We’ll start with Clason and Gardner, who have been battling for spots in the main all year. Gardner, of BWR Racing, made mains at Houston 3 and again at Indy 2 and 3. Clason, of team PR-MX Pelletier Kawasaki, came heartbreakingly close several times but then finally put it into the main at the last two races. Along the way, they battled each other hard for transfer spots. We asked the two privateers about their season and battling each other.
1. Your results are picking up and you’re making mains. Where are you improving and how would you rate your season so far?
Carlen Gardner: Yeah, results are getting better, a few guys have gone out and I definitely needed to take advantage of that and get some main events under my belt. Those guys are coming back so I need to keep the confidence going and stay in these mains! This class is tough, each year we always say that but it’s true! So, with the 450 class being the way it is I’m extremely happy with how the season has started off.
Cade Clason: My starts have improved dramatically, which is the biggest thing for someone in my position, along with really getting back into a comfortable flow. After two years off from supercross it was a much harder transition back into it than I had hoped last year. Now I’m a lot more comfortable and confident in all aspects of my riding.
2. What’s your best battle this year? Take us through one of these crazy LCQs or something good from a heat or main.
Gardner: Honestly, the best battles have been between Cade and I. We have found each other a couple times in LCQs and heats races and races and pushed each other hard all the way to the finish! The craziest race had to be the LCQ at Houston 3 when I ran fifth the whole race until a last corner pass on Cade (yeah, little contact). We almost both went down but I was able to stay up and make my first main of the year!
Clason: Honestly, my best battle this year would have to be in my heat race at Indy 3 with Gardner, we were in ninth and tenth, both trying so hard for that spot and I actually slammed him pretty hard once! I just wasn’t able to make it stick, and he made it in, and I didn’t, but after the race I chatted with him we both agreed that it was probably the best we had both ridden, pushing each other like that.
3. What’s this schedule like as a privateer? Have you been able to ride much besides the races? Is that a problem or do you like it this way?
Gardner: I like the schedule a lot! It’s working in my favor for more than just riding. I have a big part in team BWR, so it gives me more time and freedom to get the truck where it needs to be, book less hotels/flights. Just a lot less logistical nightmares than it would be for 17 separate rounds. I really don’t get to ride a ton due to other commitments and side work anyway, so all-in-all the season is awesome set up like this! Huge thank you to everyone who supports Team BWR and myself. BWR engines, LTEC Underground utilities, SSI decals, FLY Racing, and everyone else who makes this team happen!
Clason: It has its plus and minuses. Houston wasn’t bad because guys could ride if they wanted to or at least be active outdoors and keep a somewhat normal schedule. Indy was pretty miserable with the weather, snow and just being stuck inside 24/7 and not being able to ride at all. We also had some bad weather in the week between Houston and Indy, so Tuesday after Indy 3 was the first time I was actually able to practice since the season started. Yeah, the practice schedule has been a little out of whack, but I am enjoying this new schedule.
The Brick has moved up to the 450 class with the Twisted Tea/HEP Motorsports Suzuki team. It’s been tough sledding as a rookie, as he sits 21st in points after missing two mains. We asked him about his early 450 experience.
1. How has your season gone?
Brandon Hartranft: Season has been going okay. Definitely getting used to the 450 and how the 450 guys race. Instead of dealing with eight good guys, I’m dealing with 21! So, I’m just trying my best every weekend to improve.
2. What’s been the toughest part of the 450 transition? The bike itself, the other riders, or the longer mains and rougher tracks. Or maybe something else that I’m forgetting?
Toughest part so far has been how gnarly the tracks have been. It’s a big difference, the 450s beat the track up so much compared to the 250s. I don’t mind the longer main events. I do like riding the 450 but I gotta go twice as fast so that doesn’t make it easy! [Laughs]
3. Has it been tough adjusting to the new class without the regular schedule or are you okay with it? How much practice/test riding have you even done since Houston 1?
I personally like the new schedule. I like racing as much as possible. Leading up to the season was solid. We didn’t have much time leading up to it especially adjusting to a new brand and a 450, but I tried my best to get as ready as possible and so did the team. I haven’t really told them to make any big changes, it’s been pretty good.