Junior motocross rider Cobey Carper, 14, of Gold Bar applies tear-offs to his goggles before a July 18 practice at Evergreen Speedway in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Gold Bar 14-year-old qualifies for national motocross event

Cobey Carper doesn’t remember much about the race from the first time he won a trophy as a 5-year-old motocross rider.

But he has a vivid memory of the aftermath.

“The first time I started racing I don’t really remember much. It’s kind of faded away,” Carper, now 14, said with a grin. “But I do remember when I got my first trophy. I think it was my first race, and when I took the trophy I was going to show people it and I dropped it. That’s what I remember.”

While it may have resulted in a cracked trophy, it was also the first step in what’s becoming a memorable motocross career for the Gold Bar native.

Carper will be racing against the best competition the country has to offer when he competes at the 36th annual Rocky Mountain ATV/MC AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship — also known as the Loretta Lynn Amateur Motocross Championship — on July 31-Aug. 5 in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee.

The Loretta Lynn Championship is the biggest event for amateur motocross riders in the nation. Carper is competing in two categories: Mini Sr. 2, which is for ages 12-14 on bikes with 85cc engines; and Supermini 1, which is for ages 12-15 on bikes with 112cc engines.

“I’m proud of where he’s at right now,” said Nel Lisa Carper, Cobey’s mother. “This was not on our radar at all this year. We weren’t even planning on making it.”

Carper is certainly doing everything he can to make it in the sport.

Carper has spent his entire life on two wheels. His father, Bob, was a trail rider, so Carper found himself on his first bike when he was just 18 months old. When he reached the age of 5 he was racing his first dirt bikes. And from the first moment he sat on a motorbike Carper was hooked.

“I knew right away this is what I want to do,” Carper said. “I really like going fast and riding with other people and trying to win.”

Said Nel Lisa Carper: “We took him to the track to see how he liked it. He absolutely loved it and would never let us stop. It pretty much became his passion. That’s what he does every day.

“We also tried soccer. I was a soccer player and coached his team one year. But he was like, ‘Mom, I’m not missing races for this.’ ”

Therefore, racing has become Carper’s life. He originally raced in the Washington State Motocross Championships, winning multiple titles with that series. Then he jumped to the Pacific Racing Organization, which covers Washington and Oregon, and found success there as well. Now he races across the country, as this year he’s competed in events as far away as California and Texas.

When Carper and his family aren’t driving cross country from event to event, he’s riding two to three times a week at Evergreen Speedway’s motocross track. On the days Evergreen Speedway isn’t available, Carper rides on the track his parents built on their seven-acre property. Despite all the time on the road, Carper maintained a 3.5 grade-point average at Centennial Middle School — he graduated this year and will attend Snohomish High School beginning in the fall.

As for the Loretta Lynn Championships, Carper qualified based on his performance at the Northwest Regional Qualifier on May 27-28 in Washougal. Only the top four competitors in each category qualified for nationals, and the field included riders who compete for sponsored teams, whereas Carper rides on his own, even doing some of the mechanical work on his bikes. Carper took fourth in three different categories: Mini Sr. 2, Supermini 1 and Supermini 2 (ages 13-16, 122cc engines). Racers can only compete in two categories at nationals, so Carper chose Mini Sr. 2 and Supermini 1.

This will be Carper’s second time competing at the Loretta Lynn Nationals. His previous trip came in 2014, when he competed in the 65cc category for ages 7-11. That time Carper had difficulty remaining upright. This time he expects better results.

“I think (qualifying for nationals) is a big accomplishment for me,” Carper said. “It’s one of my dreams to go there. I fell over every time last time, in every race. This time I’m going to try and stay up, and stay out front.”

Said Nel Lisa Carper: “I think it’s more nerve-wracking because the first time we were there we didn’t have any expectations. We were happy he made it to the biggest race. Now he has more expectations because he knows he’s been there, he knows what the track looks like, he knows what the butterflies feel like.”

Carper’s ultimate goal is to become a professional motocross rider. But for now he’s happy being an amateur, and he’s hoping at the Loretta Lynn Nationals he’s able to demonstrate he’s on the track to one day being a pro.

If you have an idea for a community sports story, e-mail Nick Patterson at npatterson@heraldnet.com.

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