Pippa Mann: Observations from back (and front) stage at Susan G. Komen’s Perfect Pink Party

Published On January 14, 2015 » 3363 Views» By Cathy Kightlinger »

On an otherwise normal Friday afternoon in West Palm Beach, Fla., a Dale Coyne Racing transporter was parked outside the service entrance to the Donald Trump-owned Mar-A-Lago Club, and a pink race car was being unloaded by one gentleman in a team polo shirt, and one blonde girl in jeans and a cardigan, fresh off a plane from Indianapolis. She, the blonde girl, would be me. And we were quite a sight as we literally unloaded our show car for the Perfect Pink Party by the side of the public road, as the team’s transporter too big to fit into the parking lot.

The ballroom was just beginning to get dressed for Saturday night’s event.

Few drapes were hung. No tables in place. No stage constructed. But the chandeliers where going up, and beneath them went the pink Dale Coyne Racing / Susan G. Komen- painted race car. It became the tiniest glimpse into the future, of just how spectacular this juxtaposition of a race car in a ballroom of the same color scheme might be.

Saturday evening we arrived at the venue early. The official reason for was pre-event media — speaking to the local television and radio stations about the Perfect Pink Party. But there was another underlying reason to get there early, too – to have that moment, before anyone else arrived. To see the car before the curious crowds started congregating around her. To have that moment all to ourselves.

(Except of course, me being me, it was to ourselves, and everyone who also follows me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.)

Verizon IndyCar Series driver Pippa Mann, middle, team owner Dale Coyne and his wife, Gail, met business mogul Donald Trump at Susan G. Komen's Perfect Pink Party in West Palm Beach, Fla. on Jan. 10.

Verizon IndyCar Series driver Pippa Mann, middle, team owner Dale Coyne and his wife, Gail, met business mogul Donald Trump at Susan G. Komen’s Perfect Pink Party in West Palm Beach, Fla. on Jan. 10.

The ballroom was incredible —  the pink and white decor was spectacular, and the show car was stunning in the setting that looked like it might have been designed for her. And just as our car had traded the surroundings of the Dale Coyne racing shop, a transporter, or an at-track garage for this sumptuous setting, I traded my firesuit for an evening gown. A trawling of the consignment shops I frequented last fall had drawn me to an amazing floor length dress, and it had been waiting in my closet, ear-marked for this event as its first outing.

As cocktail hour ended, guests started to filter through.

That’s when I was reminded how amazing, and how alien, an open-wheel car actually is to people who don’t follow our sport. Our car was greeted with interest ranging from mild to intent, admiration for her beauty, shock at the fact she does have open wheels and an open cockpit, and jaw-dropping disbelief at the speeds I ran in qualifying for the 2014 Indianapolis 500.

Paying $31,000 to attend the 99th Indianapolis 500 in 2015

A live auction, to raise funds for Komen, started just after nine in the evening. Our 2015 Indianapolis 500 package was third in line. Thanks to the car, the audience was already interested when I arrived on stage to give a few more details about how we would be entertaining our winning guests come Memorial Day Weekend. Then the bidding was off, and it quickly became apparent there were several interested parties who wanted to be with us in May. After going once, then twice, the Indianapolis 500 travel package sold for $31,000! It was the second-highest total from the night’s live auction items. We, and our friends at Susan G. Komen, were thrilled.

Following dinner, I met more guests, and snapped photos with them and our show car.

The highlights for me:

  • Meeting and posing for photos with Christina and Robert Baker, owners of Saks Fifth Avenue, and having Christina be kind enough to pretend she was thrilled about it all.
  • Being introduced to Donald Trump himself, and posing for the now much-shared photo with him, Dale and Gail Coyne in front of our car too.

The Perfect Pink Party 2015 was an incredible event, and overall it raised $1.35 million to continue the fight against breast cancer. I was honored that Susan G. Komen chose not only to invite us, but that they asked for an auction package around the racing program. I was also proud to be able to expose IndyCar, and the Indy 500 to such an elite group, and I was delighted by how many of them seemed totally captivated, enchanted by our pretty pink show car. And I was thrilled that I was able to share the whole experience with my team owner Dale, and his wife Gail.

My partnership with Susan G. Komen means so much to me personally. I am proud to be a spokesperson and represent them, and I am looking forward to everything else we have planned together for 2015.

About The Author

Cathy Kightlinger

Cathy Kightlinger began telling stories about Verizon IndyCar Series drivers and their families in 2010 while writing a culture column for The Indianapolis Star. She loves open-wheel racing, popular culture and lifestyle news so she joined the IndyCar staff in 2014 to combine all of those interests. Her blog, #TrackChat, will tell you what happens when drivers get out of their race cars – what they wear, listen to, eat, read, and more. She lives in Indianapolis.