot from her days with NASA and from working on other teams. She worked just as hard in club racing as she does now for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and that work ethic likely is why she got to where she is today — part of a pit crew at one of the greatest spectacles in motor racing.

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“At the club level, especially when you’re working for a team and taking care of customers, you learn a lot,” she said. “You make sure they get treated really well. You learn that these guys who are out having fun every weekend deserve just as much respect at the guy running an IndyCar.

“NASA was great in showing me what this is about,” she continued. “This is the racing world and it definitely was a big help to get that eye opener about how things are run.”

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Images courtesy of Jessica Mace, Brett Becker and nasaracer