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Interview with Ashley Freiberg

She already has won quite some races and championships throughout her career. Currently, she is moving up the Mazda Road to Indy ladder and hoping to get the ultimate achievement: winning the IZOD IndyCar Series and the prestigious Indy 500. RacingInside.com talks to Ashley Freiberg about her career and future.

Ashley Freiberg

Ashley, you are a talented female driver. Unfortunately, a lot of our visitors will not know who you are.  Could you please give a short introduction about yourself to the visitors that do not know you?
My name is Ashley Freiberg, and I am a 20 year old. I am living in Vermont and currently pursuing to have a career driving in the IZOD IndyCar Series. I started racing in go-karts when I was 13 years old, and currently compete in the Star Mazda Series presented by Goodyear, which is also a part of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder.

My history in racing so far has been successful, with five national karting championships, two Skip Barber (formula car) championships, a Skip Barber National race win, the prestigious Team USA Scholarship nomination, and multiple other prestigious awards and race wins. Even though I have this background, I know that it all came from long hours of hard work, commitment, and determination.

I am a very hard worker at what I do, and am driven to become the best that I can be. I love to learn about every aspect of racing, and I usually completely absorb myself in the sport for a good chunk of my day, every day. I am never satisfied with what I already know, and am always searching and striving for more information on how to better myself.

How did you get involved in racing? Have you always wanted to become a race driver yourself?
I got involved in racing a little different than most drivers. I did not have a family history in motorsports, but rather, my brothers got involved for fun because they had a friend who raced. When they got into go-karts (I was 12 years old at the time), I actually worked up in the timing and scoring tower, so I really got into watching the races and started to fall in love with the sport. I had always been a complete tomboy and very competitive, and played all kinds of sports, like soccer and basketball, so it wasn't too long before I asked if I could give it a try.

Basically, the second I sat in a go-kart was the second my heart was sold. I loved every minute of it, and it was at that very moment that I knew racing was going to be a big part of my life. I will never forget that day.

You have started your career, like many other drivers, in karting. Did you enjoy your period in karting and do you think karting will be an essential step in the career of a race driver?
I definitely think karting was an essential step in my career. Although if I could go back in time, I would have gone sprint racing in a go-kart too, rather than just racing on big road courses like Road America or Road Atlanta. I raced in an endurance lay down type of go-kart, and I think it was great to teach me about momentum, but with the tracks being so big it was a lot more about equipment.

I think karting is great, no matter what level of racing you are at. IndyCar drivers go karting all the time to stay in shape mentally and physically. So yes, if you want a career in racing, buy a go-kart, and hit up the sprint tracks!

You have raced in different cars throughout the years. What are the main differences between all the cars you have driven throughout your career? Which car, do you think, is the most exciting to drive?
Well, I spent about three years in the Skip Barber Series cars, which run on street tires, and the wings produced no downforce. So this year in the Star Mazda car, is my first year driving a car on slicks and with wings that produce a fair amount of downforce. This car is also "stiffer" so it reacts much quicker to inputs than a Skip Barber car. I have definitely had some good learning curves this year, and with all of my competitors having 3 to 4 more years of experience with this, I have definitely had to step up my game to be competitive. This car has been a blast to drive, and I am looking forward to continue that learning curve as the season goes on.

What do you think your further career will look like?
Right now my plan is to either spend another year in Star Mazda or start testing in an Indy Lights car between races to move up there next year. If I spend this year in Star Mazda then I would move to Indy Lights in 2014 and run in that series for two years before I move up to IndyCar.

Even though I have this path set in my mind, I am still open to any other opportunities that come my way. At the end of the day, I just love to drive, so if I get an offer in another type of racing I wouldn't shut that out of my future.

What would be your ultimate achievement in racing? Taking the victory at the Indy 500?
If I had to pick one, my ultimate achievement in racing is to become an IZOD IndyCar Series Champion. Winning the Indy 500 is right up there with it!

Every race driver has good and bad moments during his career. What is your best moment in racing, until now? What is the moment you would like to forget as soon as possible?
It is hard to pick out one in particular, but my best moments in racing are when I know that I have worked extremely hard for something, and achieved it.

The bad times I would like to "forget" have honestly been forgotten as "bad." Now I look back on those times as learning experiences. Really, if I have any bad memories of racing that are so bad I want to forget about them, then I am not sure I would ever be successful because I wouldn't be able to learn from them.

If you could change your life with another race driver for just one day, who will be the one you are changing with?
Good question, I honestly don't have a really good answer for this, but if I had to pick one I would pick Will Power. 1. He is driving an IndyCar, which is my goal. 2. He is leading the championship, which is my goal. 3. He is on one of the top teams. 4. He is a very talented driver and I enjoy watching him drive.

Freiberg racing in Star MazdaIs it hard to keep standing as a female driver in a world which is mainly filled by male drivers? What reactions do you get from other drivers, supporters, teams etc.?
It is challenging mentally when you look at it from the stand point of being "different". For me though, this is what I have always dealt with from the moment I walked into a racetrack at 13 years old in my little go-kart. I am used to it, and have built a thick skin and learned to ignore it because once that helmet goes on, a driver is just a driver. I actually think it would be more interesting to ask a guy what it is like to race against a girl... just saying.

Being a woman can be good and can be bad. Because we are different, we have something more to sell to the sponsors, but because we are different, we also have more eyes glued to our every move, which can be tough when you are having a difficult day at the track. You have to be tough and ignore the "bad" parts, but take advantage of the good, otherwise, as a woman, you won't make it in this sport.

Many people think that the life of a race driver is all fun and just a dream. But if you take a look to the ‘inside’ of racing, what is the hardest part of being a race driver?
Being a racecar driver is a serious commitment. You basically spend 24/7 on this job, because there are so many components to being successful, (car, driver, team, sponsorship, etc.) that it is really a never ending learning curve.

Racecar drivers are athletes, so we train hard at the gym for hours every single day, and train mentally for hours every single day on our simulators at home. We also spend a lot of time looking over in car videos and data from previous events to learn and make ourselves better.

Along with being an athlete, we are business people as well. We find our own sponsorships, do our own marketing, and maintain those sponsorships when we get them (go to events, tradeshows, etc.). We travel non-stop and spend lots of time in airports and hotel rooms, and when we are at home, it’s only for enough days to unpack and repack to leave again.

We also spend a lot of time working with our teams, working on car setup, writing up pre and post reports after each event, and trying to find that last tenth at every track we go to. When we are at the track, we spend way more time working with sponsors and the marketing side than we do driving, because without that, we would never be able to get in a car.

When we do have time to focus on driving, we spend it all in the engineering room working with our engineers on what we need to be faster. I bet I could go on and on about the other sides to racing other than the fun part, but honestly, I love what I do. Even though some of these things aren't the most fun thing I've ever done, it is well worth the joys I get from driving a racecar!

What would you like to say to everyone that is dreaming of a career in racing?
The most important thing you have to know deep down is that you love this sport, and you have to be willing to basically commit your life to it. The drivers who are serious about it are working their butts off all day, every day, and you have to have that desire to do the same.

The most important thing to me is that you have fun with it. Because it is such a commitment, you can't live your life doing something that isn't making you happy. Your dreams can be achieved, but the desire for them can only come from you.