ASHLEY SANFORD RELISHES FULL-TIME AUSTRALIAN OPPORTUNITY
The hashtag #10yearchallenge has become popular on social media, as people have been posting photos of themselves in 2009 to compare to photos of themselves in 2019.
Though she's quite active and popular on social media, Ashley Sanford hasn't made a #10yearchallenge post, but she's thought a lot about it. Sanford turned 25 years old on Monday, so much has changed as she's grown from a teen-ager to a successful race-driver.
"It's funny, everybody's been doing these 10-year posts, and it's definitely crossed my mind, especially with my birthday and that," Sanford said. "Ten years ago, at 15 years old, I had no idea what was going to happen to Ashley Sanford's life. I know I loved racing, but in my wildest dreams I didn't think I would become a race-car driver. I didn't really think I could pursue that."
Sanford has a passion and a zest for life, but it wasn't until about five years ago that she realized she could make the dream of becoming a race-car driver a reality. With a fervent belief in herself, Sanford's journey took her from sand drag-racing to NHRA Top Alcohol drag racing to NHRA Top Fuel to … Australia.
The Southern California native is headed to Australia again, this time for the third of six races on the 400 Thunder drag racing series. She'll again race for the Rapisarda Autosport International team in Summer Thunder at Sydney Dragway.
"The last two events of this Thunder series, I've made it to the finals," Sanford said. "I feel like what's happened to me is always the bridesmaid, never the bride. But I'm still so proud of what we've accomplished. Unfortunately, both things in the finals were out of our control what happened.
"The whole experience of getting to go to Australia and getting to compete over there – and now pretty much on a full-time schedule – is a dream come true that I didn't even know I wanted. I was always focused on the states, and when this opportunity came, it's just incredible – and perfect timing. Stateside, it's been extremely difficult right now to get funding and to get an operation going.
"I just have to worry about driving over there, and not necessarily everything else that I worry about stateside. It's been such a blessing, and I'm so grateful for the Rapisardas for giving me that opportunity. I'm just going to hold on to it and hopefully get a win one of these times."
Sanford expects to be back for the remaining three races on the Australian calendar, with races in April, May and June to complete the season.
"Things just kind of happen when they happen, but I think it's safe to assume I'll be going out for all six races," Sanford said. "We're at such a solid point right now in the season, second in the points, so I can't imagine that we'd let that go."
Like when she races in NHRA, Sanford is a popular force in Australia, given her free spirit, bright smile and positive attitude.
"The Australian fans are something else," Sanford said. "They are maybe even a little more enthusiastic than the fans stateside because they don't get it as often. It's great to see all their support. They love seeing all the Americans come overseas."
Sanford will cross the ocean several more times, piling up frequent-flier miles like an international businessman. Safe to say she won't have to pay for many flights within the continental United States anytime soon. After all, it's 15 hours and 7,500 miles one way.
"It'll help me get to events stateside this year," Sanford said of all the flights to and from Australia.
"Once you get out there, jet lag isn't bad because adrenaline takes over. The flights back home are definitely a lot more difficult. But who would've thought, here I am trying to make a career – and I get to do it halfway around the world."
Of course, Sanford would love to make numerous flights in the states as part of an NHRA calendar, but that's not happening, at least not now. Sanford said there was a deal to race with Alan Johnson Racing, but it fell through.
"We had a deal, and it unfortunately fell apart," Sanford said. "It's not that I'm back at square one, but I definitely had to take a few steps back from where I was. We were hoping to be at the Winternationals coming up, but it would take a big ol' miracle for that to happen now. Hey, miracles do still happen.
"My goal is to go out on the circuit, even if it's just for one race this year. No matter what happens, it's safe to say that NHRA will see me at least one in 2019."
For now, she relishes the chance to race in Australia.
"The journey is far from over with everything I want to accomplish," Sanford said. "But where I'm at now is so cool."