Editor's note: This year, the theme for our annual Juniata Valley magazine, which is included with today's print edition, focuses on people from the Juniata Valley who have gone on to do some wonderful things. This story, which chronicles Juniata County native Ashley (Deihl) Stremme, is included here as a preview of the magazine.
MIFFLINTOWN - Ashley (Deihl) Stremme is a hometown girl; even though she lives in North Carolina and travels across the country 38 weeks a year, she still calls Juniata County home.
The 2002 graduate of Juniata High School and daughter of Joe and Dianne Deihl is married to NASCAR racer David Stremme. She was named first runner-up Mrs. North Carolina in 2013, and won NASCAR's "Better Half Dash."
Photo submitted by ASHLEY STREMME
Ashley and David Stremme hang out trackside at Indy.
Photo submitted by PHIL CAVALI
David and Ashley hug before a race.
Photo submitted by ANGLIA HUDSON
Ashley Stremme won the best evening gown at the Mrs. America pageant with this dress.
Ashley's racing win is featured in the December issue of NASCAR Illustrated. A biography story about the Juniata County native appears in the January issue.
"I don't feel like a success story. I feel like I got extremely lucky, and I take that extremely humbly," she says.
Ashley grew up going to the Port Royal Speedway. Her dad raced sprint cars. She raced Powder Puff, and she took those skills with her to the Better Half Dash, in which NASCAR wives and girlfriends race cars for charity.
The 2013 race was the third year for the event and Ashley's first year participating. She raced against about a dozen other women on Oct. 10 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
"We're all a little competitive," Ashley says, "Just because you just sit there and watch your husband go around in a circle does not mean you don't have that competitive spirit, too."
Ashley won the 25-lap race and was able to give $10,000 to charities such as Motor Racing Outreach, Speedway Children Charities, the NASCAR Foundation and Victory Junction.
Ashley also stays connected to the racing nation by co-hosting a radio program called "Winged Nation" every Tuesday on the Motor Racing Network. It can be heard on MRN Radio on NASCAR Sirius XM or online at MRN.com.
"It's my own niche in my husband's world," she says.
Ashley and David met for the first time at a dirt track in Alabama. Four years later they met again through a friend of a friend. They married on Nov. 26, 2011.
The couple travels from February to November. David raced for his own team for the past few years and will do so again in 2014.
Ashley says people often ask her if she knows specific NASCAR drivers and what they are like to meet in person.
"A lot of people idolize these guys," she says, and noted the race car drivers "are just like you and me."
She stressed that her life is not a glamorous one. Ashley says it was exciting at first to visit new towns and cities across the United States. Now she has been to many of the places many times and finds herself longing for home.
"We travel a lot. We don't get to see family much which is really tough," she says.
While she doesn't regret her life choices, she says NASCAR life is not the easy one the media portrays.
"We're extremely fortunate, but people do not realize it is not as joyous as they think it is. Everything has its ups and downs," she says.
Even her stint as Mrs. North Carolina was not about the glamour, but about giving back. Ashley was Miss Motorama in 2003 and Miss Motorsports 2005. Pageants, she says, were always something she enjoyed. The Mrs. North Carolina pageant allowed her to give to charity much like the Better Half Dash.
"I was able to work with NASCAR and raise money for children," she says.
Ashley was first runner-up in 2012 and 2013. Contestants support the NASCAR Foundation, which, according to its website, has contributed more than $15 million in charitable support and helped provide medical treatment for more than 24,000 children annually, fulfilled more than 2,000 NASCAR Dreams, helped provide 1236 summer camp experiences for children with special needs, recruited 12,000 fans to become part of a volunteer network and created educational opportunities for school-aged students that help to engage them in science and engineering programs.
Runners-up from all 50 states have an opportunity to go to the Mrs. America pageant this August if they raise the most money for charities like the National Coaltion Against Domestic Violence, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Susan G. Komen, to name a few.
Ashley says she is amazed by all of the well-wishers in her life. She noted her Facebook account is flooded by comments from people who are proud of the girl from Mifflintown.
Tears fill her eyes as she reflects on the postings.
"The outpouring of support is cool to me," she says through tears. "Even though I don't live here anymore, I love it here. I'm a Juniata County girl. I grew up fishing and hunting. I'm a small town girl. I love where I came from."
Stremme tries to return to her hometown during the holidays and for the Juniata County Fair. It's a thrill for her to see family and friends face to face.
She compares life to a race.
"God has a plan for all of us. I am blessed to have taken the ride I have been given."