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Licensed to ride

Local pro competing in Oakland event Saturday

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Licensed to ride

Billy Bear Carpenter gets some air while training at Perris Raceway.

Photo by FLYNN BRANDHORST/


POSTED January 24, 2014 12:59 a.m.

Getting a license to compete in the Monster Energy American Motorcyclist Association Supercross tour is one thing.

Getting paid the big bucks to compete is another.

Manteca’s Billy Bear Carpenter has his sights set high as a professional dirt bike rider but knows there is plenty of work to be done. This being the rookie season in what his father Bill calls “the NASCAR of dirt bikes,” the 20-year-old East Union High graduate is simply looking to improve with each outing.

“The whole atmosphere of being there is just insane,” Billy Bear said. “There are 30,000 people watching you, whereas in local events there are a couple hundred, if that. Now, I’m racing with the fastest in the world, the best of the best. Being around the people I have looked up to is the coolest thing ever.”

Carpenter hopes to continue his ascent toward the circuit’s upper-echelon on Saturday when Monster Energy AMA Supercross makes its next stop at Oakland’s Overstock.com Coliseum. It will be a homecoming of sorts for the elder Carpenter, an Oakland native.

For Billy, it’s an opportunity to put on a show for friends and family on a big stage. Supercross events can be watched on Fox Sports Network, and Saturday’s event will air live starting at 7:30 p.m. Repeat showings will be available the following three days.

“It’s a little nerve-wrecking, but it’s gonna be so much fun,” Carpenter said. “I have family coming from all over.”

Carpenter earned his Supercross license last May by placing third in the AMA Amateur National Arenacross Championships in Las Vegas. Saturday he will make his third appearance in the Supercross series. He broke in at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Jan. 4.

“It didn’t go so well,” he said. Carpenter didn’t even make it out of the practice rounds.

He redeemed himself two weeks later in the Anaheim 2 event. Carpenter made the top-40 cut out of the practice round and placed 19th in his 250SX class heat while racing sick. The best 20 out of the two heats advance a step closer to the main event, and although he came up short he left with renewed confidence.

“I’m hoping I can do it this weekend,” he said.

Carpenter plans on entering most events that take place in the West region this year, mainly to garner more experience and exposure. Riders from the West and East regions will converge in Las Vegas’ Sam Boyd Stadium on May 3 for the season finale.

While he is getting paid as a privateer, Carpenter hardly gets enough to cover entry fees. He added that those who consistently finish in the top 15 are part of teams that essentially pay their racers to compete while providing a factory rides, parts, etc.

“That’s when you start getting the good money,” Carpenter said.

For now, the San Joaquin Delta College student, who is pursuing a career in architectural design, is getting financial support from local businesses such as Central Valley Motorsports. Ernie Fernandez of Central Valley Motorsports is Carpenter’s longtime trainer.

“It’s super expensive,” Carpenter said. “Entry fees alone are about $200 each race, and that’s not counting fuel for the bike, fuel to get there, maintenance work on the bike and miscellaneous parts. Each weekend alone is probably $1,500-$2,000 after everything.

“Fortunately, I have some companies helping us out with graphics and other things. As a privateer, the money we make goes into it — I really don’t get to see much of it. In racing you get paid depending on how you place. One you start making the main events you start making better money, and if you’re lucky you’ll get even more money through sponsorships.”

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