Photo from the DR Archives
Kent believes this photo was from the 1981 Anaheim Supercross, the opening round in the supercross series that had only one race at Anaheim, but two in Seattle, two in Houston, and two in Pontiac. At the Anaheim race, Howerton started the year off with a win in dramatic style, passing Mark Barnett for the lead with just over a lap to go.
THE EVENT: “Anaheim was one of my favorite tracks. I liked the layout and I liked the soil that they used. It was kind of a sandy loam and it was usually wet so it got rutty and it got rough. It was just a fun track… Anaheim, for a supercross race, was a track that tended to go like an outdoor track, it got rougher and became more technical in that aspect, and not so much on the jumps, although the jumps got ruts that make them more difficult… I preferred the outdoors. Some supercrosses I liked, but one thing that I really enjoyed was riding the bike at high speed, so tracks that where a lot more open and higher speed were tracks that I looked forward to riding on. It seemed like every time when I rode a supercross track, just when the bike was starting to get going, there was a jump in the way and you had to slow down. But I definitely preferred the outdoors and the longer races… [re: his comment about slowing down for the jump faces] They were built a lot different. The problem back then is we had a different builder building every track that we rode on, so there were a lot of inconsistencies. The guy might know something about bikes, or he might be just a construction worker and not know how to build a jump. A lot of times they were just dangerous or they were square-edged and just difficult to ride on. The big difference today, most of the guys already know what the track’s going to be like because they can build it and practice on it, it’s measured out to the right length, and you’ve got the same people building the tracks so there’s some consistency and uniformity to it… The first race of the year you always want to try to do the best you can and obviously not take too many chances and get hurt and get knocked out [of the championship]. Winning a race is a lot different that winning a championship, you’ve got to be there every single race and so you obviously need to do the best you can to collect as many points as you can to win the championship, but you have to evaluate how you feel and how everything’s working on the day and at that time. First place might not be what’s going to be your best finish. You might be able to [only] get third, fourth, fifth, or sixth, you just manage the best you can…”
THE BIKE: “The first time I ever rode the Full Floater [rear suspension] was at the national at Mt. Morris, it was in 1980 and I was already leading the championship and they brought the bike in a few days early to test, and there was a particular spot on the track that had a bowl turn that had a rut in the center of it about 12 inches wide, and about six inches deep. On the twin shock bike you’d hit that and it would bottom out. With the Full Floater you’d hit that thing and it would absorb it, you wouldn’t even feel it. So I told them, ‘I want to race this bike Sunday,’ they said, ‘No, it’s a test bike, it wasn’t meant to be raced.’ I said, ‘Well, find out because I really want to race it.’ They did and I raced and I won that weekend on it, and then of course they refined the bike a little more for the ‘81 season. It was an awesome bike. The back end worked really good, the bike was light and made good power. The forks were a little harsh, that was probably the biggest criticism I had about the bike, we just couldn’t get the forks to work as plush as the rear end worked… The rear end on that full floater was pretty good from the very beginning. I don’t remember every having any trouble other than one of the races at Road Atlanta I overjumped a jump and hit the ground and blew the oil line off the shock, that was the only problem I ever had with it. The twin shock bike was much more difficult to get set up. The bike that I raced in 1980, the Full Floater at that Mt. Morris race, it had all steel components, so the bike was really heavy, but it worked so good I was willing to provide for the weight… [re: supercross vs. motocross bike setup] We actually had two different bikes; we had a supercross bike and an outdoor bike. The supercross bike had shorter travel, and obviously the suspension is much stiffer so when you land short on a jump it doesn’t kick you over the bars or do other things. And then when you land off of a jump there’s usually a lot of holes and ruts, you don’t want the bike darting from one side of the track to the other. You tried to set them up as stiff as you could… [re: how much shorter?] I think it was about an inch and a half or two inches shorter… [re: how the lower bike handled] When you’ve got a lower bike with a lower center of gravity it handles better, it’s more stable, and the thing that you notice is it doesn’t have the plush ride that the outdoor bike has, but it’s much more stable. In supercross you’re always jumping and landing and taking off [again], so you want the bike to be able to land and stick to the ground to get ready for the next jump, and not have to slow down and let it rebound and uncoil. The supercross bike you want to be firm, quick, responsive, and it’s just a totally different bike from the outdoor bike, and you wouldn’t want to ride either one and switch [intended tracks]… We could always pick the motor we wanted to suit our riding style, I usually liked an engine that didn’t make a lot of horsepower but was real smooth and easy to ride. And then towards the end of the year when the tracks got wetter, with deeper soil, I went to higher horsepower settings because the track would take it.”
TODAY: Kent is retired and has sold all the companies he was involved with after his racing career. His health has been bad for the past few years so he’s just enjoying life, family and friends. He still rides every weekend. His sponsors are Silkolene, G2 Ergonomics, MSR, Gaerne, Scott, RG3, Works Connection, Pro Circuit, powerhouse-cycles.com, and Cooksey Crank and Engine.