The female engineer led by the Ganassi team achieved the first victory

Exhausted after closing out the win at the Twelve Hours of Sebring, Earl Bamber heard shouting ’round racing when engineer Daniel Shepherd had first acknowledged.

Last weekend Shepherd became the second woman in at least two decades to lead an IMSA sports car team to victory. Lina Gade, who is also an engineer, led the Audi to victory in 2013.

Shepherd leads his new team to victory for the second time in the prestigious endurance race at Sebring. The 28-year-old was promoted from Alex Palu’s IndyCar championship winning team to his dream job of lead engineer during the off-season.

She is now in charge of Cadillac, startup No. 02 for Chip Ganassi Racing; A year ago she became the first woman to cross a wall at a pit stop.

Shepherd was atop the timing stand during a test in Atlanta in October as Ganassi was building a crew for the bomber and co-driver Alex Lynn.

“I remember him asking at the time, ‘What do you think?’ And I said, ‘We have to keep that,'” Bamber said this week. “For us inside the car, we’re an important part, but I’m a big believer in the fact that if the best people behind you, the best. Engineers aren’t the best team, so you can’t even win the race. You need to walk both side by side.

“I really believe we’ve got one of the best in the paddock with Daniels on the timing stand. I was a big believer from day one.”

Shepherd, an Ohio native and an engineering graduate from Wooster College, began her career at KV Racing working for childhood hero Jimmy Wasser, the driver for whom she moved each year from her seat at the keyhole at the Mid-Ohio sports course. She was screaming At Sebring, they were side by side in the pits.

The moment of full circle on Shepherd was not lost after Saturday’s win.

“It’s emotionally interesting and weird because it’s like something you achieve, something you’ve worked so hard for, it’s kind of out there,” Shepherd said. “You can always strive for more, but it’s exciting.”

She has had a successful career at Ganassi and was part of two IndyCar championships, the first coming in 2018 with Scott Dixon. Shepherd steadily rose through the ranks, pursuing the IndyCar job equivalent to NASCAR crew chief. All these tasks are in the hands of men.

This year the expansion to two IMSA cars opened up an opportunity Shepherd worked for, even though it was in a different series.

“Being chief engineer has always been my goal, so the opportunity came and I told them I was interested in doing it,” Shepherd said.

It was tested extensively at Sebring, on and off the track. Kevin Magnussen was the scheduled third driver but the team had to scramble for a replacement when he was unexpectedly offered and took his old job in Formula One.

Neil Jani had about a week’s notice that he was running with Bamber and Lynn at Sebring. And then Bamber really tested the team’s nerves with a highly eventful final stint. He overcame two incidents and a penalty in his final 75-minute drive that could have cost the No. 02 team a victory.

Bamber inherited a lead of more than 30 seconds, but collided with another car exiting the pit lane and was given a drive-thru penalty. A few seconds after making the pass he needed to take the lead, Bamber turned around in another bump.

He had to chase Richard Westbrook a second time to reclaim the lead, and he eventually took control of the race with 45 minutes remaining. Bamber jokes about the tension created by his gaffes, but Shepherd runs an aggressive schedule.

“She definitely likes to push boundaries and I love that she’s not afraid to take some bold steps,” Bamber said. “It’s what’s important in racing is to test the extremes, and she leaves no stone unturned before going into the race to make sure she gives us the best car, and I think that’s what strengthens her.” makes.

“She constantly wants to improve, and that’s what I love about her character. And she keeps us straight and narrow.”

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