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Our story

Founded in 2021, the Della Penna Motorsports NextGen Foundation was established to honor the legacy of IndyCar team owner and legend, John Della Penna. John immigrated to the U.S.  from Argentina at just 20 years old, with a dream to race cars.  Starting as a race car driver, chasing sponsorship and winning championships in different formula series, he eventually founded Della Penna Motorsports. He understood the incredible sacrifices and intense dedication as well as deep financial pockets that racing demands of everyone involved.  He also understood the importance of mentors and coaches to up-and-coming drivers  and sought to provide opportunities for those who didn’t have the resources to succeed on their own. Michelle was an integral part of his racing life and she spent much of her youth travelling the circuit with her father and the team.  She saw first hand how little diversity there is in the sport and across the industry and dreams of lifting the barriers to entry to create a next gen pipeline that better represents the world around us.

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Meet The Team

 
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Michelle Della Penna

President & Founder

Michelle has been a teacher and entrepreneur in addition to being the mother of three boys so she’s always cared about education and inspiring the next generation. Daughter of a race car driver and IndyCar team owner, Michelle grew up at the track and fell in love with racing at a young age. The sound of Indy Cars revving their engines is music to her ears and her dream is to be part of the change in motorsports by providing opportunities in racing and the industry to young girls.  She is a firm believer in “If you can’t see it, you won’t be it”.

mdp@nextgenfoundation.org

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Sonia Ramos

Community Outreach Liason

Currently Executive Director of California Student Opportunity and Access Program (Cal-SOAP), Sonia’s love of racing started with John Della Penna and their collaboration at the Della Penna Motorsports Team. She has spent over 20 years pursuing her commitment to educational equity, working with under-resourced and under-represented communities for over 20 years, helping students and families navigate the college pipeline. 

sonia@nextgenfoundation.org

 
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Susan Lucas-Conwell

Acting Executive Director
 

A former CEO and entrepreneur, Susan has always been passionate about creating a level playing field for girls and women of all ages. She founded the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs – Europe, was a Board member for Women in SportsTech and regularly mentors for women-led or focused organizations. A competitive athlete herself,  with four daughter- athletes, she is particularly excited about the Foundation’s mission to diversify the motorsports industry.

susanlc@nextgenfoundation.org

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Gino Verna

Creative Services

Gino Verna has been working in branding and design for over three decades. His experience spans from branding in the entertainment industry to not-for-profits and everything in between.  When presented with the opportunity to work with the Next Gen Foundation he jumped at the chance upon reading the “Mission”. 
"It is the most excitement and passion I have felt for a project in years!"-GV

gino@nextgenfoundation.org

 
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The Board
 

Michelle Della Penna

President & Founder

industry advisory council

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Beth Paretta

Owner, Paretta Autosports
www.parettaautosport.com

As the first female director of a performance brand and motorsport for an automotive company (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles), Beth epitomizes the female success story in the automotive and motorsports industries.  

Beth started her automotive career working in automotive dealerships before becoming a Business Development Manager for Volkswagen of America’s Credit division where she worked in wholesale and retail finance and commercial lending for Volkswagen, Audi, Bentley and Lamborghini franchised dealers. 
Click here for full Bio

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Lyn St. James

Automotive Hall of Fame

lynstjames.com

Lyn St. James’ illustrious career has distinguished her as one of the most successful female racecar drivers in history.   

Born in Willoughby, Ohio in 1947, St. James graduated from Andrew’s School for Girls where she majored in business. She also earned a piano teaching certificate from the St. Louis School of Music. St. James got her start in road racing at a time when women were largely excluded from the sport, making her debut in the 1973 Amateur Sports Car Club of America race. 

Click Here for full Bio

drivers advisory council

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Hannah Grisham

Driver
www.hannahgrisham.com

Hannah Grisham is a 21 year old race car driver from Glendora, California, born 2/14/2000. Hannah began driving at age 3, riding motorcycles at age 4, racing karts at age 6, and racing Spec Miata at age 16. So far in 2021 she has raced in the Mazda MX-5 Cup with IMSA, Pacific F2000/Formula Continental with SCCA, and GP2 with the World Racing League. Hannah has over 800 competitive starts spread across almost 400 races in cars and karts from the club to the national level.
Click here for full Bio

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