Photos & Interview by: Chase Yocom – Written by: Dan Lamb
Over the first two rounds of the 2018 Eastern Regional 250SX Championship, Troy Lee Designs / KTM’s Jordon Smith spent most of the main events charging forward after crashes or mistakes and started the season with a mediocre 6-6 scorecard. With that, Jordon was kind of forgotten about as a viable title contender, but he’s used to being overlooked. The North Carolina kid flew in under the radar in ’17 and nearly snuck out with the title, but after his podium in Atlanta and his win over the weekend in Daytona, everyone now remembers what the #45 is capable of.
In Daytona, Jordon was feeling it from the moment he hit the track. Over the first three rounds, Jordon had averaged 7th in qualifying, but in Daytona, he was the 3rd fastest in both qualifying sessions–setting himself up well for what would be a dominant night. From the drop of the gate in heat 2, Jordon would go on to lead every lap he was on the track. Jordon went holeshot, wire-to-wire in his heat race and holeshot, wire-to-wire for the win in the main event. While guys like Zach Osborne, Austin Forkner and Jeremy Martin all might have had a slight speed advantage at times, Jordon executed perfectly all night long on the gnarliest circuit of the year.
With Jordon’s third win of his career and the first of his 2018 campaign in the books, he now trails Osborne and Forkner–who are tied–by just eight points in the standings. He clearly does not want to hear any more talk about this being a two-man battle to Vegas. Chase Yocom caught up with Jordon after his Daytona win to talk about his night.
Jordon, you’ve had a couple previous wins in your career, but this is Daytona. This one’s gotta feel sweet.
There’s no better place to win, I don’t think, in the SX series other than maybe Vegas if the Championship is on the line. It’s super cool. I got to do a burnout on the track over there. That’s something you dream about as a little kid right there. This one is definitely a special one. I’m really pumped on the night.
So it sank in already for you? This is a big one.
For sure it was a big one, The first two rounds were pretty rough this year. I felt really good on the bike, but it’s like, man… TK [Tyler Keefe TLD Team Manager] was just like, “You’re riding good. It’s just been a little bit of bad luck. It’s gonna come. Keep pushing and working hard during the week.” Finally it came tonight. I got off to really good starts and I couldn’t be happier.
I think it was kind of almost similar to last year; you get a few rounds under your belt and then come alive. What’s the deal with that?
I don’t know. Last year at Daytona I got 4th, but I rode really good. I came from dead last and almost ended up on the podium. I think I podium’ed just about every thing from then on out. This year, I hadn’t raced in a really long time. It’s just took me a little bit to get back and get my starts dialed in. Hopefully it keeps going like last year: I click off another win next weekend and just keep getting on the box and closing up the points gap.
It’s weird to me ’cause I feel like the last couple of seasons, you flew under the radar and everybody almost forgets about you. Then all of a sudden you win Daytona; you’re only eight-points behind. You’re right in this Championship.
It’s still somewhat early in the season. There’s still so many things that can go wrong for anyone. You just have to be on it every weekend–every start–and stay out of the carnage. I saw something I think someone posted on my Instagram that I’d probably be the typical 5th to 9th place guy. I’m like, “Really? Still? I won two races last year. Come on, man.” You have to earn the respect and that’s what I try to do. I get up on the box and let everyone know that I’m one of the guys.
Maybe you should go find that post and say, “Hey, I just won the gnarliest SX race of the season.” What did you think of the track tonight? I was out on track walk and it seemed different then previous Daytona’s. It seemed a little bit harder.
To me, it was definitely a lot different. I’ve raced this race two times before and this to me was the best track. It was really fast, which made it a little bit sketchy. If something did go wrong it was not going to feel good. I felt comfortable on the track all day. I was one of the first guys to do the big jumps. I felt really good. I liked the track. It was a bit of a harder base, not so sandy. It still got really gnarly, though–a lot of ruts and a lot of holes. It was hard to see out there too, with the shadows and stuff. The last five laps of that race it was, “Man, come on. Keep pushing.” It’s really easy on a track like that to just settle in and hit your marks, but you gotta keep pushing.
There were some super deep ruts out there, so you’re obviously having to change your lines quite a bit.
Yeah, you have to change your lines and you know that they’re coming in. It seemed like we were getting down to a really, really hard base coming into some of the turns. It was tough with the traction trying to get on the brakes hard and get to those inside lines. It definitely made for a challenging race mentally and physically.
Earlier today in practice all the top guys were really close on times and Austin [Forkner] had a little bit of time on you guys. Were you able to find something through the day, or would you attribute your success tonight more to the starts you had?
I got off to really good starts tonight and that was the best I qualified all year. Usually I’m a second and half off and I just kind of find the race pace and go with it. Tonight I felt pretty good. Austin did have some really fast laps in practice and we had it on video. We were watching and like, “Man, that was pretty gnarly.” There was some pretty sketchy moments in it and I felt like that was going to be a hard pace to keep up for 15 [minutes] plus 1 [lap] out here. It was kind of like the harder you pushed, the more mistakes you made. I just got the holeshot and pushed for a few laps. I kind of felt myself settling in a little bit and Jeremy [Martin] was catching me–I could hear him right on me. I made a mistake in the whoops and I’m like, “Come on, man. Don’t do this right now.” I pushed hard there for four or five laps until we got into some lappers and I pulled a little gap. Then I just kind of rode it on in.
What was it like having the guy that finished 2nd in the 450SX class last year in Daytona–Jeremy Martin–right on you the whole race?
He almost won the 450 class last year, but everyone knows that he’s fit and good in outdoors. To have him right there, I knew I had to be on my A game. I had to keep pushing. It was good.
This has to be huge confidence boost for you moving forward. You’re now just eight points back and in a great position. Go enjoy the win.
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you