Carter Halpain was a longtime front runner throughout his amateur career at big-time races such as Loretta Lynn’s, Mini Os, and Ponca City; regularly challenging for championships and podiums every time he touched the track. His mindset will have to be different for the 2020 racing season as he prepares to make his professional debut in the 250SX East class of the Monster Energy Supercross series, but he’s more than willing to take on the challenge. Halpain had to slightly alter his plans and push his pro debut back into 2020 after doing some damage to his shoulder in the last moto of the week at Loretta’s, therefore causing him to miss out on the last three Pro Nationals. Nonetheless, the Texan is raring to get back on the gate and is feeling refreshed and rejuvenated after some significant time off of the bike for the first time since he’s been racing competitively. He made a massive change to his program and moved on from Millsaps Training Facility after spending many years living and training in Georgia, moving to the midwestern plains of Oklahoma to train at Robbie Reynard’s with a good group of accomplished professionals. Halpain’s focused on keeping things fresh for his transition to the big leagues and emphasized that this is a learning year, but he’s excited to get some experience under his belt and see where he lines up. We caught up with Carter to chat about his offseason, his new setup in Oklahoma, and the anticipation of his Monster Energy Supercross debut.
First off, you had a big change in your program for 2020 as you switched from Millsaps Training Facility to Reynard Training Complex in Oklahoma. How’s that been so far and what prompted that decision?
Yeah, after Loretta's the next stop was to go pro so we kind of figured we'd switch it up a little bit and do something new, make it fresh again. I'm just focusing on making the days count here at Reynard’s and gettin' ready for Tampa.
Have you worked with Robbie (Reynard) before? How'd that come about?
Yeah, I worked with him a little bit before and I talked to him a little bit about Loretta's last year about the possibility of coming here next year. My good buddy (Austin) Forkner has been here for a while and has a place here and all that good stuff, so it's a combination of a little bit of everything. It's closer to home and all that stuff, so we decided to keep it fresh and fun. You know when you're putting in hard work and it's still super fun that you're doing it right, you know.
Did you watch Robbie at all when you were growing up as a fan of the sport?
Yeah, I remember watching him at Loretta's a lot and I actually follow a page on Instagram that's like 90's moto and they post him all the time and dude used to rip. He was an animal!
Yeah, he had some motos in the 125 class and they’re awesome to go back and watch.
Out here he'll tell you to do something and you'll be like "I don't know about that, that doesn't seem realistic," and he'll put a helmet on and do it! So you're like okay, I gotta do it now, you know? He can still get on a dirt bike and make 'er sing.
What’s been the biggest adjustment so far? Is there anything different about the training or program there that took some getting used to?
Yeah, for sure. I mean, there's a little bit of everything. You've gotta adapt to driving more and not being at the track, not waking up and being able to see it out the door. I was on the east coast in Georgia so the dirt is a little softer over there so it's a little more hardpack here. The good thing is that we have a few supercross tracks here -- one is a little bit harder soil and one's a little bit softer and ruts up like east coast. I would say the thing that I've been trying to gel with the most is the cold weather. Georgia would get hot and stay pretty warm year-round and here it's supposed to snow tomorrow. (laughs)
Who have you been riding with on a day-to-day basis there?
Yeah, Forkner's been out in California but (Justin) Bogle was here for a while when I was here in December and a little bit in January. Benny Bloss, Devin Harriman, Dustin Winter, Richard Jackson; we have a really good group of pro guys here this year so it's pretty solid and just good to see where everyone's at and get a feel for who you're ridin' with and stuff.
Do you like being able to remove yourself from the track at the end of the day and go back to your own space as opposed to waking up and seeing it out the door?
Yeah, I really do. I think it's big for me to just get away from it at the end of the day; do my work there and then at the end of the day be able to come home and still be able to reflect on the day and stuff I maybe could've done better and all that, but be able to get away from it. I don't mind driving to the track, listening to music on the way there, and getting ready for the day either. I think it's beneficial for me for sure.
Following Loretta’s last season you didn’t do any more races for the rest of the year and took some time to yourself to get settled in for 2020. Did you take some time off the bike back home and just sort of recharge?
My original plan was to do Loretta's and then the last three (Pro Nationals) and then of course, 250SX East, but last moto at Loretta's I ended up hurting my shoulder. I went and got it checked out and we had some stuff wrong with that, so I just took the time off. We didn't think it'd be smart to rush that because there's really no point rushing getting into the pros and of course, you need to heal yourself when you're hurt. I took that time and that was really, really nice for me. I've never gotten a break like that from riding and I just took that time and hung out, got to watch my brother's last season playing football and did stuff like that. I worked with pops and he does roofing, so I got a taste of the real world and that made me want to get back to riding for sure. (laughs)
Are you kind of eager and hungry to get back behind the gate now that it’s been a while since you’ve competed?
Yeah, I'm definitely ready to get another gate drop behind me, just countin' down the days and doing everything I can to make it go as smoothly as possible. I'm not really too nervous about it; I mean, I've been doing it for probably sixteen years so I've done more gate drops than I can count. I'm just ready to get my pro career underway and start tickin' 'em off so I can see where I'm at, just workin' on the little things that I need to work on.
Are you especially looking forward to Dallas considering it’s in your home state or is there any specific stadium or city that you’re looking forward to racing in?
Yeah, Dallas will for sure be a big one. All of the friends and family, relatives, and everything will be there -- I think that's only a few hours from the house. Other than that, Tampa is a really cool stadium and that's the opener but I've raced in that one before. I'm really excited about Indy, I really like that stadium and the dirt's always really, really good there. I'd say that probably Indy and Dallas are the ones that I'm most pumped about.
How do you feel about being on the other side of the program at Daytona now where you're racing on Saturday night instead of Sunday and Monday?
Yeah, I think once you get on the big bike on Daytona it makes a little harder for the amateur stuff. It's a cool thing they've got going on but once you step up to the big bike I think you're ready to get underneath the lights and get that one out of the way. I mean, it's a really cool event inside Daytona International Speedway and you get to ride your dirt bike under the lights there, what more could you ask for?
Have you been watching the 250SX West class and paying a little closer attention than you have before?
Yeah, for sure. I'm just trying to see where everyone's lining up at and paying more attention to qualifying and how the rookie guys that I raced last year are doing -- if they're going crazy the first rounds or kind of taking it slow. It seems that everyone is kind of taking it slow, getting their feet wet, and trying to progress more and more and have more longevity instead of like a short and quick career.
Does it give you a little bit of confidence to see guys that you raced the last couple of years running up in the mix?
Yeah, for sure. Me, Jett Lawrence, Pierce (Brown), and Derek (Drake) were all battling last year and then Jett goes out there and leads fourteen minutes of a Main. It's just really in your head; I mean, I know there's a lot to it behind the scenes but if you get a start and have put in the work, and know that you can run up there, I think there's no reason that we shouldn't be up there. I'm just trying to take it one step at a time and have fun with it. It's a learning year and I'm ready to get some underneath my belt and just smile about 'em.
Does it feel good to go into the season approaching it as a learning year instead of always having the expectation on your shoulders to win?
Yeah, it's definitely a different feeling than every other race I've gone into. Normally we go into every race we've done before expecting to win and there are ten other factory-supported amateurs that line up with you that are all thinking the same thing. It's really hard to change your mindset to approach it as a learning year. Of course, we're going to go out there and try to do the best we can, but at the same time we don't want to get ahead of ourselves and push the envelope too far. If any racer has the chance in front of them, they're going to go for it. I don't think any of us are going to back down. Sometimes in the moment, you're just full of adrenaline and going for it.
As of right now, are you planning on doing the entire Pro Motocross season as well or are you just focusing on SX?
The plan right now is to do 2020 250SX East and then all of the Pro Motocross season. I'm really pumped to race Red Bud, I don't know about the heat too much but we'll see when I get there. I'm pumped to race Southwick and kind of worried at the same time; that one will be a grueling day but I get to go play in the sand for fun, so I'll like that one I think.