Wilmington's Caitlyn Brown makes history during Indy 500 win

PROUD PARENTS—Joe and Danielle Brown of Wilmington meet with their daughter Caitlyn next to the Team Penske - Josef Newgarden IndyCar prior to the running of the Indy 500 race on Sunday. Photo provided.


Just six races into the 2023 IndyCar season and already Caitlyn Brown, a 2017 WHS graduate, can call herself a champion.

The Wilmington native chugged milk from a bottle and donned an “Indy 500 champion” cap Sunday to become the first female crew member to win the Indy 500.

Brown is the left-front tire changer for Team Penske IndyCar driver Josef Newgarden who made a thrilling last-lap pass to win the 107th running of the Indy 500. The payout, at $3.6 million, is part of Indy 500’s largest purse in history.

For Caitlyn it was proving ground that with determination and hard work you can achieve your dream job.

Her parents, Danielle and Joe Brown, owners of BTI Tire in Wilmington, were thrilled to witness the historic victory for their daughter. They know first hand how hard Caitlyn has worked to become the female mechanic the sends her over-the-wall to change tires in a male-dominated sport.

“I don’t know how she does it,” said her father Joe. “Most of the guys you see on these crews are 6 foot, 200 pounds; and here she is at 5-foot-5 and half their size and she’s handling tires just like the rest of them.”

This was the third Indy 500 race for Caitlyn. As a rookie in 2021, Brown was on an all women’s crew for Beth Paretta’s Autosport Indy 500 team that drew praise but did not win. She’s gone from a backup tire changer to a frontline team leader in less than two years.

Team Penske president Tim Cindric praised Brown’s work during a recent interview with racing.com

“She came to us on the NASCAR program and just wanted to work on race cars,” Cindric said. “When Beth Paretta’s program started up here, we told everybody internally what was happening there and wanted to know if there were any females that wanted to be part of that program, and she was the first one to raise her hand and say, hey, I want a chance.”

“We watched how hard she worked at it. They came in at 5:00 in the morning, doing pit stops before the rest of our pit stop practices started internally, and she worked her butt off. She earned the whole respect of the crew, and obviously we had some of our mechanics on that crew while it was here, and they said, look, she deserves a chance on these cars if she wants it.”

Joe Brown added that Caitlyn is a mechanic, tearing cars apart and building them back together again. It’s not uncommon for her to spend 14 hours a day at the track, getting to know the car inside and out.

It’s that commitment that has earned her the praises of the Team Penske president.

“She’s worked really, really hard to earn her way and earn her spot changing the left front tire on Josef’s car. She is solid. She’s all business,” Cindric told racing.com.

”I think she has the opportunity and, really, the work ethic to be one of the top people at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” he added. “I think her runway is really long, and if she’s patient and she continues to be in the right place and do the things she’s doing now, the sky’s the limit for her.”

Joe said his daughter kind of takes it all in stride. If she was nervous before Sunday’s race it didn’t show. “Her father was more nervous than she was,” Danielle quipped. “She just acts like it’s another day at the garage.”

On Tuesday for Joe the whole victory still hadn’t settled in.

“I’ve been watching that race for years and never had I imagined that one day my daughter would become the first female mechanic over-the-wall to win,” said Joe Brown. “It was a thrill to be there and to witness. We are so proud of her.”