As a young girl watching the Indianapolis 500 in Norway, Ayla Agren watched Danica Patrick take the lead, pacing 19 laps before finishing fourth.
It was a moment that changed her life forever, as Agren has been since chasing the dream of racing in that event ever since.
She’s made progress towards her dream, competing in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, which is one of the three Mazda Road to Indy ladder system series that lead up to the Verizon IndyCar Series. She’s also set to take the next step, poised for Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires competition in 2018.
This past weekend, the 22-year-old had a successful test with Pabst Racing at the Autobahn Country Club road course.
“It felt really good to be back in a car again,” said Agren. “I have been super excited to get into a PM-18, and the car at its fullest did not disappoint. Very thankful to have been given this opportunity to test with Pabst Racing, which BayMane has made possible. And I can’t wait to get into a PM-18 again.”
Team owner Augie Pabst was impressed, stating, “After overcoming unforeseen electronics issues, Ayla had a great test, demonstrating her ability to wheel the new Tatuus PM-18 in very unseasonable weather conditions.”
Even though she’s bound for the next step of her career, the journey hasn’t been smooth with some snags along the way. Agren was set with a full-time ride in USF2000 in 2016 before lack of sponsorship resulted in her sitting out four events. She was also only able to run seven races this past season due to funding.
Through it all, she hasn’t ever given up on chasing her dream.
“This is my life; this is what I love doing,” she told POPULAR OPEN WHEEL. “There have been tough times with sponsorship not coming through, and I’ve been at races where I haven’t been able to drive. I’ve had seasons where I haven’t been in the car, and it aches at me.
“Every day, I work at getting back into it because when you have those moments, you appreciate the chances you do when you get in the car a lot more. You appreciate being there, and that’s the feeling that keeps pushing me is I know that’s where I belong.”
While working towards the ultimate goal, she has been able to get up close to the cars and touch base with the history of the sport. Just recently, she got a chance to tour the Indianapolis Motor Speedway museum.
“It was very interesting,” she said. “This is the people that I grew up watching, and to be able to be there and look at all the cars and see the development of the cars, and see how far we’ve come both speed and safety wise, it was a good experience to be there.”
She was also able to be apart of history herself, attending one of the initial test sessions for the DW12 IndyCar chassis.
“When Dan (Wheldon) was developing it, we were at the track watching – a group of us, and that to me was one of the coolest things ever,” she said. “We got to see the people around it, and he explained to us who was there, what was going on, what he was feeling, why they were doing different things. To just be a little part of that was cool to me; to see how he worked as a development driver but also having followed him through the years with his two (Indy) 500s that he has.”
If she is able one day take part in the Indianapolis 500 herself, she stated it’d be an absolute dream come true.
“But, I also know that hard work is ahead to make that happen,” she said. “We won’t stop when we get there.”
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