By Jim Kimball
If you were wondering who the #129 was by watching the Hangtown 250 Motocross class you were probably not alone. Sean Cantrell in his very first pro motocross was running up front, fending of the challenges of many seasoned veterans. Of course to many watching, it was not a total surprise. The recent amateur graduate had gained many accolades in his racing career already. With finishes of 12, 12, and 12 in the first three outdoor nationals, Cantrell is ranked a very impressive 13th overall in the standings. We recently tracked down The Troy Lee Designs KTM rider to get his thoughts on his debut rides as a pro.
SEAN, WHAT WAS YOUR AMATEUR MOTOCROSS CAREER LIKE? My amateur career was pretty good, and I was happy with it. I had some success ever since I was six years old and I first got into this sport. At a young age I definitely was the guy with a target on my back. Not to say that in a cocky way or anything, but I just never settled. I just wanted to win, and I feel that having an older brother who raced also helped me out. I always wanted to beat him, and it progressed into the amateur scene. I won four championships at Loretta Lynn’s. I was definitely happy with my amateur career and all of the confidence I had there definitely helped me out the past couple of weeks in the pros.
WHAT HAS BEEN KIND OF THE BIGGEST EYE OPENER FOR YOU AS YOU TRANSITION INTO THE 2017 OUTDOORS SERIES? I have been asking questions of all the guys on the team, the riders, the mechanics and everybody, just what to expect. They gave me their opinions about what to expect. You never really know what to do until you are out there doing it yourself. The biggest eye opener for me was that everybody throws down in practice. Everybody is going fast, and this is no joke. You go from winning in the amateurs to most of the time getting passed as a pro. It was a humble experience for sure. Everyone is going super fast, and clicking off laps. In the amateurs, you have a couple of fast guys, but you come to the pros and every rider in the top 20 is going pretty much the same speed. The track is also night and day different. From an amateur track to a pro track is just ridiculous just how rough these tracks get, I cannot even explain it.
YOU WERE RIDING UP FRONT FOR A WHILE AT HANGTOWN, WHAT WAS THAT LIKE? It was an unreal feeling, actually. I mean qualifying 17th, and then getting a second place start, and being in front of Zach Osborne, the reigning East Coast Supercross Champion was crazy. I definitely had to figure things out quickly, and had to come up with something. So I found some speed, and it was really cool to finally find where they were quicker. I was able to be up there for a couple of laps before I had a little tip over and it set me back. But just being up there with all the guys helped me a lot. Everybody is quick, so the more I can learn right off the bat, the better I will be later in the season. I am just hoping that each week gets easier and easier, and the nerves go away a little bit.
HAVE YOU FELT ANY NEGATIVE ASPECTS OF BEING A PRO SO FAR? It is definitely stressful. Like with qualifying when you are a couple of seconds off. It does not feel too good, but once the day is over, and you finally finish the second moto, it is like man, this is a cool experience. As amateur riders we have all been looking forward to these types of days ever since we were six years old. It is cool to finally be in these shoes. I try not to put too much pressure on myself. It is my rookie season, so I am just going out, and trying to better myself each week. We did get a little better last week, so we are just hoping for the best and having some fun with it. Like I said, I am not expecting too much out of myself. Hopefully, I can ride the way I know how to ride, and we will be happy at the end of the day.
HAVE ANY OF THE TLD KTM GUYS TAKEN YOU UNDER THEIR WING, AND HELPED YOU LEARN THE ROPES OF PROFESSIONAL MOTOCROSS? Yes, absolutely. I see the guys at the practice track, two to three days a week, and they are always open for questions and answers. Whenever I have a question, they always love to help me out. Team Manager Tyler Keefe is always open to offer suggestions, and stuff like that. I definitely do not feel out of place. I have actually been on this team for a couple of years on the amateur side, so moving up into some bigger shoes on to the pro side is a big step, but they welcome me very well, so I feel at home. They are all like big brothers to me, so it feels good and I am really happy with the way things are going. Now I just want more out of myself.
WITH YOU BEING THE NEW ROOKIE TO THE PROS DO SOME OF THE CLASS VETERAN’S RACE YOU A BIT HARDER? Yes, I kind of agree with that. I came in with some hype, and nobody likes to get beat by a rookie. Nobody likes to be shown up by the younger kid coming into their class, so they want to put them into place. Adam Cianciarulo and I got together. I would not call it dirty or anything, but I crossed over his line on accident. He then bumped me out of the way, and showed me what is up. I definitely know where they are coming from, they do not want a rookie coming up and being in front of them or being in the way or anything. But on the rookie side of it, we are trying to make a name for ourselves. We are trying to get up there, and put our team on top. There is a lot of hype for a rookie on a factory team, but we are just trying to do what we are here to do.
WITH THAT SAID, SEAN, YOU AND MICHAEL MOSIMAN (ROCKSTAR HUSQVARNA) ARE THE ROOKIES ON FACTORY BIKES THIS YEAR. DO YOU HAVE ANY EXTRA INCENTIVE TO BEAT HIM; IS IT IMPORTANT TO BE THE TOP ROOKIE? We have grown up racing together ever since we were on 50’s, since we were five or six years old. We definitely have had some rivalry, and we have always wanted to beat each other. But I come to the race wanting to just do my own thing and ride the way I know how to ride, and I know if I can do that, I will be happy. I am sure he feels the same way. I would not say that I am going out there wanting to beat the #342. I would rather say that I am going out there to beat the #129 from last week. I am not really focusing on whom I am trying to beat or anything like that, and I have a different mentality coming into these races. I am trying to ride my own race, and I feel when I do that, I accomplish my goals and I do better. We both want to be the first rookie to cross the finish line, but we have different incentives. I really just want to better myself from the past week, and learn.
WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPY AFTER THE FINAL RACE IN INDIANA IS OVER, AS FAR AS FINISHING IN THE POINTS? We all want to get the most points as possible, which is the goal for racing dirt bikes. For me, I want to get a good start, and obliviously stay up there as long as possible. I feel like if we do that like we did at Hangtown in the first moto, that is the goal. I am not too worried about points; I am just worried about running their pace and finding it as soon as possible. Like I said earlier, like as soon as I find that pace it will benefit me more later in the season. So as soon as we can do that and not go down, I will be happy. I have gone down three out of the six motos so far this year, so as soon as we can have a good moto, get up front, not go down and just click off lap after lap, we will be happy. Not necessarily focusing on points. I mean that is a huge goal, but we are just learning every week.