Rider Spotlight: Benny Carlson
NEWS August 23, 2012
Photo by Brian J Nelson
AMAP: Where are you from?
BC: I’m from West Bend, Wisconsin. I’ve been here my whole life. It’s where my family’s from, so I’ve never had a reason to leave with everyone here.
AMAP: How did you get into riding motorcycles?
BC: It started when I was a kid by riding motorcycles in the backyard, probably like most motorcycle racers. Then it elevated; I started riding local flat track and motocross trying to make it happen.
AMAP: How did you progress as a motorcycle racer to where you’re currently at in AMA Pro Racing?
BC: When I was 16, I rode Pro Singles in Flat Track, then in 2003, the Supermoto series in the AMA started. So that year, I got second in championship to Grant Langston. I actually won the points series, but he ended up beating me in a winner take all situation. I rode Supermoto from 2003 to 2007. I rode for KTM for three years and two years with Aprilia. All together, it was a five year deal. . I actually won a Canadian Supermoto title in 2005 and AMA Supermoto title in 2007.
AMAP: What type of motorcycle riding do you do when you’re not at an AMA Pro event?
BC: Just motocross, usually
AMAP: Do you think having a Flat Track and Supermoto background helps you when racing your Harley-Davidson XR1200?
BC: They’re alike, because the bikes are loose. They’re not like riding a 600cc sportbike. There’s a lot less moving around on a sportbike in comparison.
AMAP: What are your thoughts on riding in the AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 class?
BC: I really like it. It actually got me back into doing something. I quit racing, and I had not basically ridden a motorcycle from 2007 to this year. I probably rode a motorcycle three times until Daytona came around for the XR race. It’s a good thing and a good series. It’s also good to have a great Harley dealer in my backyard that’s willing to help me out.
AMAP: You surprised people by standing on the podium both races this past weekend at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP. Talk us through the weekend.
BC: We just started getting the bike figured out. We struggled with bike setup all year. I’m not sure if it was me, the bike or both, but we were struggling. I did land top-five finishes earlier in the season. Then, we went to the Indy test and things started clicking. I knew I could run up front. When this weekend rolled around, I felt pretty confident and took the momentum of being the fastest rider in the test into this weekend. It was good. The track seemed to suit me, because it had long, fast sweeping corners, like a Supermoto track.
AMAP: How was it racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with so many fans there to watch racing?
BC: It was great. I had a lot of fun doing it. It was good to have that many spectators there and be highlighted as an AMA Pro rider while we were there.
AMAP: You made it into the XR Showdown without a big mention, but then highlighted yourself by getting on the podium two times this past weekend..What’s it like being second in the chase?
BC: For my team and myself, we kept saying that we needed to limp it into the top-10. We had gone about the series differently in the beginning of the season. We had originally planned to do three races this year. Then a couple races in, I thought I could run upfront. We got a couple top-fives and thought; we need to get into the title chase! We got in even after missing Infineon and Miller. Once we made it in, we said, “Well, we need to get stuff figured out so we can hit the ground running at Indianapolis.” That’s what we did.
AMAP: What are your expectations for the remainder of the season?
BC: Win the title. I can run the pace of Wyman and O’Hara, so I think I can win the title. It’s not guaranteed, but I feel that I have the speed to do it.
AMAP: What obstacles do you see in your way to pull it off?
BC: I’d have to say my biggest obstacle would have to be my size. As you saw at Daytona and Indy,I felt like I could run everyone down through the infield, but riders like Kyle Wyman and PJ Jacobsen are much smaller than me. On a good day, I’m 185 pounds. I’m 6’1”. I think that’s my biggest obstacle.
AMAP:For a good portion of the season, Kyle Wyman, Tyler O’Hara and Michael Barnes were podium ‘regulars.’ What’s it like to somewhat upset the order?
BC: It feels good and to be on the podium. I felt like I had the speed all year to be up there. I think it’s going to be a good run for the rest of the season. I think it’s good for the series, AMA Pro and TV to have a guy who was 10th coming into the Showdown, got things figured out coming into the final races and got his Harley-Davidson to work where he’ll run for the title chase. I think it’s really cool and exciting to hopefully upset the series.
AMAP:What are your thoughts on the series heading to NOLA Motorsports Park and Homestead-Miami Speedway?
BC: We didn’t get to test and tune or anything, so Kyle and Tyler will have an advantage there. With the supermoto seasons I raced in, a lot of people didn’t realize that every track I went to was basically a new track. So, I can get a grasp of new tracks pretty easily. Only time will tell how quickly I pick it up.
AMAP: What draws you to the sport? The thrill, competition or the speed?
BC: I think it’s kind of breed into you. Some people either like it or they don’t. I like being at the track and the competition. I just like racing, whether it was racing jet skis or motorcycles. I just happen to be good at racing motorcycles.
AMAP: Who's your racing hero?
BC: Jeremy McGrath was always one of my guys. I always admired riders like Ricky Carmichael on the motocross side and Nicky Hayden on the road race side, because I used to race flat track against him.
Benny would like to thank his sponsors: Suburban Harley-Davidson, Bell Helmets, Klim Motorcycle apparel, Sidi Boots, Spectra Oils, Eye Candy Graphics, One Industries.
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