Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

With new sponsor and same determination, Katherine Legge looking for redemption at Indy 500

UPDATE: In last weekend’s qualifying, Katherine Legge locked up a spot at the 108th Indianapolis 500. She’ll be 31st in the starting lineup, with coverage airing Sunday, May 26th beginning at 11am ET on NBC and Peacock.

A year ago, Katherine Legge returned to the Indy 500 for the third time with high hopes before finishing 33rd – in last place – and returning to the garage after just 41 laps.

It was a disappointing conclusion to a rollercoaster run at The Brickyard that saw the British professional race car driver record the fastest one-lap qualification lap (231.627 mph) and fastest four-lap qualification average (231.070 mph) ever by a woman. Days later, she was in an alarming crash during practice that injured another driver.

Fast forward a year and the 43-year-old is raring to redeem herself at the 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500.

“I think this year is incredibly important for me, just from a redemption standpoint,” Legge said ahead of qualifying. “Last year didn’t go according to plan. It started off OK, but we were hoping to be faster than we were. And even though we got through qualifying, it was kind of a bit of a disaster after I had that crash. Just for my own peace of mind, more than anything else, I need to go out there and have a good Indy 500 this time around.”

Legge’s fourth attempt begins this weekend with qualifying. This time around, she’s got a new team, new sponsor, and is ready to tackle The Greatest Spectacle in Racing with valuable experience under her belt.

NBC Sports’ May 2024 broadcast schedule for Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy 500

Spearheading an authentic partnership

Unlike last year, when RLL Racing asked if Legge would like to drive one of their cars, she spearheaded this year’s partnership with Dale Coyne Racing/RWR to drive their Honda-powered No. 51 car, decked out by sponsor e.l.f. Cosmetics.


Katherine Legge will pilot the No. 51 e.l.f. Honda Dallara for Dale Coyne Racing with RWR.

BRANDed Management, Inc.

e.l.f. is believed to be the first beauty brand to serve as the primary sponsor of an Indy 500 entry.

Deals in the sport happen both ways, with teams approaching drivers and drivers approaching teams. In this case, Legge asked Honda, which recommended DCR (who Legge worked with in 2007), and “we put the deal together with e.l.f. and Dale and Honda and everybody’s happy.”

It’s a breath of fresh air for a woman in a male-dominated sport to have a female-centric primary sponsor, and it’s fitting at a time when women’s sports are on a dramatic rise.

“It feels incredibly authentic, right? I can speak to the products; I’ve used them,” Legge said. “I think it’s great that we’re finally advertising to women within the sport, and I think that it’s great that companies are stepping up and trying to empower women and saying, yes, we know there are a lot of naysayers out there, but we’re going to stand up against it and say you know what? We believe in the women who are trying to achieve these things in male-dominated arenas.

“I just feel like a big kind of girl power thing that we’ve got going on. One that I can speak to somewhat intelligently. Most of the sponsors I’ve had, I’ve been lucky that I can relate to them in some way, shape or form, but this just seems different to have a partner I use on a daily basis.”

“How you roll off the truck kind of sets your week.”

Legge was able to give a little feedback on her No. 51 pink ombré car prior to this week, but early testing was rained out. So the five days leading up to Saturday’s qualifying have been crucial to setting the vehicle up for success by testing on the track and tweaking with engineers.

Despite a new car and new competition this year, Legge was able to absorb a lot from last year’s experience, which was her first appearance at the Indy 500 in a decade.

“It was a bit like being a rookie again last year because it’d been so long… Now I don’t feel quite so green. I feel like I have a little bit more experience. Not a ton; I still would like more track time, and I’m looking at the weather forecast hoping that it doesn’t rain and we get that track time. It’s just a level of comfort and security and competence that you don’t have when you’ve been out of the car for 10 years. When you’ve been out of the car for a year, it’s slightly better.”

And then there’s the weight of the mistakes that Legge doesn’t want to make again. She wants to learn from those and have her performance on the race track be a true representation of her skills. Still, the car itself plays a big part in the final result.

“The guys at the front are having a much easier time than the guys at the back because the car is easier to drive,” Legge explained. “So you’re very much limited on how good the car is, and I’m just hoping that between myself and my engineers, we can get that car dialed in and super fast and have a shot to be in the top 10.”

For Legge, testing is the most important part – “so important.”

You have a week, then qualifying, then another week, then the race; you don’t just show up and win.

“Honestly, how you roll off the truck kind of sets your week,” Legge said. “You can make small improvements here and there, but you kind of know where you’re at within the first day or two. It’s all the work that the engineers have done beforehand and other preparations. We’ll see how good or not and where we land. “


Chris Owens/IMS

Chris Owens/IMS

“We only change their opinion by being successful.”

Having been on the racing scene since the early 2000s, Legge has had one of the best seats in the house to watch the women in sports revolution.

“I’d say it’s been crazy. The ball has been rolling. I wish I was 20 years younger, right? If I was just coming in now, the opportunities that are available to these young girls are immense. I think that’s a testament to a great deal of work put in by people like the FIA and the Women in Motorsport Commission. It snowballs, because to get more competent female drivers, you need to start grassroots and start when they’re young and teach them properly and support them…

“Literally, there was Danica [Patrick] from the States and there was me from Europe. Before us, there was only three really. There was Janet Guthrie, Lyn St. James, and Sarah Fisher. And then after Danica and I, there’s kind of nobody filling that void, but then there’s, I don’t know, a five, six, 10 year gap where there’s a bunch of young women who are looking like they will come up through the ranks that are being supported by the organizing teams, etc. I hope it’s definitely going to snowball from there.”

Legge spoke on the evolution from women in motorsports being perceived as a novelty, or a gimmick, to something closer to gender parity.

“I still think it’s a bit of a novelty, but hopefully not so much,” Legge said. “… I don’t think people within racing see me as anything other than another competitor, but I think from the periphery, from the outskirts, if you look on Instagram or you look at last year and the comments that people make, they just wouldn’t do that to a guy. I don’t know what it is. I think there is a shift in attitude, generally. But that takes time, right? It’s not gonna happen overnight. And it’s just educating people.”

“We only change their opinion by being successful… My thing is, you wouldn’t take advice from somebody you don’t respect. So you just keep your head down and keep doing your job and hopefully more people become positively for you and not against you.”

Legge understands the responsibility that comes with being a trailblazer in her sport, but she also hasn’t spent decades racing just for the sake of making progress for the women who come after her.

“Honestly, I don’t do it for the greater good. I do it because I love racing, and I want to be successful because it’s something that I set out to do. But with that comes a responsibility. I feel like I’ve got to do it in the right way and be a good example, and I think, ‘OK, would I make my dad proud? Would I make, if I had a daughter, would I make her proud? Would I be a good example to the young Katherines of the future?’ And as long as I can look myself in the mirror and say, ‘Yes.’ Then that’s a good thing.”

Still, there are trolls that are focused on the singular fact that Legge is a woman, even though the “car doesn’t know the difference,” so she has to block them out.

“They used to bother me. But then you grow and realize that they’re not doing what you’re doing, right? They don’t have the courage to go out and put the funding together and do it, so why even let it enter your psyche? All you can do is what you think is right and hope that it leads to change.”

And the change that Legge wants? It’s not what you may think.

“I don’t want 50/50 grids. I want the best drivers for the job on the grid, and that’s not always the case, right? Some people bring money, some people get paid, some people are overlooked. It’s about marketing as well. At the end of the day, it’s a sport, but it’s also a show for the public. So you need different personalities and you need all these things. It’s never going to be completely fair. But I work my butt off to be there. I work my butt off to be the best driver that I can be, and I think I’ve earned my spot there. So I will take it, run with it, and try to make everybody proud.”

RELATED: Entry list for the 108th Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

A physical test in a 130-degree sweatbox

As with golf, motorsports can suffer from a perception that “driving a car” is easy. Unlike golf, the general population can’t go out and take a car for a test drive at a cool 240 mph.

“I don’t think that people think driving a race car is hard because they drive a road car and they’re like, ‘oh, it’s easy,’” Legge said. “But it’s nothing like it. It doesn’t relate to your normal car at all, in any way, shape or form.”

Legge doesn’t mince words when explaining the challenges of handling a race car: “I think that’s partially why we don’t see more women involved in it, because you’re in a sweatbox. Literally, it’s 130 degrees in the car. It’s really physical, and you’re getting thrown around – the suspension is not what it is on your road car. And your heart rate is at like 180 for three hours. It’s immensely difficult just to drive the car, let alone to have all the awareness and race it and tell your engineers what you want from a setup standpoint and earn the respect of your peers and all the other things.

“I know most people think that they could be race car drivers given half a chance, but it’s actually incredibly difficult.”

There’s no exercise that simulates exactly what you get in a race car, so drivers train incessantly to get their strength to the necessary level. In Legge’s case, she builds that strength with two-a-days, doing some form of cardio (running, cycling, swimming) in the morning, followed by weights in the afternoon four days a week. That split is a mix of upper and lower body and core.

“You would not be able to drive the car without [weightlifting]. You just would not be able to hold on to it. Yes, you get bigger and bulkier and my arms are probably bigger than most guy’s, but you just need that repetitive strength. Luckily, it’s not outright strength, right? It’s not like, ‘hey, I can bench press 200 pounds.’ It’s like doing it over and over and over again, which means that I can compete equally with guys as long as I’m willing to put the hours in the gym and get that repetitive strength up and the ability to handle the G-force and everything else.”

The Brickyard’s je ne sais quoi

The Indy 500 is among just a few sporting events in the world with a magnetic, indescribable energy. Not because of its sheer size – although put 300,000 people anywhere and it will probably be electric – but because of the build-up, the history, and what it means to everyone. It’s just… special.

“It has some je ne sais quoi that you can’t put your finger on,” Legge said. “But you get goosebumps when you drive through the tunnel into the place. The crowds… when the crowds are all on their feet cheering for somebody, it’s like something you’ve never experienced before. 300,000 people is a lot of people… You’ve got other sporting events like the Super Bowl that have that larger than life feel, but this, to everybody in racing, this is the gold standard.”

Legge learned after her last appearance in Indy that she couldn’t take so much time between reps and expect to be instantly successful, but her hopes are still high for 2024. How much she can realistically get out of her car will determine whether the goal is qualifying or finishing top six, but it doesn’t seem like this will be a “fourth and final” situation.

“I would really hope that it’s top 10, top 12. But I honestly want it to be a springboard for more success in the future too.”

Coverage of all the action from Indianapolis Motor Speedway air on NBC and Peacock. Click here for a full rundown on the 2024 Indy 500.