Written by Carrie Stevens, editorial intern
How fast have you driven a car? As a law-abiding citizen, we’re going to assume not too much higher than the speed limit. Racecar driver Ashley Freiberg, on the other hand, regularly clocks in over 100 miles per hour like it’s no sweat, and wins races pretty consistently in the male-dominated sport. Ever since she began racing as a teen, Freiberg has nabbed first place in 29 Skip Barber races (racing's equivalent of being signed to the minor leagues), and in 2010, she captured two Skip Barber Series championships and became the first woman to win both a Skip Barber Racing Series overall title and Skip Barber National Series event.
Freiberg will be the first to tell you there’s more to the sport than driving with a lead foot, though. We sat down with the 21-year-old to talk racing, training and her favorite ways to break a sweat when she’s not behind the wheel. Ready, set, go!
You first learned about the racing industry when you nabbed a job as a timing official when you were 11 years old. What did you think about it back then?
Well, my brothers got into racing when I was about 10 years old and honestly, I didn’t even think women raced. I just thought it was mostly guys, so it never really crossed my mind that a girl could be out there. But I loved watching it, that’s for sure. That’s why I wanted to be in the timing and scoring tower because I could watch racing all day long. Then as I started to get older, I saw more girls on the track racing go karts and I thought, ‘Hey, maybe this is something I could do.’
Was your family supportive when you decided to give it a try?
I’ve always been a tomboy. I grew up with two brothers and no sisters, so I was always on a skateboard and playing basketball. The only person who was against it was my mom. She didn’t think I was aggressive enough, I guess. I remember a friend of ours was like, ‘I think she’s got it in her,’ so he kind of convinced my mom to get me into it.
Speaking of basketball and skateboarding, do you think your athletic background helped make the transition from team sports to racing easier?
For sure! I’ve always been super competitive; I think growing up with two brothers is what helped grow that competitive spirit inside of me because we’d always be seeing who could be the best at this or beat each other in any kind of game. I definitely think that sports really helped develop all kind of skills that transitioned into racing, like determination, handling pressure and competitiveness.
Your career really started to take off while you were still in high school. Did you miss any of the high school rites of passage?
Oh yeah. I never went to prom. I went to one high school dance freshman year, and then driving got way more serious, so it ended up being the only one I went to.
But you were happy with the decision?
To be honest, when I look back, I’m really happy with the choices I made. Sometimes I didn’t hear the best stories after prom!
What are your favorite kinds of workouts?
I like to mix it up and challenge myself. Recently, I got into rock climbing, so that’s been challenging physically, but also mentally—I’m afraid of heights. But that’s why I wanted to get into it because it would push me beyond what my perceived limits were. And when you’re in a racecar, that’s what it is. You’re thinking, ‘How hard can I push? How hard can I push? Go harder, I know I can go harder’—like banging my head on that limit ceiling. So that’s why I got into climbing, and I like to be outside too. I like to go skate skiing too, which is a fun, killer workout. I just like to be outside!
How is training for racecar driving different than a typical workout?
I just try to mix it up as much as possible and use as many skills as I possibly can to challenge different parts of my body. Even eye usage—I have workouts for my eyes that literally strengthen them—you focus on things close to you, then far away, and they literally hurt afterwards. I’m driving a new car this year, too, and it’s enclosed with the engine basically in there with me, making it very hot. So training for heat conditions will be something new for me this year, for sure.
What’s it like racing guys? Do they push you more?
Honestly, it seems normal to me. Growing up with brothers, I’m used to that and being competitive. I say ask the guys how they feel racing a girl.
More from FITNESS: