Cardwell ready to take on the big hill at Great American

2011-07-30T00:00:00Z 2013-07-05T17:03:17Z Cardwell ready to take on the big hill at Great AmericanBy FELICIA FRANK For The Gazette The Billings Gazette
July 30, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Like most teens, Austin Cardwell is all about seeking his next thrill.

But most 16-year-olds don't get it by hopping aboard a motorcycle with more than 1000cc of power and attempting to conquer a hill that is known as the "Bentonite Nightmare."

Cardwell wouldn't want it any other way.

"I love the thrill and just being on a bike and going out and riding," the local rider said. "It's a whole other world where you can get away from everything and feel free."

On Saturday, Cardwell will take his first shot at the Great American Championship Motorcycle Hillclimb at the Billings Motorcycle Club.

"This is going to be my first time actually riding on the big hill, so I'm kind of nervous," Austin said, "but at the same time I'm really excited and looking forward to its huge wall. I want to go as fast as I can over that."

Austin has spent the majority of his life around dirt bikes. His father, Tom, put him on his first motorcycle at the age of four, but shortly after, Austin crashed and decided he was no longer a fan of the sport.

"I told my dad I never wanted to ride a bike again," he said. "It wasn't a bad crash, I just tipped over, but I didn't like it so I decided to quit."

That decision lasted until his younger brother, Tyler, won his first trophy. That motivated Austin to pick the hobby back up and he hasn't looked back since, amassing his own collection of trophies from area motocross races and hillclimbs.

This year, Cardwell has set his sights not on yet another trophy, but on one of the Western States Professional Hillclimb Series' coveted Rockwell watches. To win the watch, he'll have to beat three-time defending Great American champion Petey Krunich of Hayward, Calif. and a number of other professional riders.

One thing Cardwell hopes will help him is his RC51 -- a 1000cc bike build by former Great American champion Davey Johnston.

"Everything about that bike is a lot of fun," Cardwell said. "That's probably one of the fastest and greatest bikes that you can ride up that hill. Sometimes my hands shake when I finish a ride. It's just a bigger thrill. Like when I get done with most of my rides, I just start screaming and my hands are trembling. It's just a great bike."

The RC51 was originally purchased for Austin's older brother, Sean, but Sean recently bought one of Johnston's popular Bandit models. That allowed Austin the chance to compete on the RC51 bike in the larger horsepower classes this season.

"Sean and I kind of stick together when we go to the hillclimbs," said Cardwell. "And we'll give each other tips. Guys like Brandon Whitlock and Ed Taylor who know what they're doing and have done it before, we'll listen to them and encourage each other, but we know we want to beat each other, too."

As is the case with most sibling rivalries, this serves as a great motivator for the brothers on race days.

"We compete with each other constantly," Cardwell said. "My main goal is always to beat Sean and I've been doing pretty well with that this season. He's beaten me a few times this year, but overall, I think I've pretty much got it in the sack for overall beatings."

With both Sean and Austin competing in all four of the Great American's professional classes and their younger brother Tyler competing in last night's 450cc class, the family is faced with maintaining nine motorcycles throughout the weekend. This would be a daunting task for the most seasoned of motorcycle enthusiasts, but the Cardwell brothers thankfully have the expertise and assistance of their father, Tom.

"Every time before I ride up the hill, my dad and I bump knuckles and that's mainly what I look forward to before I go on every ride," Cardwell said. "I love having my dad there. He leaves the riding up to us and we leave the mechanics up to him."

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