Photo by: Chase Yocom – Article written by: Dan Lamb

With the stadium, the lights, the crowd and everything that goes with Monster Energy Supercross being quite overwhelming for a teenager just turning pro, Troy Lee Designs / KTM’s Sean Cantrell followed the new trend of turning pro during the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. Sean turned pro at the 2017 Hangtown National, and after scoring six top 10 moto finishes–best moto being a 6th–he finished his freshman campaign 14th in the 2017 AMA 250 National Championship. With that, Sean earned national number 43 heading into the 2018 Eastern Regional 250SX Championship.

Sean made his SX debut in Arlington, and had a solid start to his career. He qualified with the 11th fastest lap time and transferred to the main directly out of his heat race with a 7th. For the main, Sean had a decent gate pick, but he did something that surprised a lot of people: he lined up on the far outside gate. It was almost like the kid had a premonition, because he got a great jump and Josh Osby and Jordon Smith cleaned out 75% of the class from the inside and caused a huge first turn pileup that Cantrell just casually avoided and came out in 2nd.

Watch Sean Cantrell’s GoPro and check out his start in Arlington.

Sean ran second staying close RJ Hampshire for the first six laps before getting passed by the defending champ, Zach Osborne. Sean had a great shot of staying up there and scoring a surprise debut top five, but Colt Nichols got alongside him in the whoops and a brief loss of focus ended with Sean in a tough block. Sean remounted in 9th and ended up crossing the line with an 8th on the night. It was not what Sean wanted or even could have gotten if he kept it on two wheels, but a solid building block for the rest of his rookie season.

After Arlington, MotoXAddicts’ Chase Yocom talked to Sean about his debut SX ride.

Sean, Arlington was your first pro SX race. How was it out there for you? You lead some laps but had a crash in there too. It was pretty impressive for your rookie debut.

Absolutely! We went to there and accomplished everything we wanted to. I just wanted to get up front, find the pace and ride up there as long as we could. Unfortunately, I only made it half way. I lined up on the far outside gate–no ruts–and thought we had the best gate out there. I managed to get through the [first turn] carnage by a foot, maybe six inches. I was following RJ [Hampshire] a little bit, tried to make the pass a few times, and eventually [Zach] Osborne caught up to me. We were battling for a little bit, but eventually I went down through the whoops. I got tangled up in the tough blocks. I think I ended up 9th or 10th, and we’re heading to Tampa. I’m happy. On to Tampa. We left safe and have a lot to build off of.

Like every rider that ends up at TLD, Sean is a very likable guy. Photo by: Simon Cudby

What was it like to race under the lights for the first time? I believe you did the Amateur All-star race at Monster Energy Cup, but SX is probably a completely different experience.

I didn’t have the best experiences with the whole Monster Cup deal, but SX is every little kid’s dream growing up. Ever since we are 4 years-old, we’re watching it and waiting for our day to come. Arlington was my day, and it was unbelievable. Hearing all the fans, seeing all the lights and just being in the situation is incredible. No, there’s no better feeling, honestly—being up front and knowing everybody is watching you and all the attention is on you. It’s really cool. I’m happy with how it went, but unfortunately we got tangled in a tough block. There’s always the next weekend, right?


You’re a rookie and supposed to have some little hiccups and learn from it, so I’m sure you’ll learn from it.



Hopefully you just won’t have those tough block issues. (laughs)

Yeah, we know what to expect going into the next eight rounds. Now we know what to expect and what we need to work on.

Sean #43 getting some heat from the Champ in Arlington. Photo by: Simon Cudby

Obviously you’ve turned a lot of laps on the test tracks and the practice tracks, but this was your first actual race track. How did a race track compare? Have you ever seen anything like that?

Man, that’s a tough question. I grew up in California and I currently live in California. Most my offseason was in California, but luckily I’ve spent the last couple of weeks at Blake Baggett’s place. Softer dirt, softer terrain, and if I didn’t do that I would have been a fish out of water. Such a soft track. It felt like every lap there was a new line. I really had to adapt and cut down in every corner. The whoops especially were gnarly. I figured out a little too late that we were starting to jump through the whoops. Now we know what to expect next weekend, what to pick up on and figure out.


Are you going to be spending the rest of the SX season at Blake’s place? What’s the plan there? Are you going to spend a little time there and then head back to California? It seems like the dirt there is a lot more like what you guys will be seeing on the East Coast tracks compared to Cali blue-groove.

Once we found out we were doing the East, we decided to go to Blake’s, and thank God we did. Incredible facility. We’re going to stay out there until after Indy and then we’ll head back home to California to get some outdoor testing in. Yeah, the plan is to stay there until Indy, then we’ll go from there.

It might take some time in this super stacked 250SX East, but we expect to see Sean inside the top 5 often. Photo by: Simon Cudby

How did that relationship with Blake come about? Is that just a KTM thing or have you known Blake for a while?

I met him through my team manager during outdoors. They were talking and, hey, I’ve looked up to Blake since I was on 65’s or 85’s. He was the A Class guy. He was killing it in outdoors. I’ve just always wanted to go to a top guy’s facility. The stars aligned for me, thankfully, and here I am. I was training at his facility even when he was in California. I was holding down the fort at his house alone. I’ll be there hopefully for outdoors too. I feel like that helped me out a lot, having him in my corner and him leading the way.


Congratulations on your first SX race as a professional. Obviously, you raced outdoors in ’17. You got the first one out of the way, and good luck in Tampa.

Thank you. That was the plan: just to get through the first one.