Harris wins second Hare and Hound National Championship
Lyman native will move up to 250A class in 2023
By DON COGGER
Herald Sports Editor
EVANSTON —After winning his first AMA National Hare and Hound Super-Mini National Championship in 2021, Jason Harris knew there would be a target on his back heading into the 2022 season.
Fortunately for the Lyman native, Harris’ hard work paid off. The 14-year-old phenom cruised to his second straight Super-Mini National Championship, winning six races and finishing out of the top spot just once – a second-place finish at the season-opening Winter Classic, in Lucerne Valley, California, last January.
“I’m feeling great – winning the championship again was pretty awesome,” Harris said. “I only took one second this year – the rest were firsts. The first race of the season, I was coming off an ACL injury, and I had issues with my suspension. I was battling with the top guy [Dustyn Davis], but things just didn’t feel right. I’d rather take a second than a DNF. The rest of the season was all firsts, everything was great, no major wrecks, or anything like that.”
The National Hare and Hounds season consisted of eight races in 2022, beginning in January at Lucerne Valley, California, and running to late October. The circuit takes a break at the midway point of the season in May, and then picks back up in September.
After his runner-up at Lucerne Valley, Harris rattled off six straight wins, culminating in his title-clinching race in Reno on Sept. 24.
“The last race was really the icing on the cake,” Harris explained. “I finished over six minutes ahead of second place, and I believe it was the best performance I’ve ever had. I had already won the championship, so there really wasn’t anything on the line – I just hung it all out there, and turned in some really fast lap times. It was a super-cool experience.”
Harris had accumulated enough points that he was able to skip the final race of the season and still win the title by a comfortable margin – his 205 season points were 42 more than runner-up Jordan Maas at 163. Following the end of the Hare and Hound season, Harris raced a couple of more events, including two races on the 250cc, the bike he plans to race in 2023. Jumping to a bigger bike has had a bit of a learning curve, but Harris has adapted well.
“The first race [on the 250] wasn’t great – it was out on the salt flats out there by Wendover, Utah, and we were in a sandstorm the whole race,” Harris said. “We’re talking, like, Category 3 hurricane-type winds, probably 50-60 mph. It was extremely tough. When the wind was T-boning you, you had to lean into the wind, so that it didn’t blow you off the trail. It was definitely interesting.”
Conditions were a little better for Harris’ second race on the 250, though it wasn’t without its share of issues.
I had a lot of pressure from my peers last season about moving up a class,” Harris said. “But Husqvarna, 3 Bros/Hatch and all of my sponsors were telling me, ‘Hey, let’s win a back-to-back championship – you don’t see many of those. You’re not at the very last year, where you’re kinda sandbagging the class – you’re fairly fresh in this, so let's get a back-to-back title, while also riding the 250.’ This year, I won’t be behind the 8-ball in the 250 class because of that.”
When the 2023 National Hare and Hound season begins Jan. 22, at the Winter Classic in Lucerne Valley, Harris will be competing in the 250A class; he will also compete on the NGPC [National Grand Prix Championship] circuit, a hybrid of motocross and off-road racing. Harris said the excitement of transitioning to the bigger bike helped him at a low point prior to last season, when his motivation wasn’t where it needed to be.
“I’m really looking forward to racing the 250 full time next year,” Harris said.
“I’ve signed a contract with Husqvarna for 2023 – in the past, I’ve just been supported by them,” Harris explained. “The next step is full factory, where bikes are built at the factory, tuned to the top level. Right now, I’m just supported – they give me an extremely good discount on bikes. I have a really good personal relationship with [Husqvarna Team Manager] Anthony DiBasilio, which I built through this last
season. If I need anything, I can call him up, and he can get me parts, give me advice, whatever I need. I’ve been able to build up a personal relationship, as well as a business relationship, which has been great.”
The opportunity to become a factory rider has become a source of pride for Harris, who pointed out that Wyoming isn’t exactly a breeding ground for professional riders.
“Racing in both the National Hare and Hound and the NGPC start the first and second week of January,” Harris said. “I’m doing workouts at home, trying to keep the cardio up – I’m really trying to gain weight right now, because – at the moment – I’m 107 pounds on a 230-pound machine. It [the 250] can throw you a lot harder than a mini can. My manager asked if I could gain 20 pounds by the start of the season, which will be interesting, because I’ve tried – my metabolism is high, so it burns right off me. This off-season, keeping the cardio up, staying mentally prepared – those are the keys.”
“I could have raced super-minis one more year,” Harris explained. “I hopped in minis also at a young age – I was on a Big Wheel 85 when I was 12, and you usually don’t switch over to those until you’re 14. I hopped into National Hare and Hound Big Wheels class about a year earlier than everyone else does, and made it work.”