GNCC Racing

Tuesday Toolbox: Ben Fricks

Tuesday Toolbox: Ben Fricks

Tuesday, February 2, 2021 | 12:45 PM
Tuesday, February 2, 2021 | 12:45 PM

One of the biggest things I read when I announced to the world of Social Media that I was taking over Tuesday Toolbox was, “WE WANT MORE AMATEUR RIDERS FEATURED!” Alright, I’m not saying you shouted at me on the internet with ALL CAPS, but the message was clear. The bottom line is the large majority of our GNCC Racin’ Nation are men and women (and even the kids) that multi-task school and/or work Monday-Friday just to be able to race on the weekends.

This week’s featured rider, Ben Fricks, is one of those people. He’s “one of our own” as the phrase goes. A student, a worker and a rider. A rider that finished 8th in the 250 C College (18-24) class last season that also happens to be a recipient of the Kurt Caselli Scholarship courtesy of The Kurt Caselli Foundation. We had a chance to catch up with Ben about how he balances an education, work-life and still manages to run a full season of GNCC.

Ben Fricks earned eighth in the highly competitive 250 C College class. 
Ben Fricks earned eighth in the highly competitive 250 C College class.  Courtesy Ben Fricks Ben, let’s jump right in! You’ve only been racing competitively over the last few years. What got you into riding and eventually racing?

Ben Fricks: My dad got me a PW-80 when I was 6 or 7. I did a lot of trail-riding until I was around 14. No racing, but he had some buddies that did National Enduros. I was always interested in racing, but dad wasn’t really ready to let me give it a shot. Then we sold the bikes. Around 2018 I got a YZ-250, raced one race in a Winter Series. Then upgraded bikes with a KTM 200 and raced the SORCS series and a few GNCCs. So, I’d say 2019 was when I really got hooked on it.

A lot of riders your age have been racing with GNCC their entire life. But you’re a guy who’s just gotten into it recently. What’s been your experience jumping right into doing the national series?

It was really eye-opening. Going from running a few locals and seeing all your friends every Sunday to traveling all over the East Coast especially this last year. With COVID and all the restrictions as to where we could race. Made it a little easier on travel but still quite the commitment. And there are so many people that are very invested in this sport and want to see it succeed all across the country. It’s not something I had really given much thought.

It’s a job in itself, just getting to races. But you’re a full-time College Student down in Georgia as well. How do you balance being a full-time student, working part-time and hitting all buy two rounds of GNCC last season?

Yeah! I go to Georgia Southern, I’m a senior majoring in Construction Management. Last year I lucked out a bit. The one good benefit of COVID was a lot of my classes ended up being done online which gave me the flexibility I needed to work and travel to races. It also helped having an employer who was flexible with me missing Mondays if I needed to for some of those rounds that are further away. I also had to make sure I took the initiative in communicating with my Professors. Reaching out to them and asking what they had planned for us in the coming weeks so that I could prepare and make sure I didn’t fall behind. I try to sit down every Monday and write down exactly what needs to be done throughout the week and the next week to make sure I have a game-plan to prep the bike and be ready to go racing.

Courtesy Ben Fricks

You are wise beyond your years! That’s a very good plan for success in general, not just in racing. Speaking of planning and taking the initiative. You received the Kurt Caselli Foundation Scholarship. Tell us about that experience!

Yeah, I follow the National Hare and Hound Series, where Kurt was a multi-time Champion. Of course, I’d heard of Kurt Caselli, but I didn’t really know much about the Foundation. I started following the Kurt Caselli Foundation on Social Media and I saw their ad for the Scholarship. After looking into it I realized they hadn’t had many riders from the East Coast. I applied for it and shortly after I received a phone call saying I had gotten the scholarship. It was just… AWESOME! Unfortunately, with COVID-19 they had to push the ride day to December. For those that aren’t aware, it’s basically a big party celebrating Kurt and everything he did for our sport and beyond. They asked if I wanted to come out for it and the obvious answer was, YES! But, it’s in California, and I have no way of getting a bike out there. Lucky enough, the KTM Off-Road guys hooked me up with a factory demo bike. I got to ride around with guys like Johnny Girroir and Ricky Russell. It was a wild experience. Getting to ride a terrain like that in California, a place I’d never been before.

California is another world, that’s for sure. What was being able to ride around guys like Johnny G and Ricky Russell. Those are some big names in the world of GNCC. Were you able to pick their brains a bit?

I had to sit back for a second and take it in. I knew Ben Kelley was another guy that would be out there. But I had no idea Johnny and Ricky would be there. Let alone on their new GASGAS bikes. It hadn’t been officially announced yet and when I saw them, I thought… they’re in red. We made eye-contact and I said, “Hey, I race GNCC. What are you guys doing on those?” That was pretty cool. And it was fun to realize these guys are down-to-earth people like me who love riding. Getting to talk to them, watch them send the jumps, it was a 10/10 experience. I want to go out there again, scholarship or not, just to have that experience again. It was incredible!

Ben finished fifth in his class at the Wild Boar GNCC during the 2020 season.
Ben finished fifth in his class at the Wild Boar GNCC during the 2020 season. Courtesy Ben Fricks

Back to the East Coast if you will, juggling all these things. How do you find time to get in some training let alone seat time to make sure you’re staying competitive?

It’s a very tight schedule, usually I only ride on Saturday and Sundays. I only work half-days on Friday, so occasionally I’m able to get some seat time on Fridays too. We’ve got a couple of good places to ride down here (Georgia) so if I need to get suspension dialed-in I’m able to get that done before a race week. Other than that, it’s getting myself to the gym as much as possible or if I’m home before dark get the bicycle out and do some riding.

Alright, you’ve got the bike dialed in, you’re getting the cardio in. I’m going to guess you don’t have a diet like mine. Truck stop sandwiches and pots of coffee. What’s the eating plan like for a guy on the run so often?

*laughs* Well, when I started racing, I went to the “Broke College Kid Diet.” It’s difficult and took some adjusting but I’ve finally got everything dialed-in with my eating plan.

I creeped on your social media. Went back a couple years and saw a post featuring your dad on a Gold Wing ripping down a winding highway. How much of a role has dad been in your life when it comes to riding and racing?

Obviously, he got me started with my first dirt bike. But he’s always encouraged me to keep going with it. When I first told him, I was going to run a full season of GNCC he kind of shrugged it off. But then midway through the season he had a little surprise in his voice and said, “Wow, you’re still doing this huh?” Yup, we’re doing it! Both my mom and my dad are very supportive with racing. Whenever I’ve been in a crunch with money or something else, they’re there to help me.

Is dad able to ride any dirt with you or is he strictly on the street bike now?

He had back surgery a couple years ago that’s limited him on the dirt bike side of things. But he’s got a couple BMW Touring Bikes. We want to go on a ride together during my Spring Break this March.

Courtesy Ben Fricks

Georgia is home for you. We ran a couple rounds in Georgia last season and return there this season with The General in March. Are you biased to your home state track or is there another location that stands out as your favorite?

The part of Georgia I live in is very sandy. I’m very partial to Florida and Camp Coker in South Carolina. I think the Camp Coker track is my favorite because of the track but they also have so many other things going on at that location too. But Florida always falls on bike week and it’s nice to be able to drive 45 minutes and watch Daytona Supercross on Saturday night. It’s always a good time.

You raced the AM Bike Race at Ironman last season. Nearly 1,000 riders in that race. What was it like running that one? Also, did you get a chance to see Axell Hodges on the track?

I was not prepared for the insanity or the cold. I wore my FXR summer gear not anticipating how cold I’d get. As I was waiting on the line more and more bikes packed in on each row. And the fans on the hill, they were insane. I was never alone on the track; it was always me chasing someone or someone chasing me. I never saw Axell, which means he didn’t lap me!

Last season you raced the 250 C College Class, are you racing that class again this season and what’s the mindset now that you’ve got one full season under your belt.

I’m definitely more detail oriented. I’ve pre-planned a lot better coming into 2021. The main goal is not missing any rounds. I had a wedding for one round and a COVID scare that kept me from the last round of 2020. I want to be more consistent too. I had a few rounds outside of the top ten in my class, I don’t need those, I need more consistency up front. I’d love to get some top three finishes and I’m confident I can make it happen especially early in the season when we’re racing in terrain, I’m more familiar with.

Even with juggling school and a full-time work schedule, Ben managed to compete in a full season of GNCC Racing.
Even with juggling school and a full-time work schedule, Ben managed to compete in a full season of GNCC Racing. Ken Hill

You mentioned you’ve rode for a long time, but you didn’t start racing competitively until the last few years. What’s something you’d share with other riders out there who may have never lined up at a GNCC but have that desire?

Everyone pays to race. Don’t let anyone scare you out of it. Go out there and race your own race. Be confident in yourself and take it on. My first GNCC was Palatka in 2019 and I lined up next to a guy that only spoke French who had drove down from Canada to race. I immediately thought, wow, I’m not at a local right now, this is serious! I mean, if it’s your first GNCC you’re going to look around when you’re on the line and think, wow this is bigger than all the races combined at my local series. So, you’ve just got to go into with confidence and trust in your abilities.

Ben, your story has been a fun one, looking forward to seeing what you can do in 2021. Who are the people and sponsors you’d like to thank?

Thank you! Mark at Kawasaki of Statesboro, Andy at A1 Racing, Bump GA, Don and Andy at FXR, Mack Faint with the pictures that make it look like I know what I’m doing, XBrand, Leatt and ODI Grips. Oh, and my post-race meal, burritos. All my buddies race in the afternoon, so part of my job is finding the Mexican restaurant to go to after the race. That’s important!