In my years of motorsport volunteering it always great to see some young person start out in the bottom and work their way up the ladder of racing. This interview is a great example of this. As matter of fact, when I shook Ashley’s hand I said “ I am glad we never met at the track over all those years as I was part of the Race City Drag rescue team, which means you would have been having a bad day.” To which she agreed!
Velocity Q: Bart Family Racing 3 generations of racing?
Rick Bart “It all basically started in the early 70’s. My mom was at a (snowmobile) race with my dad (watching as a spectator of course). Someone came up and knocked on the window and asked her if she wanted to ride in the woman’s race which they called the ‘powder puff’ at the time.
She jumped on a snowmobile and away she went and ended being hooked on snowmobile racing. So the family started snowmobile racing on an oval track. Then my brother (3 years older than me) & I started racing as well. This went on through most of the 70’s, then my mom had a really bad crash in the late 70’s and that’s when dad said no more snowmobile racing. The racing sleds were sold, we still had recreation sleds and went out and had some fun.
As we grew up we moved away from home. We ended up living in this one place and the neighbour was ‘big’ into snowmobiles and so I ended up buying another snowmobile and started snowmobile racing again.
Back in Saskatchewan they had what they called ‘grass drags’ and we were competing in grass races where 4 snowmobiles go at a time and 2 go onto the next round. And similar to my mom’s situation, someone came up to Ashley and asked her if she would like to race the snowmobile as his son did not want to do it. She was a little reluctant but she ended getting on the snowmobile & away she went. She actually came in 2nd place. After that she was kind of hooked on the that.”
Ashley Bart added “The only reason I lost was the kid had wheels, he cheated – that is the only reason I got 2nd.” Rick added, “They wouldn’t let him do the next year.”
Rick said “That was when we were living in Saskatchewan. Then in 1997 we moved to Alberta. There really was no grass racing anywhere so I took the snowmobile & converted it to pavement, so of course we racing at Race City on the pavement. That’s when Ashley said, “that’s not fair dad gets to race & I don’t anymore.” So we ended up getting her a JR Dragster. That was in August of 99, and on her very 1st JR event she ended up winning the event. So she was hooked!
She was 10 years old and ran that car for 1 and half and we came to realize she really liked this and was doing pretty good, so the 1st car we bought was a just a basic. We were not sure at that point if she would like it enough to continue with it. We ended up buying her a real decent car – more modern with the Wizzer parts for her 13th birthday. She ran that from when she was 13 to 16.
We knew when she turned 16 she would want to go to a bigger car because she was having a lot of fun and was pretty successful at it. So we went and bought this car (Super Pro & Top E 675 hp Dragster) from Rowdy Race Products. The neat about this car is Rusty Hilderman from Rowdy Race Products built this car and like this serial # 1, this is his very 1st dragster.
I ran it for the 1st year because I had to learn the car, I had never driven a dragster, only raced snowmobiles. I had to learn the car, so when Ashley came back and took over the car and came back from a run, I had to understand what she was talking about, the car did this or the car did that. I had to know what she was talking about. So I ran it for a year. And actually for the 1st year if they wouldn’t have added another race in October, I would have won the track championship. But they added an extra race and I couldn’t go to it because Ashley was in the points championship chase in Medicine Hat. It was more important for me to watch Ashley go out and run for a championship than myself. So I think I wound up in 2nd place in the 1st year of running it.
So when Ashley turned 16 she ran this car and the Junior at the same time; which is kind of neat. I never forget her very 1st round win . . . it was actually against Randy Choi – a very good drag racer. It was in Medicine Hat. Ashley made the run in the big car, came back got in to the Junior dragster and as she was strapping in the seat belts Randy came over, shook her hand and said, “congratulations”. It was like one of those little moments you will never forget, like your 1st round win against a real veteran like that was pretty special.
So then she 16 started running this car (Super Pro) and came in 2nd place overall in Calgary at Race City points championship. She lost by 5 points to John Graham. It was quite funny because John decided to sit out 1 of the races. Ashley actually went out & won it and she had an opportunity to win the championship but missed it by 5 points. That was Johns last year and also the neat thing about that was she had 2 wins that year & nobody had more wins in Super Pro that year. That was pretty good – 2 wins in your rookie season in a big car like that, it was pretty special.
So when Ashley was 17 Barb and I asked what do you want for Grad? Most kids would say I want a new car or this or that. Ashley said “I want to go to Florida to the Frank Holly School & learn how to drive a Top Alcohol Dragster.” Well my heart was just melting & Barb was nervous as hell, but I thought this was a helava idea. So we signed up at the Frank Holly drag racing school. She went to the school April 2007 and learned how to drive a Top Alcohol car.
Now Frank Holly drag racing school is the best drag racing school known and a Top Alcohol Funny car or dragster is the most difficult drag racing car to try and drive out of all cars out there. There is so much happening in the car and you need to know what you are doing in those cars in order to get them down the track. The success rate of getting a license is 5 out of 100 because they are that difficult of a car to drive. Ash came out with her license on her 1st try. That was quite a thrill. I remember the very last day of the school she made 6 passes in one day, which is very stressful on the body because of the g-forces – especially when you are not used to it. ”
Ashley said, “Mentally & physically but mentally more so, I have never been so exhausted in my entire life. I didn’t even know I got my license. I had to ask Frank . . . I was just so ‘out of it’ and so exhausted. He was saying all these things and handing papers said sign this & that. I looked at him and said did I get my license or no? He said “Yes, Yes you did” I said “cool” and then passed out, mom & dad were celebrating and I was just too exhausted.”
Velocity Q: With the G-forces you pull in a Top Alcohol car are a lot?
Ashley said “There is 3 g’s on the launch, but thats not the worst part. The worst part is when you let the parachutes go. You go from 3 G’s to -4 G’s, each parachute decelerates the car by 100 mph in 0.5 of a second. So in 1 second you have lost 200 mph. Just like that. It slows you right down. It is so hard on the body. The launch was tough to get used to, but the hardest part to get used to is the deceleration rate, it is unbelievable. I fumbled around being in a new cockpit.
There is a clutch in there, a hand brake, shift buttons and everything and I was really disorientated. You do things you wouldn’t normally do. Actually on my 1st 200 mph pass, I made the run in the car. I got disorientated in the car when I drove through the parachutes, the force on the body was just unbelievable. I was not used to having a foot clutch because it was always a brake & throttle, whereas with this car I actually had to float a foot clutch and they had to give me so much leverage because I wasn’t strong enough to push the clutch in.
You had to float your leg at a 90 degree angle while you’re driving and that was new to me. So when the car decelerated I got really flustered and I couldn’t find the clutch and for some reason I just decided to wing the engine. I remember sitting there saying to myself after I got the car stopped (I am pretty sure they didn’t hear that) “I am really gonna get away with that”, but they definitely heard that one. It was not easy at all – a huge learning curve.
To this day I hate to say it but I can’t drive a standard car. I only know to bring the rpms up to 6000 and drop the clutch. If I did that in a street car they would be pretty mad at me. It was a huge learning experience and it was tough on the nerves, it was tough for mom, it was tough for dad, it was tough for everybody but it was a great experience.”
Rick said “One she got her license she started to drive for Kenny Gilmore Motorsports and drove for him for 4 years. Her 1st National event was in Pomona 2008 and she actually qualified #12.
There was some really neat time when you went from this car here (Super Pro 675 hp Dragster) to the big car, but the big car was business – this car was a lot of fun. The Big car was business. You’ve got T.V. cameras, you’ve got big name sponsors, 40,000 people in the grandstands . . . it was hard to wrap your head around it. Yeah we’re here we’ve made it to the big show. It was really exciting.
When it really sank in, I’ll never forget. We were in Seattle at the North West Nationals in and we were racing one of the Force girls. Barb and I walk up to the starting line, Ashley did the burnout and started to back-up, while we were standing by the water box, John Force & his wife were standing there and he came over shook her hand and said “It’s your daughter against our daughter I hope it’s a good safe race.” They stood behind his car and we were behind our car and that’s when really sunk in for Barb & I. “We’re here – we are in the big show . . .we made it.”
“Right from when she was 8 years old driving that Kitty Kat snowmobile across the grass from Kindersley, Saskatchewan, to being on the starting line with John Force at Seattle Washington. Wow. What a road it took to get here. It was a fantastic road – we’d never change a thing . . . we enjoyed every minute of it. Yeah there was some good times & there was some bad times but that is drag racing. If it was easy everybody would do it. It’s so tough to stay up at that level – the cost of operating those big cars is astronomical.
Our biggest problem is that we are geographically handicapped. The closest National event was a 14 hour tow to Los Angeles. Los Angeles: 30 hours, Las Vegas: 24 hours. The tow and the cost of that is so expensive because we are racing way down in the States. Who from Canada wants to sponsor and put their name on the car? What benefit do they get from advertising in Los Angeles & Seattle. It’s so tough for us to obtain sponsorship. So again I always said we are geographically handicapped. It made really tough to stay up there but we did it for 4 years, lot fun & good memories.”
Velocity Q: “For this year you’re heading to the North West National Open Series and Top Eliminator Club in Edmonton with this car, (Super Pro & Top E 675 hp Dragster) but if you got a sponsor for the other car you could go back to the other car?”
Rick Bart said “Absolutely, best pass in this car is an 8.03 at 166 mph, best pass in the big car was 5.35 at 264 mph. I think Ashley still has the 3rd fastest pass by a female driver in a blown Top Alcohol at 5.35.
Velocity Q: “Do you have an all-time favorite racer that you always looked up to?
Ashley said “There is a few people I look up to. I would say Erica Anders, (from Houston Texas on the Pro circuit for Pro Stock) would be one. I have a lot of respect for her. She started from juniors and worked hard for where she got. She ‘earned her stripes’ the way I think any driver should, male or female. I guess I have a lot of respect for her. She is a great driver too. She actually just set a new world record yesterday. She is the fastest female in Pro stock. She set a record at 214-215 mph. I really like her. I like people who work hard to get where they are. It’s not easy. I never knew her racing personally but her & I got to know each other through social media, and when I was driving Pro. She’s a very nice girl and I have a lot of respect for her. Everybody has respect for Shirley Muldowney, if it wasn’t for her none of us would have accomplished as much. She definitely got the wheels turning for all females.”
Velocity Q: “Your all time favorite race?
Ashley said: “Edmonton 2010. Spencer Massey was driving Top Fuel for Don Scumacher. He was driving Ducat Bayfeul car that weekend in Edmonton. He and I competed against each other in a qualifying round, and he was driving Top Fuel at the time and quickly jumped into an A fuel car. When the throttle stuck at the top end he swung into my lane. I saw him having issues, then all of a sudden he came behind my car, his wing just missed my parachute by inches. He could’ve taken me into the wall with him. That was memorable.
The night I went into the finals in the Alcohol car, the class called Pro Fuel IHRA, went to finals, wasn’t a pretty win but doesn’t matter, a win is a win. I got the ‘Iron Man’ for that and became the 1st female to ever win Pro Fuel. . . 1st Blower car to ever win Pro Fuel and the 1st Canadian to ever win Pro Fuel. That was pretty memorable and the nice thing about that is to do it Canada. It wasn’t a race in the US. It was home.”
Velocity Q: “Your all time favorite track?
Ashley said, “I will always have a soft spot for Race City. That is where all this started. It is unfortunate it became what it became. I would say my favorite track would have to be Seattle . . .I love Seattle.”
Velocity Q: With the series that you run now, do you still go back there?
Ashley said “We could. We don’t. It comes down to sponsorship at the end of the day. It is easier for us to race the division 6 series. I am not racing Pro anymore and I have accepted that. I don’t need to go to Vegas and I don’t need to go Seattle. I am fortunate enough to say I’ve done that. So now I am just racing for fun. I am just racing locally & still chasing the division 6 series like I have always done.”
Velocity Q: “So you are getting married in April?”
Ashley said “April 11/14 . We leave on April 8/14.”
Velocity Q: “Everyone on the team now?”
Ashley said “Mom & Dad, Rick & Barb Bart, Chad Huffman(Fiancé).”
Velocity Q: Any other news?
Ashley said “New Sponsor’s on the car this year which is nice, and this will be my 1st year running the Top E class. So I am looking forward to racing against an amazing caliber of drivers in this class and looking forward to it. We have always raced Medicine Hat so I am looking forward to something new and Edmonton is the perfect place to do it.”
This interview is a great example of a family that has racing in blood that is sure to last for a very long time into the future. Ashley Bart is an extremely competitive racer, the following is just a few of her You Tube videos in the Top Alcohol Dragster.
Ashley’s You Tube videos:
On the sponsorship side – an investment in this team has paid off for years with the Super Pro & Top E 675 hp Dragster. That being said, for anyone wanting to break into the US market in a big way with a Top Alcohol Dragster, this team would be a perfect advertising vehicle.
Bart Family Racing current sponsors are:
Blackstone Oilfield Service
Chapman Wellsite Supply
High River Liquor Store
Done Rite Janitorial
Big Foot RV Storage
Koolsville Kustom Carts
For sponsorship information contact Rick Bart at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ashley’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ashley.bart.7