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AHS student pursues racing career, sets sights on Indy 500

Feb. 8—ANDERSON — When she was in second grade, Aubre Walker visited the Children's Museum in Indianapolis.

Several drivers in the upcoming Indianapolis 500 were there that day, signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans.

"I walked up and I just immediately wanted to race," Walker said. "It looked really cool."

Walker's memories of the day are marked not by meeting any particular driver, but by the confidence their words inspired in her as the idea took hold.

"Some of them were really encouraging — like, yeah, you can do this. Anybody can do this if they really want to," she recalled. "I sat on it for a little bit, and I really just kept wanting to do it."

It wasn't long before Walker climbed behind the wheel of her first go-kart, and the sport quickly became her passion. She followed drivers including Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Bubba Wallace, the only full-time Black driver in NASCAR's three national series.

Walker said she quickly saw a common thread among her favorite drivers, regardless of which circuit they competed on.

"They have this drive that doesn't ever stop," she said. "They race (Formula One), NASCAR, and I want to do that. It's something that's really interesting to me to try to follow in their footsteps in the best way that I can to do what I want to do."

Soon, Walker found the path on which she could take those steps.

For her 14th birthday, Walker's uncle gifted her with tickets to the Indy 500. She and her father, Brian, spent the day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and, during a visit to the speedway's museum, learned about NXG Youth Motorsports, an organization offering classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction as well as life skills development lessons to young drivers.

"It was very life changing in that moment," said Walker, now 15 and a sophomore at Anderson High School. "It was very a big dream of mine coming true."

Walker has proven to be a quick study. Over the past year, she's excelled in a variety of STEM-related courses offered through NXG, and she was recently named a Della Penna Grand Prix Scholarship winner. The awards are given to promising young female drivers to encourage them to pursue STEM careers in the racing industry.

"An amazing partnership between NXG Youth Motorsports and the Della Penna Foundation offers young women an experiential opportunity with a focus on STEM-related careers," said Rod Reid, founder of NXG. "The Della Penna Grand Prix scholarship will allow Aubre to pursue her dreams while learning life skills via go-kart racing."

The scholarship will cover all of Walker's costs connected with her membership on the NXG Grand Prix racing team. The team will race at the Brickyard, the Purdue Grand Prix Track in West Lafayette, and other venues during the upcoming season.

For Walker, the scholarship reminds her of the support leaders at NXG have provided, and it's also a motivator for her to encourage girls younger than her to get into an industry where minorities and women remain underrepresented.

"I think about what it would be like and how inspiring it can be to other people, especially African-American females that want to race but do not have the resources or can't get into it because they feel like there's nobody there to support them," Walker said. "If I can be that person, that's amazing."

Walker's mother, Sheila Fakhredine, acknowledged that opportunities for young Black female drivers — even in the racing hotbed of Indiana — remain scarce. But she said well-timed encouragement from older drivers, and plenty of research, have proven those opportunities are available.

"It's just about being a support to each other and relying on each other, and then overcoming a lot of barriers," Fakhredine said. "I don't know how far she's going to take this."

Walker was ready with an answer for that question.

"I want to race in the Indy 500," she said. "I want to race in multiple 500s. And I want to win."

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