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RIP Ashley Sara Phalen

posted Oct 17, 2010, 10:26 AM by Elisa Myer   [ updated Oct 22, 2010, 6:01 AM ]

Woman killed in simulated race at Fontana speedway

11:16 PM PDT on Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Press-Enterprise

A Los Angeles woman was killed Friday while participating in a simulated Indy race at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.

Ashley Sara Phalen, 24, was participating in the Racing Experience Driving 101 class that taught members of the public the basics of open wheel racing by allowing them to drive replica Indy racecars, according to the San Bernardino County coroner's office.

Phalen was driving at 9:30 a.m. when she sped into an inside wall and overturned. Authorities did not say how fast she was driving, but noted the racecars often reach speeds of up to 120 mph on the two-mile course.

Phalen was taken by ambulance to Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Fontana where she died upon arrival, coroner's officials said. Sheriff's officials and the California Highway Patrol are investigating the crash but did not have additional details Saturday.

Racing at the track was suspended Friday, but resumed Saturday. The racing school was one of several regularly held at the track. Speedway spokesman David Talley said it was the first death at the track that he could recall in recent years.

"Our thoughts and prayers go to the family," Talley said. "Obviously we'll keep a keen eye on safety as these classes continue...we have a great track record and so do the other schools. It's just an unfortunate thing."

Phalen had taken a class prior to entering the car and was in radio contact with instructors while driving, Talley said.

According to the website, participants can purchase packages to race ranging from $129 to $429 for "World's fastest racing experience." Helmeted drivers race in an open cockpit racecar at courses offered in Fontana and courses around the country.

"This is the ultimate thrill ride for any race fan! Experience 3 laps of pure heart-pounding speed from the seat of a full sized, 600 hp, 2 seat, Indy-style race car," the website says. "Safety is the #1 priority at the Racing Experience. Participants will have an experience of a lifetime in a safe, controlled environment with our professionally trained crew."