Just last month at a regional in Mississippi, Conyers native Blake Ashley accomplished a goal he'd been dreaming of since the age of four when the 15 year-old dirt bike racer qualified for the 34th annual Rocky Mountain ATV/MC AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship presented by AMSOIL.
"The Amateur Nationals at Loretta Lynn's is the event every motocross racer in the country wants to compete in," Event Director Tim Cotter, said in a news release. "A win at the Amateur Nationals gives a rider instant national notoriety and can serve as a springboard to a lucrative professional motocross career."
Blake Ashley is one of 1,483 qualifiers out of 20,000-plus hopefuls.
"I've been racing since I was four and that's the main goal every year to make it there (the national championship)," Blake said. "Last year I tried and broke my collarbone, the year before that we didn't end up trying and the year before that I broke my knee and my femur so to finally make it is pretty good."
There were about 700 people at the event and about 40 of them were in his class, Blake says. He knew he'd have to do well because he was competing in one of the toughest regionals in the southeast.
In Blake's first race he placed seventh, which worried him because he rode hard just to get that, and the top-six finishes are what really matter. However, Blake recovered in his next two events, placing fifth and sixth earning him a fourth overall finish.
"You just wanna be consistent, top-six every moto," Blake said.
"It was kind of surreal," Blake said describing his feelings when he found out he quailified for the amateur national championship. "You can go to more than one regional and me and my dad were already planning to make a trip to the regional next weekend because - they have power rankings for all of the regionals - my regional was one of the hardest so to make it out of there was pretty crazy when I pulled off the track and found out that I made it."
The best thing about it Blake accomplishing this feat was that he did it on Father's Day, and it was a wonderful gift to the man, Wes Ashley, who got Blake started in motocross at the age of five.
"When I was little my dad rode a lot," Blake said. "He always rode, he seemed like he was having fun so I wanted to do it. It kind of became more of a lifestyle. I'm homeschooled now, I pretty much live at the track. I don't see how life would be without riding."
Blake Ashley has come a long way. He's dealt with many injuries attempting to make it to nationals, from a leg injury in 2011 to a broken collarbone last year. Now, he's preparing for nationals, where his dreams of becoming a pro could begin to come true.
Currently, he's riding every day down in South Georgia trying to get ready for the heat and the long motos. He says he wants to ride in the top 10 and share air with the fast kids, who are factory sponsored riders so that he can one day be one of them.
A lot of riders usually have multiple bikes and travel to events in RVs, but not Blake. His father fixes bikes for a living, but the Ashley's can't afford to buy Blake multiple bikes, so he just has the one that helped him earn fourth overall at regionals.
Blake has the support of his parents, Wes and Angela Ashley, as well as his grandparents Russell and Phyllis Ashley. Blake also has the help of a number of sponsors such as Mountain Motorsports, the city of Conyers, Scott Goggles, JT Wear, Yamaha, Atlanta Wood Masters, AO1 Design Graphics and a place to ride Monroe MX.
Blake, who has placed in or won about 200 races in the past 10 years, will travel with his father and mother to Tennessee from July 27 - August 1, 2015 to compete at Loretta Lynn's.