Freiberg is combo of fire and nice

Ashley Freiberg will be on the grid at Exhibition Place this week for the Honda Indy Toronto...

Ashley Freiberg will be on the grid at Exhibition Place this week for the Honda Indy Toronto driving the No. 91 TrueCar Racing Star Mazda in a pair of races in the IZOD IndyCar Series ladder program.

DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:16 PM ET

When Ashley Freiberg was 11 years old, her two older brothers brought her along one Saturday to watch them at a local Go Kart track in their hometown of Homer Glen, Ill. — about 40 km west of Chicago.

They gave her the job of timing laps as they raced with a group of their friends.

This was not exactly what she had hoped she would be doing when she got the invite — so she asked her dad why couldn’t she race Go Karts, too.

His answer was to send her off to a karting school to learn how to do it properly.

Let’s just say, her brothers have been playing catchup ever since.

Freiberg will be on the grid at Exhibition Place this week for the Honda Indy Toronto driving the No. 91 TrueCar Racing Star Mazda in a pair of races in the IZOD IndyCar Series ladder program.

The now 20-year-old is a rookie in the Mazda series, but she got there after a championship season in the Skip Barber Racing Series in 2010 where she won an incredible 25 races.

“I have always been a very competitive person,” Freiberg said Monday in a phone interview from her home in Bondville, Vt.

“I played a lot of sports like basketball, soccer and got into martial arts — so it was sort of natural for me to want to try racing.”

She said her racing story was one of love at first sight.

“I didn’t have a family background in racing,” Freiberg said. “Basically, the second I sat in a Go Kart I fell in love with it — so it has been a love affair with speed ever since.”

She knew right out of the gate that the sport she chose was not one that welcomed girls with open arms, but she wasn’t about to let the little fact of gender deter her ambitions.

“I walked into the sport having the expectation that ‘OK there is mostly guys in this sport’ — so it wasn’t something that blind-sided me being the only girl at most races,” Freiberg said.

“Yes, I have had to prove myself but it hasn’t been anything super challenging for me because I prepared myself for it.”

Also there was that matter of having an aggressive side to her character that jumps out when she is battling for position on a race track with anyone — male or female.

“I am not backing down to anyone on the race track,” Freiberg said.

“Once my helmet goes on I have an entirely different personality. I don’t take any (crap) from anyone.

“Being a female there is the perception that I might be easy to push around. So I do sometimes have to put that little bit of extra aggressiveness into basically shoving people back — sending the message that ‘Yes I am serious about this (racing).’

“That is definitely a necessity if you want to be competitive.”

And competitive is what she has been since her karting days.

In 2006, Freiberg was undefeated, winning the Championship Enduro Series and that led to her being chosen to be part of the Women in the Winner’s Circle Driver Development Academy that was founded by Lyn St. James.

The next year she again won the CES karting championship and was ready to jump into real race cars.

In her first season in the Skip Barber series she won races at Sebring, Road America, Road Atlanta and Carolina Motorsports Park which lead to her championship season in 2010.

“Obviously my 2010 season took a lot of hard work just to get there,” Freiberg said. “Achieving those goals made me realize that if I really put my head down and worked really, really hard — I can make stuff happen.

“Being able to prove that to myself fuelled me to believe that I can do anything.”

Then came the realization that it would take more than hard work on the race track to get ahead in big-time racing.

“Last year I spent most of the season going to race tracks telling teams that I would love to drive for them — but that I didn’t have any money,” she said.

But Freiberg got a break this past off season when an official from the TrueCar Racing program, who had watched her during her championship Skip Barber season, gave her a call.

“He just phoned me up and said, ‘How would you like to have a fully funded ride in Star Mazda,’ ” she said.

It was a big step up from the Skip Barber cars both in the horsepower and competition department.

Freiberg found herself racing against much more experienced drivers in cars that had more horsepower and added down force.

“It’s been interesting because I’ve been having to keep my expectations in check,” she said.

“I came into the Star Mazda series thinking I’m going to get some top-fives or a podium — but I’m fighting like crazy to get top-10s.”

Freiberg is, however, anxious to get to Toronto’s temporary street course where she thinks she can nail her best finish of the season after a couple of oval races over the past month.

“I am pretty excited to get back to a street course,” she said.

Her next goal is to win in the Mazda Series and then move up to the IndyCar Series.

And when she gets there she won’t be content just to be part of the show.

“I hope to be racing in the IZOD IndyCar Series,” Freiberg said. “From that, work up to being a front-runner winning races. My ultimate dream is to become an IndyCar champion. I don’t want to be middle of the pack. I don’t want to be just driving around. I am always striving for more. I always want to better myself and be the best that I can.”


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