When Katherine Legge powered her IndyCar across the finish line at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach this month, the British driver was disappointed: She was last among cars still running.

But if the 31-year-old driver’s race result was underwhelming, she could take solace in one fact. Her sponsor, Scott Painter, founder and chief executive of auto sales data website TrueCar, was satisfied to have laid down rubber at all.

“I think it does give us automotive street cred,” said Painter, who founded his Santa Monica firm in 2006. “We’re not just a tech company. Having a race team puts our money where our mouth is.”

The company started small in auto racing, sponsoring a single driver in a midlevel race series last year before moving up to the elite Izod IndyCar circuit this year. The April 15 race was the first for the TrueCar team in the L.A. area.

Painter, a race fan who named his youngest daughter Indy, is sponsoring Legge and five other women drivers in open-wheel, sports car and rally racing series.

Why all women? A skeptic might note it’s because studies show women have the most influence in household car-buying decisions. But Painter, comparing himself to Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane of “Moneyball” fame, claims another motive.

He said Legge and other women drivers have a better return on investment than their male counterparts, both because they’re undervalued by other racing sponsors and because they can generate more publicity.

“If (Long Beach Grand Prix winner) Will Power wins six more races this year, it’s not a big story,” he said. “But Katherine Legge winning one race this year would be the headline of the year in IndyCar racing.”

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