Car Girl: Formula Mazda Racing Driver Ashlyn Speed

Car Girl: Formula Mazda Racing Driver Ashlyn Speed

by Michael Satterfield - Photos Provided by Greg Speed - 09/18/2023

In the world of racing winning is really all that matters and when it comes to winning 16-year-old Ashlyn Speed has already racked up some impressive accolades, becoming a champion racing driver on the track before she even passed driver's education in High School. Starting out in karting, the Texas teen graduated to sports car racing, before moving on to Formula Mazda. I had a chance to interview Ashtyn about her racing career and her aspirations for the future: 

TGR: Congratulations on being named the 2022 SCCA Texas Regional Driver of the Year. Can you tell us about that journey and your reaction to winning that honor?

AS: I started racing karts when I was 7 at K1 Speed Racing, joining the league racing there, and winning the 2015 and 2016 league championships. Currently, I’m 16 years old with a decade's worth of racing experience. This year I raced a Formula Mazda. 

After rental karting I moved up to gas-power go-karts and raced those for 6 years, winning the 2018 and 2021 North Texas Karters Championships in my class, along with some regional podiums. I never got to race any national races in karting because we didn’t have the money to fund that, but I still enjoyed it just as much.

I started racing cars in 2021 in a spec Miata. In 2022 I won the Driver of the Year award for SCCA, and this year I raced a season in a Formula Mazda, which is an open-wheel car with a stock rotary engine from an RX7. 

This year I have the points to win the 2023 Southern Conference Championship in the FX class in SCCA. My ultimate goal is to race in Indy Car someday. 

Car Girl: Formula Mazda Racing Driver Ashlyn Speed

TGR: How did your journey in motorsports begin, and what inspired you to become a racing driver?

AS: When I was 7 one day after school my dad asked if I wanted to do something fun. He asked if I knew what a go-kart was. I said no and then he said oh I think you’re gonna like this. We went to K1 Speed and bought a few races. 

I naturally took the race line and had one of the fastest lap times of the month. So one of the workers asked if I had done this before, and we replied no, and they recommended joining the junior racing league.


TGR: Texas has a rich history in motorsports. How has growing up in Texas influenced your passion for racing? Also, what is your favorite track to drive in Texas?

AS: I don’t know about other states, but I know Texans love their racing. We seem to be bigger risk-takers in general here. 

We always enjoy going to Texas Motor Speedway about 45 minutes away for IndyCar and NASCAR. TMS has created some very special memories for us like when I got to share a milk toast with Alexander Rossi after his rookie year Indy 500 win.  Of course, we also love Circuit of the Americas. I got to be Max Verstapen’s grid kid at the 2019 USGP. And then I won the 2023 SCCA Lone Star Grand Prix in the Formula Mazda there. 

My favorite tracks to race in Texas are Circuit of the Americas and the gorgeous Eagles Canyon Raceway in Decatur. 


Car Girl: Formula Mazda Racing Driver Ashlyn Speed

TGR: Tell us about your racing career overall. What have been some of your standout moments and challenges along the way?

AS: What always comes to mind when I think of accomplishments is winning at Circuit of the Americas. It wasn’t even the actual winning that made it special for me, but it was how the team celebrated after. 

Our crew chief Phil Green wanted to recreate a photo from years ago that he had done with the Willams boys when they were younger racing cars. The picture was the boys on Phil’s shoulder with their fists in the air. After I won and came into tech, Phil lifted me up and we got a picture. I will never forget that. 


TGR: You have had some significant achievements in your career already. What do you believe sets you apart from other drivers?

AS: I think what sets me apart is my determination. If my mind has decided that I’m going to do something, I do not care how or what it takes to get there, but I WILL achieve or accomplish whatever it may be.

Car Girl: Formula Mazda Racing Driver Ashlyn Speed

TGR: Could you describe the car(s) you race and your experience in racing them?

AS: After racing karts for 8 years, one day I was out at my home track, North Texas Karters, getting some practice in the kart. Someone we knew, William Snyder, came up to us and offered to let me get some track time in his spec miata.

This totally changed how I thought about racing, because after racing only karts for such a big portion of my life I had never even thought about racing cars, and if I had it was just some crazy dream that seemed unreachable. But after I did one session in the car that’s really when I was hooked on car racing. 

I was a bit intimidated by how much more was going on compared to the karts. But slowly I did learn the car and get an understanding of how it handled and I was able to take what I knew from karting and just size up the dimensions basically. 

I did my first race in the Miata in October 2021 at Eagles Canyon Raceway. I love this track so much because I always love riding a dirt bike on the hills and trails. The property is right next to a big field and there is a big herd of cows on it. Last year when the team and I were racing there, the herd was right against the fence line and I wanted to pet them so bad. The only issue was that it had just rained and the trails were just all mud.  

I ended up not petting the cows because I scared them off and got the dirt bike stuck in half a foot of mud. But I always enjoy racing there. I’m glad that was the first track I raced at. 

My second race in my first car was much different from my first race experience. What I mean by that. was I ended that race weekend early, in a hospital. This race was at my home track Motorsport Ranch in Cresson TX. I was enjoying being at my home track, meaning not having to spend money on a hotel and getting to sleep in my own bed. But fast forward to the race where all this chaos started. It was the final race and double yellow flags had just been thrown, so what that means in SCCA is they are going to do a single file line restart, but to do that everyone needs to play catch up to the leader. 

In the action of trying to catch up, two cars got into each other and went off track. It kicked up so much dust and you could not see through it at all. I was behind a bright yellow Miata and my best option was to just stay nose to tail through the cloud of dust. We were entering the cloud, and I saw his car turn to the left, so I did as well and I ended up rear-ending a car going about 20 miles per hour while I was going about 80. 

My car whipped around and I was unfazed, but I just sat there and wiggled everything to make sure I was ok. I felt fine until the safety crew came out and started to pull me out of the car. They put me on a stretcher and into the ambulance on the track to examine me. Once they started putting pressure on different parts of me I thought that was concerning. I couldn’t feel the whole left side of my body. I wasn’t worried at all, but it was distressing to not have any feeling in one side of your body. 

They said I needed to be Care Flighted to the hospital, and honestly I was just excited to fly in a helicopter. But they literally duct-taped my helmet, which was still on my head, onto the stretcher so I couldn’t move my neck. I was actually kind of let down because I wanted to look out the helicopter but all I saw was the ceiling the whole ride. Once I got the the hospital they gave me some morphine and I was definitely feeling good. 

I don’t really remember much after the crash, but after a few hours in the hospital, I was able to walk out. William Snyder, who I mentioned earlier, had been waiting nervously in the parking lot the whole time. When they released me and we all knew I was going to be ok, he asked me if I was ready to get back on the horse, and unhesitatingly I said yes. Little did I know he had already found a new Miata for me to race. 

Not even a full week after the accident I was at the race track and William had said he had something special for me. A few seconds later that replacement Miata drove into the garage we were in. I had no words because I honestly couldn’t really process the whole moment. I got fitted for the car shortly after then went out on track and started practicing again. 


TGR: Racing can be physically and mentally demanding. How do you prepare yourself, both physically and mentally, for competitions?

AS: While most people don’t think racing is physical it most definitely is. About a year and a half ago I started going to the gym and then a half a year ago. I started going every single day for about two hours. I’ve seen big gains which has helped my strength and stamina a lot. Mentally, normally I’m very matter-of-fact about everything. But when I get stressed, I like to listen to worship music and it helps recenter me. 

Car Girl: Formula Mazda Racing Driver Ashlyn Speed

TGR: We often hear about racing being a male-dominated sport. What has been your experience as a young female racing driver? Have you faced any unique challenges or received strong support along the way?

AS: I don’t really think about this sport being gender dominated. I think of it more as if you’re good and have what it takes then you’ll succeed. And my whole thing is I want to win first and be recognized as a female second. Currently, in the motorsport industry, female motorsport racing is being heavily promoted. 

I have noticed that making connections and deals has been relatively easy. Also, a lot of female-only series have been organized. I think it’s a cool idea to give more opportunities to women but at the same time it puts us into our own category and I’m not really a fan of that. For marketing purposes, people love to see females racing. But again, winning first. 


TGR: Are there any racing drivers who have been role models or inspirations for you in your career?

AS: I don’t think any one person inspired me to keep racing, but along the way, I’ve met and heard of a ton of super cool drivers and I definitely have taken inspiration from them. But in my mind, if I’m to look up to someone it’s just a dream at that point to be like them, but I’ve come this far already and someone who is more successful than me is just fueling my fire to push harder and be better. 

I’m really motivated to be my own person. My dad always says, if you can do something in life that is unique or sets you apart, why wouldn’t you?


TGR: Racing often involves teamwork. Can you tell us about the people who have been instrumental in your success, such as your team, mentors, or sponsors?

AS: Firstly I would like to thank William Snyder and his friends, “the guys at the garage”, who helped me these past few years. I would not be doing this podcast today if It weren’t for William and his wife Janet. This dude has believed in me ever since I was karting. He has had a vision of my success since then. 

All the guys in the garage, I wouldn’t have got that car on track and fast on track without them. They put countless hours into that car for me and have sacrificed many things for my benefit. 

I have to thank Phil Green too, who is one of the garage guys and our crew chief.  Shift Up Now, which I am a member of, is an incredible non-profit that inspires and educates women in motorsports. 

Per4Max which makes custom wheelchairs, is one of my sponsors. They made my dad a new wheelchair as part of their support. 

Pryde Apparel is making me a website and merch. McClung Roofing and Fast Track Construction have also been supporting me since I was in karting. Simpson and GoPro are keeping me safe on track and getting some sick clips. Moses and Sitara at Formula Mazda have been super helpful on and off track. And lastly, my dad who’s always believed in me like all these other people and the guy who started this whole thing. 

Car Girl: Formula Mazda Racing Driver Ashlyn Speed

TGR: What advice do you have for young aspiring racing drivers?

AS: I think if you want to start racing the perfect way is to do some rental go-kart races just like how I started. I started at K1 Speed which offers indoor electric go-karts. There are plenty of other places that offer indoor electric karting, but you can also go to places like Dallas Karting Complex which offers outdoor gas-powered go-karts that are a bit faster. 

You definitely don’t want to rush into things that you aren’t ready for or not knowledgeable about. So in order to start I say first go do some rental racing to dip your toes in the water, then after if you want to continue racing and move up to more of a challenge, do your homework first. Go to your local kart track and ask the locals on what’s best for you and pick at their brain. Then you can get more of a clear idea of what’s the best next step for you.

TGR: Looking ahead, what are your goals and aspirations in the world of motorsports?

AS: My big goal and dream is to make it to IndyCar. This is a very expensive path with little room for seats. So we are relying on the guidance of several trusted professionals who are helping guide us. 

Next year I plan to race a season in an open-wheeled series at a national level to gain experience, but I’ll need to raise quite a bit of money to do that.

Car Girl: Formula Mazda Racing Driver Ashlyn Speed
A young Ashlyn with Alexander Rossi and TMS President Eddie Gossage in 2016, a week after Rossi’s Indy500 win. 

TGR: Beyond racing, are there any charitable or community efforts you're involved in that you'd like to share with our readers?

AS: I serve in my church’s nursery on Sunday mornings. I also enjoy helping the US Olympians and Paralympians Association to raise money for Paralympians in training. My dad was a 1992 Paralympian in wheelchair track the VP of the the Dallas/Ft Worth Chapter. Every year we give scholarships to two Paralympic hopefuls as well as giving a money award to someone who has an active role in helping adaptive athletes.

TGR: How do you balance your racing career with other aspects of your life, such as education or personal interests?

AS: I just started a small business doing nails. I’ve been interested in nails for a while and started getting serious about educating myself on the products and even the anatomy of our fingers about a year ago. I did a few of my friend's nails before my business, and they all said that I needed to start a business and start making money off something I’m good at and passionate about. 

In school, I take AP college courses which take up some extra time. I also sing in the top choir in my school so that takes out of school time to go to events and practice my music. I really enjoy my automotive classes at our tech school. I’m in year 3. 

I’m also about to start building my first car with my uncle, a 1980 Porsche 924 turbo. I can’t wait to pull up in the school parking lot in it! It’s a busy life, but there’s never a dull moment. 

You can follow Ashlyn on Instagram @ashlynspeed