Faces & Fenders: Pro Racer Ashton Harrison on What It’s Like to Be Proficient in Pink
Glance around the track at Atlanta Motorsports Park, and you are likely to see someone who stands out in their hot pink firesuit. Pro racer and AMP track coach Ashton Harrison has adopted the color as a badge of honor and an emblem of her unique personal style, but don’t let the girlish hue lull you into thinking she is a powderpuff — of the dozens of competitors in this past Battery Tender MX-5 Cup season, she was only one of three racers to finish every lap of every race.
This grit exemplifies her personal motto: “Don’t give up. Keep pushing.”
She credits her determination to her grandmother, “Granny Barb,” a real pistol of a lady and a diehard racing fanatic. In fact, Granny Barb is such an inspiration to Harrison and her team that they are named after her: GB Racing.
We sat down with Harrison to learn more about what tempers her nerves of steel as well as her experiences as a regular at the AMP track.
How She Got Started in Racing
Harrison’s first eye-opening track experience was behind the wheel of her father’s 2002 C5 Z06 Corvette. With 405 horsepower underfoot and her dad’s blind trust at her side, she awakened the inner speed demon that has rarely slept since.
Fearful of her safety and the mounting cost of speeding tickets, Harrison’s dad elected to send her to the Bondurant Racing School in Phoenix, AZ. After one session on the track, she knew that she had found her passion as well as a playground for her speed demon to roam untethered. Her father also took her to Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, which she describes as a definitive “‘This is what I wanna do’ moment.”
She then returned to Bondurant every year. Their Grand Prix Course awarded her with a genuine racing License, enabling her to jump-start in SCCA Club racing and an ambitious and ever-climbing career in professional motorsports.
Why She Races Mazdas
On her first few track days with Chin Motorsports at Road Atlanta, Harrison’s father’s 2002 C5 Corvette Z06 was her chariot of choice. However, when she moved to competitive club racing, she was given a decidedly different type of beast — a 1991 Spec Miata.
“That was quite a big jump,” says Harrison. “The MX-5 is a relatively slow car, so to get it to do what you want, you have to push it to the extreme limit.”
Yet, she was quickly hooked into the Mazda racing clan. Their reasonable price of entry and amateur-friendly class structure make getting proficient and finding new opportunities easy. She calls Mazda racing “a great step on the ladder” because it can get you the connections you need to go further.
“Money can get you whatever you want to drive,” Harrison says, “and the Mazda MX-5 Cup series helps you get your feet wet in Professional Racing at a reasonable price and can help you forge critical contacts to that can advance your future racing career.”
Now, Harrison has stepped up to the Battery Tender MX-5 Cup and races a 2016 Global Mazda MX-5 Cup car decked out in a roll cage that is, you guessed it, powder coated bright pink. Her determination helped her to finish the 2016 series strong by qualifying 9th of 35 cars and running the second fastest lap time of the weekend at the 2016 Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta — the race she and her father looked forward to for five years. Unfortunately, after an innocent in Race 1 she did not finish in the Top 10 but finished in the Top 15 in Race 2 after having her car put back together by her team.
Why Her Mazda’s Number is #03
One of Harrison’s biggest influences is her grandmother, lovingly dubbed Granny Barb. Since Granny Barb has always been a huge fan of Dale Earnhardt, Harrison’s first Mazda sported the #3 on it. After SCCA Pro Racing rules mandated a two-digit number, she simply added a “0” to keep things kosher.
As for Granny Barb herself, she remains a firm supporter of Harrison’s team. “She’s always supported me to do whatever i wanted,” Harrison asserts. “It could be the most bizarre job ever and she’d support it. So, when I told her I wanted to start racing, no doubt she became my biggest fan instantly, and that’s all the motivation that I needed!”
While Granny Barb has never been a racer herself, she still possesses a speed streak that her granddaughter shares. Granny’s latest car? A Red 2011 SS Camaro, sporting an upgraded exhaust system that she requested as her birthday present.
On Coaching at AMP
In between races, Harrison stays quite busy coaching and mentoring other upstart racers as well as track enthusiasts. She also works for Just Brakes, A Teen Driving School that helps teens become safer drivers. Her Cup Car and her pink accessories are common sights throughout the week.
She says that AMP is her favorite track to train on because of the sheer amount of technical variety you will see. She heard once, “You can find a corner from every famous track here on one track,” which she strongly agrees on!
Come to AMP to Get Track Racing Experience or Private Coaching
Whether you aspire to be a pro racer like Ashton Harrison or just want to feel more confident on the track, AMP provides the facilities, atmosphere and community to make it happen. We offer memberships with discounted track time as well as private coaching sessions from professional instructors like Harrison.