Q&A: Junior Racer Ashlyn Speed from Arlington, TX
Eleven-year-old Ashlyn Speed (yes, that is her real last name) is no stranger to regulars at our Arlington location. She’s been racing at K1 Speed since 2015 when her father took her after school for some fun. That visit exposed some natural talent in the then eight-year-old driver, that led to her progressing to outdoor go-karts on her step to becoming one of America’s top junior racers.
We recently had an opportunity to interview her and her father, Greg, while they were driving to the track to do some kart testing and modifications, and here’s what we chatted about:
K1 Speed: Ashlyn, we see you’re currently racing in the Texas Sprint Series?
Ashlyn: Yeah, that’s where we’re pushing ourselves a bit this year. Last year we just did club racing. And so this year we said, ok, this year we’re going to enter the Texas Sprint Series and see how things go. Next year we plan on going to the next level which is the Texas ProKart Challenge Series. That’s our plan.
K1: How long have you been coming to K1 Speed?
A: We started at the beginning of 2015 when I was eight years old. Back then they split the Junior League into two five-month series. So we did half the first, and then really started working on it. And the guys at K1 were so helpful. Like if we were out there and there was no one else in the building, they’d put some cones out and help me understand the racing lines. We could go out and walk the track. So it was just a really cool experience.
Greg: For the second half of 2015, we ended up winning the championship. Then in 2016, when K1 moved it to the full year, she won that (Junior League) championship. In 2017 we started exploring gas kart racing and so we ended up getting all her gear started, testing, and coaching with our team, CORE Karting. So, we started working with them – and did only one race in 2017 at K1 Speed. So, 2017 was concentrating on the gas-kart racing. After winning the two championships, she felt she wanted to let other racers have a chance. And we made some good relationships with racers at K1 Speed. We just wanted to keep moving forward.
K1: How has the transition been from K1 Speed to the gas karts?
A: Well, it’s a lot faster definitely, and more physical.
K1: Have you been able to apply what you learned at K1 Speed to the gas-powered racing?
A: Yeah, definitely. From K1 Speed, I’ve learned about racing lines, where the best apexes are, and how to pass. Those are the three skills you really need to start out with.
K1: Did you do much racing before K1 Speed? How did you get started racing?
A: Well, my dad after school said let’s go to this place called K1 Speed. The people at K1 said I was pretty good, and that they have a league (Junior League).
G: Yeah, that day after school, I remember I said, “Hey, let’s do something fun. How about Go-Karts?” She said, “What’s that?” and I said, “Oooh, you’re going to like this. Let’s go to K1 Speed”. We went in there and you know, obviously normally you don’t just get on there and kill it. Well, she had one of the best times of the month right off the bat. She was not bashful. You know, I think there’s some many girls that get there, and they tend to be real shy about barging into the corners and stuff like that, and she never was that way. She would just go and get ‘em. So I thought, “Wow, she likes this. This is going to be great!”. You know, with kids you gotta let them try a bunch of stuff and see what they like, whether it’s baseball or soccer, crocheting, whatever it may be. And hey, we tried it, and this was her thing.
I think it was the end of 2015 when we went to our local track (North Texas Karters) and we went out there and did a test drive in one of their karts. And when she was getting into the car to head back home she asked, “sooo are we gonna get one?” and I was like, “Oh gosh..let me see if I can get some sponsors together,” and I pretty much gave it four months of just not racing, and just see if she maintained her excitement, and she totally did. We went out to a race to watch some actual racing out there and she was just super pumped about it. That’s why I started getting together sponsors and a package to make it happen.
K1: So, Ashlyn are your goals to become a pro racing driver as a career down the line, or just something fun for now?
A: Yeah, if we can afford to keep doing it. It’s really expensive, but I don’t know – I’d like to.
K1: And I take it you’re a bit of a racing fan yourself, would that be safe to say?
A: Yes, that’s correct.
K1: Any series you follow?
G: Well, to be honest, she likes to race a whole lot more than she likes to watch racing. In fact, we were just talking a little while ago about sunburns or something, and I said, “Hey, remember that time we went to the NASCAR race and you fell asleep, and that whole right side of your body was sunburned?” She would go to a race, but at 11 years old, you don’t really know enough to understand what is going on. But we love going down to the pits. We got to go hang out with Alexander Rossi – I don’t know if you saw that story.
K1: That’s right, she famously met Rossi in 2016 after he won the Indy 500 and he signed the excuse note to her principal to explain the absence ( click here for the news story ).
A: Right, that was really cool. And two weeks later, he invited us back to the garage when the Texas Motor Speedway race was going on, and I got to sit in his car. We got to hang out for about 15 minutes – he told me all about how the steering wheel works, and all that sort of stuff. We loved the experience. Three weeks ago, we went out to the NHRA drag strip near us and talked to people.
G: When (pro racers) find out she’s a racer, you know racing is a family. They would say, “hey come here, let me show you,” and they’ll put her in the car, they’re telling her how the dragster works. There’s a bunch of the guys from Street Outlaws on the Discovery Channel who were racing, and so we got to hang out with them. So it’s just these experiences – they’re just so wonderful.
K1: Ashlyn, are you training when you’re not at the track?
A: We’re borrowing a simulator from a racing friend right now, but I don’t really use it. I do tumbling to help with balance and strength.
G: So that’s good for those two things, while also being something she enjoys.
K1: Where can we see Ashlyn race next?
A: Next Saturday (March 31) is our club race, and that’s at the North Texas Karters track. In two or three weeks, is the next Texas Sprint Race series at my hometrack as well, so I’ll have the advantage there.
K1: It does sound like outdoor karting has been your focus lately, but will you still be making a stop at K1 Speed in the future?
A: Yeah, at some point I’ll be bringing my kart out (to K1 Speed Arlington) to answer questions from other kids about the next steps in karting.
G: We’re maintaining a really good relationship with you guys. People gave so much to us along the way, that we want to help out too and pass along that excitement.
For the latest news about Ashlyn, visit her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter: @AshlynSpeed