Bamboo and racing: It’s an unlikely combination. But for Jackie Heinricher, those two words are her two passions. The first is how she makes her living. The second, she says, “is life.”
Get to know this renaissance woman, who in 2019 is teaming up with Caterpillar and Meyer Shank Racing to bring the first all-female driver lineup to the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) WeatherTech Sports Car Championship.
The Science of Bamboo
When Heinricher was young, her father planted bamboo in his garden, and she fell in love with the fast-growing, highly sustainable plant. “Throughout my time in the military, college and early jobs, always in the back of my mind I knew I wanted to do something with bamboo.”
Serving as a medic in the U.S. Air Force for four years only reinforced Heinricher’s interest in pursuing a career in science. After the military, she received her master’s degree in biology from Tennessee Tech University and spent a decade working in fishery science and management.
Then, in 1998, she returned to her roots — literally — launching a company called Booshoot Technology in her garage, where she worked to divide bamboo plants by hand. Over time, she grew Booshoot into a multimillion-dollar biotechnology firm. Today, as president and CEO, Heinricher leads a team that’s developing unique, patent-pending technologies to shift how bamboo is grown and harvested worldwide. “We’re working to create a sustainable product in the marketplace that can replace plastic.”
The Science of Racing
While she caught the science bug early, Heinricher’s love for racing didn’t come till later. Now 57, she’s in just her 12th year as a professional. “I took a racing school, and one thing led to another. For me, it’s a physical challenge because I came at it late. It gives me those goals that are so important to have in life.”
Despite her late start, Heinricher has packed plenty of action into her racing career, participating in Formula 3 races, the Ferrari Challenge Series, Lola F3 races, the Red Bull Global Rallycross Lites Series and the Lamborghini Super Trofeo of North America.
In 2019, she and her team — Katherine Legge of England, Simona de Silvestro of Switzerland, Ana Beatriz of Brazil and Christina Nielsen of Denmark — are competing in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship on board the No. 57 MSR Acura NSX GT3 racecar, sponsored by Caterpillar. “We plan to go out and do battle. A team like ours has not existed before, but with the kind of support Caterpillar is offering us, we hope to grab a podium.”
Some people may shake their heads at the thought of trying to combine a career in biotechnology with a career in racecar driving, but for Heinricher it makes perfect sense. “What has been such a delight to me is discovering that racing is all about engineering and science. And science is never a straight road — you’re always learning something new.”
Don’t miss Heinricher and her team in the No. 57 car this season! The schedule kicks off on January 24 with the Rolex 24 at Daytona, with 11 races to follow between March and November.