Griffin single-handedly plots course in life, racing

August 10, 2010|By C.J. LOVELACE/Staff Correspondent
  • Jason Griffin hasn't allowed a childhood accident or the death of a brother to stop him from becoming one of the AMA's most promising racers.
Submitted photo,

Professional motorcycle racer Jason Griffin stood by his trailer Saturday night looking something like a celebrity.

Dressed in a green and black Monster Energy Drink shirt and a matching green cap, a line began to form at Griffin's trailer as he talked with fans, shook hands and signed autographs for kids and adults alike after the AMA Hub City Classic at Hagerstown Speedway. But he only used his left hand.

Not because he's left-handed, but because it's the only one he has.

Not surprising and extremely intriguing, Griffin, born and raised in Easley, S.C., is the only amputee to race on the AMA Flat Track racing circuit. He lost his right arm to a lawnmower accident when he was 2 years old, he said.

Something he's been asked a million times over, Griffin recounts his experience of losing the arm as cheery and carefree as anything.

"That was my dad's first time on one and my first time under one," he said, smiling, "but it worked out really good because I get to do some really neat stuff."


In a quiet, reserved yet personal voice, Griffin said flat track motorcycle racing has always been in his blood. Calling it a "family affair" that brought them together, he said his father raced in the 1970s and 80s, and his younger brother John followed suit and began racing as well.

Then, in October 2004, John's life and racing career were cut short when he passed away at the age of 27 due to "unnatural causes," according to Griffin's website, .

Recovering from that unexpected blow was extremely difficult for Griffin.

"Right after my brother died, it was just a turning point in my life," he said. "People talk about finding God, and after that, everything just started clicking."

Griffin, who is often referred to as "The One-Armed Bandit" on the AMA circuit, said his dad bought him a bike right after losing his arm, and after the passing of his brother, he realized his true calling -- and he planned to race (and win) in his brother's honor.

"It was good for the family and I turned out to be pretty good at it," said Griffin, 36, who is in his fifth year racing and his second as a pro.

He currently races as part of the AMA Pro Singles class, which features 450cc bikes, but plans to make the jump to the "big boys" -- the AMA Grand National Expert class -- next season.

"I've had a lot of good help; a lot of good sponsors. My folks have been super supportive and we've raced every weekend," said Griffin. "And the racing, I'm just amazed. ... People come up to me all the time and I couldn't figure out why I was so fortunate to be able to do what I do."

The rider said he's had many amazing, positive experiences with fans and supporters along his journey, but one stuck out in his mind as he spoke Saturday night in Hagerstown.

He recalled one fan and fellow racer who had contacted him after a bad crash put him into rehab for an entire year. The man said he had a poster of Griffin above his bed that he used as motivation on a daily basis to push through and continue on racing.

"I met him and it was really moving," said Griffin. "That was an honor. I'll train harder for those people and I'll do it for me. As long as I keep helping other people, God takes care of me."

And Griffin does more with less than most people.

Although he failed to qualify for Saturday night's feature, missing the time trial cut-off by just over a tenth of a second, Griffin was still there in support of his fellow racers and his fans.

As evidence to his kind nature and giving spirit, Griffin actually made an appearance on the track during the Expert Twins feature, but not on his bike.

After fellow racer Michael Kirkness was collected in a turn-two fall in the early laps of the race, Griffin took action and helped push Kirkness' bike back toward the start-finish line as the fallen rider was briefly looked at by medical personnel.

With presumably one of Kirkness' team members, Griffin ran the whole way down the front stretch, steadying the bike with that left arm and getting a standing ovation from many in the grandstand.

Interesting fact: Griffin, who currently holds a bachelor's and a master's degree, hopes to get into medical school soon. Although the AMA website says Griffin plans to be an optometrist, don't believe it.

He admitted his real motives. Griffin said he just wants to make more money to fuel his biggest obsession, but there's just one minor problem.

"Medical schools are like super hard to get into and my grades are like I've been racing motorcycles, I don't know why," laughed Griffin. "So when I go to medical school, I'll take my racer resume out."

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