In amateur racing, the starting line is filled with kids who are determined to be the next big thing. Ricky Carmichael and James “Bubba” Stewart both had incredible amateur careers, but few make it to the big time. For one, the competition is stacked; just to achieve good results, you have to be on your game 24/7. And two, the price to get to the races is gnarly when you add up all the expenses. Over the years, I have really noticed a sea change in amateur racing from the days when I was racing as a kid. The pits are littered with big diesel motor homes, and it seems as if each kid has four bikes at a minimum: These young racers and their parents aren’t messing around.I have had the pleasure of spending time with up-and-comer Travis Bright and his parents, Tammy and Loren. Bright and I often ride at the same private track hidden in the orchards of Ventura County, California. It didn’t take long for him to catch my eye as he showed blazing speed aboard his 80. As I came to know his family, I could see just how serious they were about racing. Basically, it’s full-time work for Bright and his parents that requires just as much time as the jobs that pay the bills. Competing at this level isn’t for everyone, as your entire life is dedicated to racing and producing results, with the biggest focus on Loretta Lynn’s Ranch in Tennessee, site of the AMA Amateur National Motocross championship. Don’t let this scare you: As serious as the Bright family is about racing, a tight bond among them is clearly evident; after all, motocross is a family sport! Although Bright is only 14, he is well-mannered and has a good head on his shoulders. Racing is fun for him and his family, and more important, he is still allowed to be himself and be a kid. Sadly, some minibike parents rob their kids of that freedom, hoping to groom them into the next Bubba; but in most cases that just doesn’t happen. I think there is a fine line when it comes to racing, but no matter what, you have to keep it fun, and this is what the Bright family does. I recently talked with Bright and his mom about motocross, their racing life and what it takes to compete with the hopes of making it to the “professional” ranks.Watching the Dollar Bills
What it takes to race at BRIGHT’S level
Motor home: $15O,OOO
Bikes: Three small-wheel CR85Rs ($2999 each), two big-wheel CR85Rs ($3O99 each) and one Honda CRF25OR ($5999)
Motor modifications: Two Super Mini motors ($3OOO each) and one 85cc mod motor ($17OO)
Exhaust systems: Half-price sponsorship with FMF; 1O-12 systems ($13O per system)
Suspension modifications: Sponsored by IRS but still pays for parts ($3OOO per season)
Bars: Sponsored by RenthalTires: 3O-4O sets per season ($5O per set)
Graphics: Sponsored by FMF
Riding gear: Sponsored by O’Neal
Boots: Five to six sets of Alpinestars Tech 8s ($289.99 per set)
Race gas: 5-1O gallons per weekend ($4O for a 5-gallon drum)
Diesel fuel: $7OO a month during race season
Misc.: $1OO a month in wear and tear on the bikes
DR: When did you first start riding?
TB: I first started riding when I was about five, and I had a PW80. I started racing when I was about nine years old.How did you get into racing?
We went to a supercross, and my mom decided we were going racing. My dad wanted me to race before then, but my mom wasn’t into it. It took just one supercross, and she was all about it.What allowed you to progress so quickly with your racing?
I started racing at Gorman and L.A. County Raceway, and that went really well, but I seemed to become a lot faster once we started racing [everywhere in Southern California]. The classes are deeper there, and racing with those guys made me better.How long was it before racing became serious?
My third year racing, we went to Ponca City for the National; I knew then I wanted to take things more seriously and wanted to race all the time. I was able to progress, and now it is all I think about.As seriously as you take racing, is it still fun for you?
Oh yeah, it’s still tons of fun, but it’s definitely a job now and something that [requires] 100 percent. I work as hard as I can at this; you have to if you want good results.What does your weekly program consist of?
I’m homeschooled now, so on Mondays I go to school and turn in all my work for the week and bring home new [assignments]. After I leave school, I try to get some of my homework done. On Tuesdays, my mom takes me to I-5MX, and I ride for most of the day. On Wednesdays, I do school work for about four hours and then ride my bicycle or my 50. Thursdays, I go with my dad to Glen Helen or RaceTown 395. On Fridays, I try to kick back and hang out with friends if I can. That’s really important to me.What is it like being homeschooled?
I recently began homeschooling for the ninth grade. I do my work and get it done when I need to-I should probably get it done a bit sooner than I do. Being homeschooled gives me the opportunity to ride at least twice during the week, and take the time off to go to all the big Nationals during the year.What is your main focus for the year?
Winning Loretta Lynn’s. I will be racing the 14-16 Mod and Supermini [classes].Words with the head of the house: MomDR: So you were the one who allowed Travis to get into racing?
TB: Yeah, Travis had been riding since he was about five, and I never planned on his racing. There were two things I didn’t want him doing: playing football and racing motocross. We all went to a supercross, and after that I was hooked. My husband said Travis would be really good at this, so we bought him a KTM 65 and he raced for the next year at Gorman.What is the hardest part of being a minibike parent at this level?
Watching your son go out on the track, and seeing him go as fast as he can every lap. I turn my back when he is on the starting line; after he gets through the first turn, I start watching.How do you manage all the time spent away from work?
I’m fortunate to have my own business, but it’s really hard to make it all happen. I feel that if Travis is giving 100 percent, then we have to give 100 percent, too. It’s tough, but we make it work. At the level he is [approaching], we are also very excited for him, and that makes us all work that much harder to be able to do this.Even though you and your husband have good jobs, is it hard financially to race at this level?
It’s very hard financially, but we have great support, which helps tremendously. Without some of Travis’ sponsors, we would not be able to race as much as we do. Basically, it’s just opening the checkbook and using credit cards, and paying the bills when they come. We feel that in this sport if you want to be the best, you have to have the best [equipment].Do you think some parents push the whole racing thing too far?
Oh yeah! When we first got into this sport, we saw a few dads who were just awful. The kids know what they’re doing, and they know they need to be up front. But I think there are a lot of dads who try to live through their sons, and that adds unneeded pressure. Everyone makes mistakes, but it gets old seeing some of the things parents do. There are a few dads I don’t care to be around because it just takes away from what we are doing.Do you think racing at this level makes it difficult for Travis to be a kid?
I thought that about two years ago, because we were going to the races and he was missing school dances and wasn’t able to hang out with friends on weekends. He went through about a six-month period of wanting to just hang out with friends, so as a family, we sat down and asked him if he wanted to just race on a part-time basis. After he gave it some thought, he told us he wanted to race. I really don’t think he feels he has missed out on anything as far as being a kid. In racing, we have met great people and gone to great places. Motocross is very social for us, and Travis still has his friends back home.