Team Honda veteran Trey Canard is in a happy and healthy place as the 2015 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series gets set for takeoff.
Trey Canard’s religious background might make him uncomfortable with the notion that he has his mojo back, but the 24-year-old Team Honda star’s light is definitely shining as brightly in the past few months as it has at any time during his career.
Canard was arguably the strongest rider in the last quarter of the 2014 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, where he won four out of the last six motos and scored his first career overall win at the season finale in Toeele, Utah. He then backed that up with a rousing performance at the Monster Energy Cup supercross event in Las Vegas, Nevada, on October 18, with two wins in the first two 10-lap mains to give himself a realistic at the $1 million bonus for sweeping all three mains. An innocuous fall would cost him the dough and the Cup title, but it was hard to deny that Canard was the fastest rider at the event.
His fans would argue that it is about time for such success. After all, Canard’s personal and professional misfortunes are been well documented. A promising young motocrosser who began riding at the age of 3, he was just 12 years old when his father, Roy Canard, was killed in a freak tractor accident while grooming a practice track that he had built so that Trey could practice. Rather than give up racing, Canard would show his mettle by using the tragic loss to fuel his desire to be a top-level professional. And he made it there, enjoying a successful career in the 250cc ranks that culminated in the 2010 Lucas Oil 250cc Pro Motocross Championship title. Stepping up to the 450cc ranks with Team Honda for the 2011, appeared all set to rise to the top of the sport. Instead, he came crashing down, numerous times.
In 2011, Canard suffered a broken femur while testing for the outdoor motocross season, sidelining him for the rest of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series that year. He would rebound, only to suffer even worse injuries at the 2012 Los Angeles Supercross, where he suffered three broken vertebrae in his back when fellow racer Ryan Morais inadvertently landed on him over a jump. That painful and difficult recuperation cost Canard seven months, but he once again found the strength to return to racing, and he enjoyed a fairly successful 2013 season, posting a sixth-place series finish in supercross and fourth overall in motocross.
But 2014 brought another serious setback, this time a broken arm suffered on Thanksgiving weekend while practicing for the supercross season. Canard once again had to find the inner strength to return. Yet, somehow, he has, and his gut-strong performances late in 2014 might be some of the best he has ever enjoyed during his roller-coaster career. His competition is sure to be as tough as ever in 2015, but Canard appears to be on the verge of reaching another plateau. Win, lose or draw, however, he promises to keep the same positive mental outlook that has gotten him this far.
Your career has been one heck of a rough road, but you have never given up and never stopped believing in your purpose. Where have you been able to find that strength?
One thing I always go back to is the perception of it. We sometimes live outside of reality. When you think about it in the grand scheme, I get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to go ride a motorcycle and do something that is fun. Really, my life is truly just a complete, massive blessing.
But anytime you are in pain, whether it is a broken arm or the flu, or whatever it is, it is not fun. I believe that pain is one of the hardest things to deal with this in life, whether it is physical or emotional. I haven’t been completely optimistic all the time. I try to reinforce that all the time, because I am just as human as anyone else—not that anyone would think I am not. But I say that to relate to people who are going through really seriously hard stuff, and I hope that my journey serves as an encouragement to people that you can get through things.
What makes you think that it does? Because your story does seem to resonate with a lot of people.
I think that part of the reason is because I have been through so much, and I can relate to a lot of people on a lot of different levels. I hope that it is a testament to what I believe, that God can redeem.
It’s one thing to return to racing, but for as serious as some of your injuries have been—and let’s face it, you have been shattered—you seem to be riding better now than at any time in your career.
I definitely feel the best I’ve ever felt, and it is a really neat feeling—racing aside and all of the hype and drama aside—to be able to hope on your bike and feel comfortable, and hit things. You just really enjoy it, and you realize how much of a passion it is. The injuries have taught me so much, and God has used those to humble me, and to shape and mold me into the person that I am today.
If you would compare supercross and motocross to the sport of running, one is a sprint and one is a marathon. You seem to be doing well at both right now. If you look at the fact that you scored an outdoor win last season and you were clearly the dominant rider at the Monster Energy Cup despite the mishap that cost you the win. How do you reconcile your recent performances, and can you carry that into Anaheim I on January 3?
Again, I just feel good, and I am not going to chalk it up to more than that. I’m just really trying to keep my head down, and I hope that we as a team can keep our heads down this season. Times like Utah [AMA National Motocross win] aren’t going to happen every time. Look at Monster Cup, even though I didn’t win, it was still a great night for us. I think we’ve just got to keep our heads down and do the job that we have been doing, which is simply our best. If we do that, and we are focused and stay in tune and in sync, we are going to do a great job.
Team Manager Dan Betley has talked about changes to the internal structure of the team as being a real positive sign for Honda. For you, as a racer, what is the biggest change and how does it benefit you?
I think the biggest thing that we look at is the Japanese [HRC] being involved. Of course, they’ve been involved in years past but not to this level, where there are full-time employees here and their focus is 100 percent on our team. That is really huge for us. It is always good to have your manufacturer behind you the way Honda is behind us. That is a great thing. But as far as the structure goes…It was sad to see some people go because I worked with them and they were all friends and continue to be friends. But, the people that are here now are people that I believe want to be here, and they are all really motivated. That makes for a really good atmosphere, and I think that is so important—having a good structure and a good positive outlook by everyone. I see that here right now.
You pretty much have cornered the market on positive outlooks. A lot of racers can get into the moment on raceday, but then you talk to them somewhere else, and it is like trying to coax a turtle out of its shell. You seem to be one of the most even-tempered guys in the series.
Well, I appreciate that, and I hope so. I sometimes get criticized for being the “religious guy,” but I 100 percent credit that to God. I just try to enjoy everything, and I am so thankful to be able to enjoy my life here [at the track] and at home with my wife and my family. My little brother is excelling right now, and it is great to see him growing up.
You sound like an old man, and some of your experiences would test the character of someone much older than you, yet you are only 24. You still have a lot of time left in this sport.
I hope so. I’m going to keep racing as long as the opportunity is there, and I hope that we can do some damage.
Your teammate, Cole Seely, told me that he really looks up to you. He is ecstatic to be here at Team Honda with you and benefit from your wisdom. What has it been like to have him as your teammate, and what does he bring to this program for you?
Oh, it is awesome. It takes me back last summer when Freddy [fill-in rider Fredrik Noren] came around. Cole is just as excited. Sometimes, having been in this program for four years, it is easy to forget just what you are doing here and remember what a privilege it is to be doing this. But you see he is excited and thankful and happy to be here. He is also an extremely talented rider, and I look at things that he does on the bike and try to bring them over to what I am doing. He is a talented rider and an awesome guy, and I am super-thankful to have him as a teammate. I’ve said this in a couple of interviews before, and I am hesitant to talk him up too much because I know what he is capable of, but I really think he is going to turn some heads this year.
Cole has mentioned this, and you know it too: This year’s Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series boasts a really stacked field. You might have to go back to the 1980s to find this many former champions and contenders who all have a shot at the win each weekend. Can you size up some of your competition for us and tell us what you think about who is out there?
It’s exciting not just for us racers but for the entire sport of supercross. We have a lot to look forward to. Not many disciplines in racing are this exciting right now. There are easily 10 guys who can go and win a race, and that is crazy to think about when you realize that half the field on any given weekend could win. I think it is going to be a great year with a lot of different winners. I think that the person who is the most consistent is the one who is going to be able to pull it off. I think we have a really exciting year ahead of us.”
That could be you because it seems like everything is coming together. So, the last question is what is going to make Trey Canard happy in 2015? Will it take a championship? Will it be just getting through the entire season healthy? What does your measuring stick look like?
I think that number one for me will be if I have done my best. If I do my best and finish fifth or sixth, or get hurt, as long as I have done my best and left nothing on the table, and I have fulfilled my purpose as a human being, then I will be thankful. Obviously, I want to win. That is what I am getting paid for and what I am shooting for. I want to win not just for me but for these guys [points to his team]. You see the work and just how much of their lives that they have put into this, and you want to give that back to them. I want to win races for them, and we all want to win a championship. That is the ultimate goal.