Photo by: Chase Yocom

These “Privateer Showcase” interviews presented by Race Tech Suspension at MotoXAddicts tell the stories of the guys in the trenches week in and week out trying to chase their dream of racing professional motocross and Supercross. While the riders at the front of the pack get the money, the T.V. time and the glory that goes with it, there’s a huge pack of guys just hoping to get a spot inside a factory semi. We tell their stories.

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This week’s “Privateer Showcase” is with the surprise privateer of last weekend’s Daytona SX, Carlen Gardner. The twenty year-old Californian is only in his second year of Monster Energy Supercross and is beginning to turn some heads. In the 250SX Western Regional Championship, the #805 was just getting things rolling with main event appearances in Houston and Glendale, but a crash in Oakland forced him to take a brief break from the series. He returned in Atlanta in the 450SX class, and just three rounds later, he rode himself into the Daytona SX main event with a 2nd place finish in the LCQ.

There were quite a few surprises at the Daytona SX that probably overshadowed the BWR / RaceTech / MX Athletics / SSI Decals rider’s first-ever 450SX main event appearance, but we guarantee there were quite a few fans wondering who the #805 was when he was running second in the LCQ. Carlen will now be finishing out the 2018 season aboard the BWR Honda 450, so we decided to give him a call and help everyone get to privateer a little bit better.

Only in Daytona do the fans get to congratulate you on your first-ever main event.

Carlen, thanks for doing the interview. You’re flying back and forth for these East rounds to California right now. Did you think about staying out East?

Yeah, I’m back home in Paso Robles, California. I’ve been using my paycheck [purse money] to fly back and forth to California, see the family and all that stuff. I did stay East in the beginning. I stayed in Georgia for a week and rode at GPF [Georgia Practice Facility], but after that, it wasn’t going to work out with the guy taking my bike and running the team—they’re pretty full. My mechanic was going with them, his girlfriend and another mechanic, so the van was pretty full with four people in it already.


You’ve kind of been coming out of nowhere, so we figured we’d give our readers a quick intro to the #805. How old are you now and how old were you when you turned pro?

I’m 20 now. I turned pro at 18. We made a decision at 18 that it was the spot to go pro.


There’s not much in the way of tracks close to Paso Robles; I think Zaca Station is probably closest and it’s not really close. When you got started, where did you do most of your riding at as a kid?

We just started riding out in the desert, just family trips—Thanksgiving, New Years and stuff like that. We’d just go out and camp for a week or so and ride out there. It was really nothing more than that. I kind of started liking it a little more and more. I raced Go-karts when I was younger and was really into car racing. I wanted to try out moto racing a little more and we started doing the fair races around here. Then we’d go a little further, a little further and a little further, and that’s just going to out of state national races.

If he keeps up what he’s doing in 2018, he may turn the #805 into the #85 in ’19. Photo by: Chase Yocom

Doing a little research for this interview I noticed you did do Loretta Lynn’s a few times and even won a title in Two-Stroke B/C (16+) class in ’14. Did you just do local stuff and Loretta’s or did you do a lot of the amateur Nationals?

I’ve done Mammoth and Freestone too. I guess those are the only big ones. We did a lot of Southern California stuff. I only did the Freestone race once, Mammoth like eight or nine years and did Loretta’s for four years. I guess it was just whatever race we thought we’d get the most exposure if we did well at that time. Mammoth was always great for a vacation, so that’s why we always did that one. (laughs)


Did you pick up any support for that Two-Stroke B/C title at Loretta’s? It’s not the most highlight coveted class at Loretta’s but it’s still a title that can turn some heads.

Honestly, I thought it would have brought something more. What came from it was my Race Tech deal that I’ve been with for so many years. I met Chris [Riesenberg, AKA Checkerz] there and that’s where that started. Other than that, nothing came from it. I wasn’t expecting a full ride, but gear or something. Race Tech has brought me more support over the years so that one score has changed my racing career.


You went pro in ’16 and jumped right on the 450 outdoors, nearly scored points and then started your 250SX career in ’17. You ended up making a main event pretty quickly in Glendale. What was that like, making your first main?

It was amazing! I really wasn’t that close at the first few rounds, but everything just kind of went my way in that race. A couple guys went down together; I rode a solid race without going down and I popped into that 9th spot, made it right out of the heat race. When I came off the track and my mechanic told me I made it, I thought he was messing with me. That changed my motivation and showed me that if you just race hard things can go your way at any time. It changed my confidence a lot coming into this year.


Just knowing you’re a main event guy is huge in this sport. What was your 250 setup coming into ’18? There’s a big difference between a factory 250F and a privateer 250F, but out West this year you made two main events before switching to the 450 in the East.

I think we have the best privateer 250 I could have gotten with the help I got from BWR. That’s Brian White’s team—he does the motors—and that’s who we partnered up with for the West Coast stuff. We had a great motor, great suspension from Race Tech, great parts and a setup I really loved. I had zero doubts in my program.

Carlen got up from two crashes like this one during qualifying in Glendale and still made the main event. Photo by: Mark Lester

Were you happy with how the 250SX West went for you?

The West was going good. At Anaheim 1, I didn’t make a main but qualified well, so I was happy with that. I made the main the second weekend and that’s when I was like, “Okay, I can do this.” I missed the Triple Crown at Anaheim 2 by one position, and that really sucked. I was hoping to make those mains, but then I made the main again in Glendale. In Oakland, I went down in practice and got an AC separation and a concussion. That put me out of that one and San Diego.


Starting in Atlanta you jumped on the 450, and in your third attempt in Daytona—surprise, surprise—you’re in the main event. You make your first 450 main at arguably the grandaddy of them all. How was that?

That was awesome! I don’t qualify very good on the 450 because those guys are ridiculous, but racing is a different deal, so I knew I should have been up there. I was actually more happy to see how happy everyone was that supports me. My mechanic and Brian White—I’m so stoked to make them happy and represent for the people that support me. That’s what really made it more special.


How much was your phone blowing up in between the LCQ and main?

Oh yeah, that’s always so cool. Everyone at home that supports me and my friends and even people that don’t know me that hit me up on Instagram, that’s so awesome to see.


It’s Daytona too. It’s a big deal to make the main there. And you’ll be in St. Louis on the 450 too? Those bigger paychecks have got to be nice compared to the peanuts they pay for the 250 class?

Yeah, the plan is to finish it out on the 450. It’s nice to basically race for free every weekend or at least get really close to breaking even compared to the 250 class. If I can make another main event or even make them all—who knows—that’s way more exposure than I was getting on the 250.


Dan Lamb is a 12+ year journalist and the owner of MotoXAddicts.