Former Homer Glen resident gains racing milestone
BY TINA AKOURIS email@example.com March 13, 2014 7:30PM
Ashley Freiberg's car, a BMW M3 during the Daytona race on Jan. 24., 2014. | Photo courtesy of BRANDed Management
Updated: April 15, 2014 6:02AM
The last time Ashley Freiberg was in her hometown of Homer Glen was three years ago, when she was working to make a name for herself as one of the few females in motorsports.
But the next time Freiberg goes back to the southwest suburbs, she will have the title of being the only female in motorsports history to win a race at the Daytona International Speedway.
Freiberg, 22, and her co-driver from Fall-Line Motorsports, Shelby Blackstock, won their first IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge in the BMW Performance 200 on Jan. 24.
Not only did Freiberg become the first woman to win a race at Daytona, she also became the first woman to win overall in a Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.
“This definitely spread a lot of attention toward me and the team, that’s for sure,” said Freiberg, a 2010 Lockport High School graduate. “I’ve been getting a lot of interview requests and it’s pretty cool. I’m still trying to absorb it all.”
Blackstock, the son of country music star and actress Reba McEntire, also drove the 200-mile road course race in a BMW M3. Freiberg qualified the car and drove it in the race’s first 50 minutes and then Blackstock took over.
“We knew the car was fast, and we planned on charging through the field, but it exceeded our expectations,” Freiberg said. “I’m glad we made it happen. I’ve been working my butt off to get up to speed in a new car, and it was awesome to pull off a win.”
Michael Harvey, team manager at Buffalo Grove-based Fall-Line Motorsports, said the race team had their eye on Freiberg for about a year before she joined it. This is Freiberg’s first year with Fall-Line, and the Daytona race was her first with the company.
“When we had the opportunity to put her in the car, we had to match her up with a driving partner because these races are endurance races,” Harvey said.
Freiberg’s next race is Friday at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.
Freiberg, who now lives in Bondville, Vt., said she’s open to racing stock cars some day, but her ultimate goal is to race in the United SportsCar Championship series. Its biggest race of the season is the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.
And Harvey agrees that Freiberg’s future most likely is in a sports car series.
“Open-wheel racing (in the United States) is going through some tough times, and I think there is more opportunity for her in sports car racing,” he said. “There are more cars, classes and it’s more attractive to the (common) fan. These cars are just highly modified ones that are right from the showroom.”
Winning at Daytona gives a driver in any auto racing series a huge boost to their resume. In NASCAR circles, drivers such as Trevor Bayne, Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman will always have the tag of Daytona 500 champion next to their name.
It can go a long way to getting sponsorships, bringing in more revenue for a driver’s race team and solidifying a driver’s reputation. The cachet of standing on the podium at Daytona isn’t lost on Freiberg.
“In the world of motorsports, there aren’t many (women) around,” she said.“Winning at Daytona is just more significant in terms of the world of women drivers. I hope I can be a role model to prove that we can run up front and win — that it should be the norm.”