What Really Happened: 2015 Ozark 100

This Thanksgiving weekend marked the eighth running of the Kenda Ozark 100-Miler extreme race near Springfield, Missouri. Similar in format to the old “Last Man Standing” race, the “Ozark 100” is quickly becoming one of the most popular races in the Midwest.

The format is similar to other “knockout” extreme races in that it consists of three races held throughout the day, which are designed to narrow down the field, leaving only the top 30 riders to compete in the 3-lap finale. The mileage for the three races totals 100 miles, hence the name “100-Miler”.

What makes the Ozark 100 unique is that the final moto (or race) is held after sundown on an eight-mile course featuring three “elements”. These elements are very difficult sections of the course that are illuminated with hanging lanterns so that the spectators can watch the racing up close. Perhaps the most difficult, and for sure the most popular with the spectators, is an element called “Something Special”, which consists of a very steep and rocky creek climb.

A heavy downpour the day before the race and steady rain during race day made for difficult conditions at this year’s race. Add in near freezing temperatures and your average everyday extreme race quickly becomes a race for survival, and in the end, Am Pro Yamaha’s Jordan Ashburn had just what it took to take home the overall win at this year’s event.

Ashburn went 2-3-1 in the three races, but was particularly impressive in the final night race, where he quickly pulled out a one-minute lead on the opening lap over eventual runner-up Nick Fahringer.

“I’ve never ridden in the mud at night – it’s pretty wild,” Ashburn said after the race. “When I got to the rocky uphill and looked up at it for the first time, it’s like, ‘holy crap’, I wasn’t expecting that. But it was really cool. On the last lap, there were guys all over that creek and there were only two or three lines up, so I was just like, ‘oh man, I’m going to lose my lead right here.’ I just sat there for a second and tried to be patient. I tried to let a guy just get enough room where I could get by him, and then I jumped up beside of him and got off the trail a little bit and was able to get on up and around the to top.”

Jordan took home $2500 of the $7500 total purse for his win.

Meanwhile, Fahringer finished second with a fourth and two seconds on his AirGroup Racing Husqvarna.

“I just kind of struggled to cope with the cold and the leafy trail in the first moto,” said Fahringer. “It felt real sketchy. I was battling with Jason Thomas for second for a while, but I ended up having a pretty scary crash. My hands were numb and I bobbled and my front end jumped out and I choked up on the throttle and just grabbed a handful and blasted off through the trees. It was a pretty big scare. I ended up fourth in that race, then I got a bad start in the second race, but I worked through the pack and ended up finishing second to Thomas, even though my brakes went out about 10 miles in. So I took that momentum into this last moto and I knew if I won I could wind up with the overall. I pinned it on the start but I found myself on the ground in the first turn and everybody went by me. I was covered in mud, my lights were covered in mud, my goggles were covered in mud, but for whatever reason I passed everybody and moved into second about a minute behind Ashburn by the end of the first lap. Then the next lap I cut it to 45 seconds. I cleaned all the hills that last lap and I really caught up to him but it ended up being too little, too late.”

Third went to local hotshoe Caleb Haynes, who finished out the event with a consistent 6-5-6 performance.

“This event was gnarly,” said Haynes. “It was cold, rainy, drizzly. You couldn’t keep goggles on. At night the ground got really saturated. All day long the ground stayed pretty hard, with water running on top of it, but tonight the ground got actually kind of muddy so the hills got really slick, and it made the rocks slick. I’ve never experience mud ruts at night. That’s pretty interesting. You couldn’t see them until you were hitting them and in it. You just kind of had to let the bike go where it wanted to go and try to ride it out.”

Steward Baylor won the first race of the day on his Moto Tech KTM, but DNFed the second race with mechanical problems, knocking him out of the final race. Meanwhile, Jason Thomas was in the running for the overall, after finishing third in the first moto and then winning the second one. However, the DirtWise/KLIM/KTM rider derailed his chain in the night race and broke his engine case, putting an end to his event.

RESULTS

  1. Jordan Ashburn (Yam)
  2. Nick Fahringer (Hus)
  3. Caleb Haynes (Yam)
  4. Zach Neill (Yam)
  5. Ryan Henslee (KTM)
  6. Austin Butler (KTM)
  7. Zach Love (KTM)
  8. Logan Lowrey (KTM)
  9. Harrison Helmick (Kaw)
  10. Duell Murphy (Yam)
Two competitors look for a clean line through the rocks and roots in the section called “Something Special”.Photo by Shan Moore
Jordan Ashburn (on the right) passes a lapped rider on the final lap of the night race.Photo by Shan Moore
Nick Fahringer crosses one of the smaller creeks on the second moto.Photo by Shan Moore
Caleb Haynes splashes through a swollen creek on lap one of the opening moto.Photo by Shan Moore
Harrison Helmick tiptoes through the rocks in a second dubbed “VW”, which refers to the size of some of the rocks.Photo by Shan Moore
Zach Neill slithers through the slippery rocks on his way to fourth overall.Photo by Shan Moore