Privateer Profile:  The Sewell Brothers

Privateer Profile: The Sewell Brothers

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If you have attended any pro motocross, supercross, or arenacross events the past couple years, you most likely have seen at least one of the Sewell brothers. But while they have logged some impressive results at times, it’s really their love of riding and racing dirt bikes, and love for their family that put them high on my list of favorite riders.  Living year round in Indiana, younger brother Shane and older brother Travis, and their family, have given up a lot to pursue their dreams of professional racing.  Last year the brothers had only one bike so they had to decide who was racing and who was wrenching.  This year they both had bikes and began racing at round three at High Point, which was the first race they could drive to from their Indiana base.  Currently ranked 25th (Travis) and 31st (Shane) in the 450 class; we caught up with the Sewell brothers in the Steel City privateer pit area.

Racer X: For those that may not know, let’s begin with how long you’ve been racing?
Shane Sewell:
I’ve ridden dirt bikes my entire life, but as far as seriously racing it’s been about five years.  I’m 23 years old now, so I really began focusing on racing as a career when I was 18.

Travis Sewell: Like Shane said, we’ve been riding pretty much our whole life, but then started to take it more serious after we got our driver’s license and could get to the tracks on our own –-because our parents were always working to be able to get us to the races!

Shane Sewell finished 25th overall at Steel City.
Photo: Andrew Fredrickson

You guys do well, but every year you put in some rides that really get people’s attention –-like at Southwick a couple weeks ago.
Shane Sewell:
Yeah Southwick is definitely a track that I feel comfortable on--as comfortable as my home race Red Bud is to me.  I’ve ridden sand my entire life, but initially Southwick wasn’t looking very good at first--I crashed three times in just the first lap.  But eventually I regrouped and worked my way into finishing moto one in seventeenth.  Then in the second moto I was running top ten the entire race until just near then end when I slipped to eleventh, which earned me twelfth overall.  Southwick was definitely progress towards where I want to be.

Travis Sewell: We grew up riding in sand pits when we were kids, so sand races are good for us compared to some of the other riders.  At Southwick I started kind of slow, but picked it up near then end and finished thirteenth in moto one.  Between motos the sky opened up and it really began to rain, and made the track very muddy.  During the first lap of the second moto I crashed.  Many of the ruts were filled with water so it was hard to tell how deep they were, or even where they were, so I got kicked sideways and went down.  My bike was bent up, and I was covered in mud, so it was a rough moto for me.

This summer both of you have been racing, but in the past didn’t one of you race while the other brother worked on the bikes?
Shane Sewell:
That’s right. In the past the guy that raced had to earn that spot.  It would come down to whoever was healthy, and whoever was putting in the most work during the week.  He is the one that would get the good bike, and get to race on the weekends--when you are a privateer in this sport it is always a money issue-–we both could not race.  This year has been pretty rough as well. I’ve had just one dirt bike all year and didn’t get to practice a lot. I’ve had to keep it fresh for the race weekends.  With Travis it’s been about the same situation, but thankfully Cycle Sports Yamaha in Hobart, Indiana stepped up and gave him a bike to race this year.  If he would not have been able to get the help from Cycle Sports Yamaha I wouldn’t have been able to race right now.  It could be worse for us, but it could definitely be a lot better.  For now we have to take what we can get and have fun with it.

Travis Sewell: It can be difficult. This weekend we don’t have any mechanics, we just have each other.  So we learn to help each other out. If one of us is done working on his bike we help the other one out.  We have always been competitive with each other, but not in a bad way.  If one of us does well, the other wants to do the same.  The whole money thing, or lack of it, has been difficult, but still we have managed and found ways to get to the races.  In the past we have had only one bike to share, so we would make a decision as to who got to ride and who got to wrench.  Thankfully this year has been somewhat different as we each got a bike.  When our season started to come closer my bike was pretty beat, but as Shane said Cycle Sports Yamaha really came to our rescue and gave me a bike to race--that happened the Tuesday before High Point.

You are racing in the 450 class as opposed to the 250 class. Why is that?
Shane Sewell:
Racing the 450 outdoors is just much more economical. We don’t have to rebuild the motorcycles ever single week, as compared to racing a 250.  You would have to dump so much money into racing a 250 at a national level--not only to gain more performance, but also just to keep it durable.  As far as racing a 250 I would be happy to do it, especially if we are able to race supercross next year.

Travis Sewell: As far as supercross racing goes, I think that the Lites class would be the place to be. In supercross the 450 class is just too gnarly.  We have both done pretty well in the East Coast SX Lites in the past.  But recently neither of us has had the chance to race supercross--money being the main thing that held us back.  We have just had to save up money to be competitive in one series, as opposed to being mediocre in two.  Racing outdoors this summer, my bike has not been apart once, so it is the right class for us to be in.  But even with that we are barely breaking even; gas, food, and all the other expenses to race really add up.  It’s tough for us racing 450s, so I do not even want to think about what it would cost if we were racing the 250 class.

Travis Sewell finished 21st overall at Steel City.
Photo: Andrew Fredrickson

Both of you have had some good rides in arenacross and supercross right?
Shane Sewell:
I actually began racing as a pro in arenacross for the GPF/Babbitt’s/Kawasaki Team.  I was like, “Holy cow! So this is what indoor racing is!”  It was a bit of a learning curve, but it went pretty well.  I came back into the following year and won the North Arenacross Lites series, which was certainly one of my best moments as far as racing as an AMA Pro.  Racing arenacross was great as the track is so tight and the riding is very aggressive.  Compared to arenacross, when I then got on a supercross track, it seemed so much more wide open and that I had some advantages from racing the tighter arenacross tracks.  I like arenacross and would do it again, but you really need to have a good deal to be able to make money.

Travis Sewell: Yeah that was back in 2007 when we first did arenacross, and I think that we went into it pretty blind.  We didn’t know what to expect or how to set our bikes up.  Almost everything on our bikes was stock.  But we just went for it, and learned a lot. And I actually got the 450 Rookie of the Year award.  I cannot thank GPF (Georgia Practice Facility) enough for helping me out.  The following year we both came back pretty strong, and as Shane said, it made racing supercross much easier.

You guys seem to have done so much with so little. What can you do to get to that next step and gain some more sponsorship and support?
Shane Sewell:
I’m not sure, but to get to that next level you need a good motorcycle and a team that wants the same things that you do-–good results.  From what we have to do during the week to get to the races, and get decent results puts a big smile on our faces.  We want nothing more than to be running top ten and racing with the big dogs.  I know what those guys do during the week, and what they ride on the weekends and the teams do so much for them.  We are definitely taking a butter knife to a gunfight right now. But it’s awesome, as we are living our dream of racing dirt bikes.

Travis Sewell: It just takes results to get to that next level, along with knowing the right people within the teams.  I hate to say it but there is some of that “who you know” in this sport--like everywhere else.  The night before we left to drive here to Steel City, we were up until midnight putting a new head gasket in Shane’s bike because it blew at Southwick.  If we could just have more time to focus on training and riding it would help a lot.  Right now it’s just racing on the weekends and then working on our bikes so that we can get them to the next race.  There is just so much stuff we have to worry about, and work on through the week that makes it harder on the weekends to focus just on riding and racing.  It’s even difficult to recover from just the long drives we make across the country to get to the races. Sometimes on race day you almost feel a little hung over from driving so much.  After every race, regardless from where it’s at, we drive straight home Saturday night.  Then we need to recover from that, work on the bikes, and then prepare for the next race. So it’s just difficult to do it all.  Having some type of opportunity like having a bike ready, or even having a flight or two to some of the far races would help tremendously!

Steel City was the last race of the season for Travis, as he will not be racing at Pala.
Photo: Andrew Fredrickson

What are your plans after Steel City?
Shane Sewell:
After this weekend I go to the doctor to get a CAT scan on my wrist which had been bothering me the last couple races.  Then I’ll be soaking up as much rest time as possible, sell the motorcycle that I now have, and then hopefully regroup for supercross.  It seems a while away now, but supercross always comes much sooner than you think.  Besides that I’ll just keep up my fitness up with as much road bicycling as I can fit in.

Travis Sewell: Unfortunately no Pala Raceway for us as it’s just way too far of a drive.  I might take a little time off, but probably not too much as I really enjoy riding and being on the bike.  I’d like to do the Montreal Supercross, and then maybe some of the German Supercross series later this fall.  I want to just try to keep racing and bettering myself.

Guys, is there anything that you care to add?
Shane Sewell:
I’d like to give a big thanks to my mom and dad. The emotional support that I get from my family is beyond what any sponsor could do!  Along with my family I would also like to thank people like FXR. Without them we would not even have race gear this season. Von Zipper, in particular John Kuzo at Von Zipper has been awesome to me, and then without Cycle Sports Yamaha I certainly would not be racing.  A big thanks also needs to go to Factory Connection, EVS, Pro Taper, and Dunlop. We owe a lot to Brian Fleck who helps us so much with having the right tires on our bikes.

Travis Sewell: Yeah, we pretty much have the same sponsors but I do want to say how huge Cycle Sports Yamaha has helped us out!  FXR really came to our rescue and supported us, and they want to help even more next year-–which would be very cool!  Factory Connection, Dunlop, Pro Taper, Throttle Jockey, Von Zipper, 661, also helped us.  I want to give special thanks to Kropp Construction who helped us with some travel money.  Another local company MX Time has helped us with anything that we need.   Our friend John Rhymer helped us with one of the bikes too.  Like Shane said, our family has been amazing. My dad works almost non-stop so we can get to the races, as well as my mom who works to help support us.  My uncle helps us whenever he can, even my grandmother helps us with stuff!

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