GNCC Racing

Tuesday Toolbox: Jordan Ashburn

Tuesday Toolbox: Jordan Ashburn

Tuesday, September 1, 2020 | 7:45 PM
Tuesday, September 1, 2020 | 7:45 PM

After eight rounds of racing in 2020, Jordan Ashburn currently finds himself third overall in the National Championship points standings. As the GNCC Series is set to return on September 12-13, Ashburn is looking to utilize his training during summer break and finally earn that overall podium finish he has been battling for all season. We caught up with Ashburn, and also got the details on his Tennessee Knock Out bike!

Ashburn has finished inside the top 10 overall at each race thus far in 2020.
Ashburn has finished inside the top 10 overall at each race thus far in 2020. Ken Hill Why don’t you start off by telling us a little bit about yourself?

Jordan Ashburn: My name is Jordan Ashburn and I'm from Cookville, Tennessee. Right now, I’m racing for the Babbitt's Online/Monster Energy Kawasaki team.

How did you get started riding and racing?

I got started at a pretty young age, like most other pro riders. I first started racing at four and a half years old or so, doing our local flat track series at the fairgrounds on a PW 50. It was fun, and since you’re just going around in circles it was a good place to learn. From there we raced some local motocross, though we always rode a lot in the woods, and I did my first hare scramble when I was on an 85.

Was it your dad who got you started?

It was, yep. My dad has rode his whole life, was always super passionate about the sport, and still loves coming to the races.

How long have you been racing professionally and why did you decide this was what you wanted to pursue as a career?

You know, for a long time, coming up through the ranks, I never really thought about whether I would race professionally or not. Sure, we all dream about it when we’re younger, I guess, but I wasn’t considering it seriously. It just kind of … happened, I guess. We came to a point where it was like “well, I’ve won quite a few amateur championships, we might as well make a run at it and see if I can get a ride and make a living.” In 2011, that was my first year where I had a pro ride, racing in the XC2 class. That would have been, what, nine years ago? So next year will be my tenth year in the pro ranks.

And I’m guessing you’re glad you went for it?

Yeah! It’s been a journey and a roller coaster – some years are better than others, but at the end of the day it’s something people dream of doing, something I dreamt of doing, and at the end of the day I’m very thankful that I had the skills and ability to do it.

As the series starts back up, Ashburn will be aiming to earn his first overall podium finish of the year.
As the series starts back up, Ashburn will be aiming to earn his first overall podium finish of the year. Ken Hill

You created quite a buzz last weekend at the Tennessee Knock Out Extreme Enduro a couple weeks ago, making it to the final event on a ’98 KDX, is that right?

Yep, that’s right.

You were definitely the fan favorite and it’s incredible that you nearly broke the top ten, but what made you decide to race what is arguably the toughest off-road race in America on a 20+ year old bike?

There really wasn’t much of a decision to it (laughs) So that bike is my playbike that I ride up in the mountains here at home in Tennessee for fun. The week before the TKO I just decided, “why not, let’s go race it”. It was just a for fun, let’s-see-how-we-do sort of thing. I wasn’t worried about the results, I genuinely didn’t care. Obviously the goal was still to make it to the main, and I did not realize how hard it was going to be to get there, but we made it. Looking back now I’m pretty pumped!

Did the bike perform pretty well, all things considered?

It did! Everybody kept asking if it was a stock bike, or how much mod stuff I’d done to it. But it is bone-stock. There is nothing else there. The only thing I did was put some stiffer springs in the forks. (laughs) So for a 20 year old motorcycle it did really well!

Since a lot of our audience will probably be GNCC racers who aren’t as familiar with the TKO as we are, can you briefly describe the event?

For those of you who don’t know about the TKO, or the Tennessee Knock Out, it takes place in the mountains of Tennessee, and this last race was it’s tenth year. It started back before Extreme Off-Road was really a thing here, but it was supposed to be kind of like Romaniacs or Erzberg, but here in the states. But the past couple years Extreme racing seems to have really taken the off-road community by storm. The TKO was kind of the granddaddy of all extreme racing in the US, and it carries the reputation of being the gnarliest one, and it’s the AMA National Championship race for Extreme. The event is relentless – the trail is incredibly challenging, even the best riders struggle, then you add in the heat and the humidity it’s crazy. It’s usually always like slippery and wet too, so conditions are just brutal. It’s kind of like riding the rockiest part of Snowshoe, except you’re doing it all day and those aren’t even the toughest sections.

Ashburn currently sits third overall in the points standings.
Ashburn currently sits third overall in the points standings. Ken Hill

Since it does take place pretty close to you, I’m guessing you’ve ridden the event more years than not?

I don’t know an exact number. I was trying to think about it earlier, I think I’ve done maybe six or seven out of the ten times.

And how did the race go for you this year?

The hot lap I felt really good on – that was just the first little loop of the day. I had pretty good luck in that one, I didn’t have any tip overs or get stuck or anything. The first knock out race also went really well. In between the tough sections there was a lot of fast and flowy stuff, which being a GNCC guy I’m better at that kind of stuff than a lot of the strictly hard enduro riders are, even on the ol’ KDX - I was making her sing out there (laughs) The second race is where things got real gnarly, and I’ll be honest, I was struggling. You had to be in the top three out of the five riders on your row to qualify for the main, and I was but it was a really tough lap to finish though – hard on me and hard on the bike. We got it done though. The final event was pretty gnarly too, the rocks and stuff were crazy technical, even places where I was off pushing. But I’m happy with how I rode, and I had fun, which was my whole reason for being there!

You’re obviously good at both high-speed GNCC racing and more technical events like the TKO, but which one do you prefer doing?

You know, it’s kind of a toss-up. Honestly my preference is to have a GNCC that’s gnarly – but it’s hard for them to put together tracks like that nowadays. The ones that are physical, with deep ruts, or require smart line choices through rocks and tree roots. Basically just stuff that’s like what I rode here in the mountains while growing up.

So, you’ve been heartbreakingly close to a GNCC win several times in the past two years – what do you think it will take to make it finally happen?

Yeah, I have been close but it’s just hard to put it together. Three hours is a long time and a lot can go wrong. Everyone is going so fast now that it’s insane. Everything has to be just perfect. I feel like I have it in me to do this, it’ll just take one of those days, the ones where you get on the bike and you feel like you can do anything, like superman. Having one of those days and having things break my way I think will be what it takes to finally on that top step.

During the summer break Ashburn took part in the Tennessee Knock Out on what he calls his
During the summer break Ashburn took part in the Tennessee Knock Out on what he calls his "playbike" which is 20+ years old. Ken Hill

Despite not being on the top step yet, you seem to be one of the more consistent riders out there this year, and you are third in the series points…

I’d like to think that I am. Now last year we had some issues here and there, and it was a bit of a learning year for us. This year has been really solid though, and my goal going in was to finish every race consistently, because I knew that would put us in a good spot in the points standings. And like you said we’re sitting third in points right now, which if I stay there through these last several rounds we have, will tie my best series finish. Although we haven’t been on a podium yet this season, we’re planning to check that off the list after the summer break. It’s amazing that even as long as I’ve been in this, the game changes so much that there are always new things to learn and ways to keep improving.

Tell us a little about Kawasaki’s off-road program. Do you feel like it’s solid and been a good fit for you?

I do feel like it is. I’ve been happy with the team and the bikes are so good this season. Being comfortable on the bike is sometimes hard to achieve, but necessary if you want to go the speeds required to ride up front. My mechanic, Andy Gray, has done a great job with the bike and the team has been awesome to me. I’m glad Kawasaki returned to GNCC racing and that I got to be a part of that.

Even though you’re with a factory team that’s there to take care of you, how much does having the extra support from your dad and your wife at the races help you out?

A lot. When you have those days that don’t go as planned or have an off-day, it’s nice to have them there. It’s uplifting. It’s easy to get down on yourself on this sport, especially when you’re doing everything and then have those days where you’re still coming up short. They are always on my side, always in my corner, and they’ll help me do whatever I need to do to keep moving forward.

We touched on this a bit earlier, but what are your goals for the rest of this season and do you have any plans worked out for next year yet?

Mainly just to stay in the top three in the points standings, and I want to get on the podium before the season is over. As for next year it’s still pretty early so nothing is set in stone yet, but I’m happy where I am and would love to back with Kawasaki again next year.

Ashburn pictured with his racing crew.
Ashburn pictured with his racing crew. Ken Hill

Tell us something interesting about yourself that doesn’t involve dirtbikes

Hmm.. hey Mary, can you help me out with this one (laughs) (Indistinct talking in the background) Well, we have seven chickens and four goats, two cats and a dog here on our little half-acre mini-animal farm, I guess that’s an interesting fact. Oh, and my favorite thing to do outside of dirtbikes is to go “adventure riding” on our stand-up jet-skis. Especially when the lake is flooded or something, we’ll ride up through the trees and up though the creeks when the water is high.

Thanks for taking the time to do this interview! Who would you like to thank?

Team Babbits, Monster Energy, Kawasaki, Fly Racing, Dunlop, Pro Circuit, Wiesco, X Brand, Belray, IMS, Specialized, Athena, Renthal, Acerbis, Motion Pro, Throttle Syndicate, DID Chains Rims, Hinson Clutch, XTRIG Clamps, Technical Touch, Twin Air and G2