Competing at Indianapolis 500 a 'Dream Come True' for Larson
Jan 13, 2023
The only female car chief in the USAC National Midget Series is an outsider in all the best possible ways.
Lacey Doyle never saw herself serving as the de facto crew chief for Justin Grant and RMS Racing. Honestly, she never saw herself in motorsports period. Doyle is a machinist by trade and a mechanical engineering graduate from Purdue Northwest.
It was only at the behest of her late grandfather that racing even appeared on her radar in the first place.
"My grandpa watched NASCAR and it didn't interest me," Doyle said. "He got me the job at Envirofab (metal fabrication company owned by Joe Kocjan) and always kind of hoped that it would get me into racing too.
"They build race cars and I love welding. I didn’t even know what a Midget was, but I had built a Baja car in college. I think, recognizing that, Joe put me on building cars for RMS."
And remarkably, just a few years later, Doyle is now the shop manager for RMS and is personally working hand-in-hand with Grant this year in pursuit of the two biggest bucket list items remaining in his open-wheel dirt career -- a Golden Driller and USAC National Midget championship.
It was a year ago at the 2022 Chili Bowl that former Grant crew chief Donnie Gentry started to scale back his time on the road and intimated to Doyle that the No. 2J was her car now. It was a really fast turnaround from not even knowing what a Midget was to now having the trust of one of the best in this discipline to be part of his decision-making process 40 weeks a year.
"I've always been mechanically inclined," Doyle said. "I worked at machine shops and loved working with my hands. Joe and Dave Estep (RMS team owners) saw how hard I was working, and I think that showed them something. I was willing to do whatever asked of me and they gave me a lot of confidence that I belonged."
It’s one thing to build a Midget but another thing to set them up, especially for a team capable of winning races on any given night, and Doyle has positioned herself to be part of that process with Grant. That she is effectively an outsider, but a more than capable hand, has actually made her an effective car chief.
She has no preconceived notions about her approach to racing. She is a clean slate for Grant to work with.
"Donnie and Justin would sometimes butt heads," Doyle said. "They wanted the same things but would go about it different ways. I can build the cars. I've learned everything I know from this team and the people on the team.
"If the drivers want something specifically built into the car, I'll ask them 'why' but it's not because I'm challenging them. I'm just curious."
That doesn't mean she's not willing to or able to offer her own suggestions, but she views her role purely as executing whatever her teammates want or need out of the car. And Grant has quickly learned to trust and embrace her instincts too.
"She’s been such a huge asset,” Grant said. "At the track, it’s her and I, and she’s great," Grant said. "She executes everything I ask for. She’s starting to get an eye for the car and set-ups now too. She’s good mechanically. I come up with an idea and she knocks it out of the park and she’s learning every day.
"And really, she comes with such a blank slate perspective due to her background that it makes all of her ideas come from a really interesting and refreshing place. She has a different way of looking at our car so it’s more that rather than her ideas versus mine."
It’s also not lost on Doyle her role as an ambassador for women hoping to follow in her footsteps and work in what was historically a boy’s club of sorts.
"I've always felt that way," Doyle said. "I've always done jobs that were considered odd for women. It was abnormal for girls to go to a machine shop class.
"It's intimidating as a girl to go to a group and insert yourself into that conversation. I hope having me do this for a living opens that door. I love knowing that I can be that positive example because I didn't have any women opening those doors for me."
Doyle recalls a trip to a machine contest with her mom where one of the coaches made the off-hand comment that she 'must be here looking for a husband.' That's always left a chip on her shoulder because, in her own words, ‘I am going to provide for my own household.’
She even hears it at the track when a group walks over to Thomas Meseraull and asks about 'your pit girl' with Meseraull immediately shutting them down to explain how vital she is to their organization as a car chief and shop manager.
Doyle has been spotlighted on the immensely popular TMezTV YouTube channel where the perpetual contender sung her praises.
"How valuable is 'mom,'" said Meseraull. "You have to have mom. She's a lot younger than most of us on the team, but she's a woman and she brings those motherly feel and we couldn't do this without her."
Long-term, Doyle hopes to become a full-fledged crew chief, someone fully capable of leading a team for a full season.
"I've never had a goal until just recently," Doyle said. "I've done everything to this point just purely for the love of working on things. But starting to get more involved in set-ups and building cars with greater confidence, it leads to wanting to become a crew chief.
"The first goal is building that confidence and beyond that, I don't have a next step, but I never have beyond working on things and it's crazy to think this is my life right now."