SHELBYVILLE, Ind. — The Indiana racing community is mourning one of their own.
Ashlea Albertson, a 24-year-old driver for Tony Stewart Racing, died Friday in a car accident on I-65. Her teammates honored her at the Shelby County Fairgrounds on Saturday during an event she was previously slated to compete in.
“She was good,” said Ashlea Alberton’s father, Todd Albertson “As of (Friday), it doesn’t matter. It froze. She was good then.”
“She lost her life, not on a racetrack where we thought she might, but in the middle of a highway because we can’t control our anger,” Todd Albertson added.
In a statement released on Twitter, former NASCAR driver Tony Stewart expressed his hope that Ashlea Albertson’s story serves as stern warning for interstate drivers.
“I hope that we can honor Ashlea by controlling what we can control on the highway,” Stewart wrote. “Losing her is a sobering reminder of how precious life is.”
Stewart was a mentor to Ashlea Albertson, and she greatly valued his advice.
“When you get coaching advice from Tony Stewart, you take it,” Albertson’s coach Ron Combs said. “She loved learning from Tony.”
Racing for Tony Stewart and his father, Nelson, was a big part of Ashlea Albertson’s life.
“She was a hell of a racer,” Nelson Stewart said. “She wouldn’t give you an inch, but she’d race you until the end.”
Ashlea Albertson’s race car was displayed at the track Saturday. The driver’s seat was empty, but love from the racing world poured in.
“Racers stick together,” Nelson Stewart said. “When they say it’s a family, they’re not kidding.”
Ashlea Albertson was described as fearless on and off the racetrack, outgoing with fans and exceptional in a male-dominated sport.
“When it came to strapping in the car and putting her helmet on, she turned into a different girl,” Combs said. “She turned into a racer.”
Todd Albertson said Ashlea Albertson fell in love with racing at 10 years old.
“Ever since that day that she went spinning by us, giving us the thumbs up, all we do is show up to race tracks and do the same thing,” Todd Albertson said.
“Those are her heroes,” Todd Albertson added. “She got to drive with (Tony Stewart), race for him.”
Todd Albertson said he wants to start a scholarship in his daughter’s name to support other women who share her same love of racing.
Ashlea Albertson would have been the only female driver on the track Saturday night. Combs said her car won’t be raced any more this year, but he hopes to see another woman with Ashlea’s dream get behind the wheel someday.