If a race was held to crown the official family of motocross around Billings, a definite top-five finisher would be the Cardwells.
Starting with the former Billings Motorcycle Club (BMC) president Bob Cardwell in 1975, continuing through his sons Tom and Mark during the 1980s and eventually passing the talent onto grandsons Sean, 15, Austin, 11, and Tyler, 9, the Cardwell legacy has an over 30-year span.
Serving as an Advertising and Promotions Officer and referee for the BMC and being an active member of the Montana Trail Vehicle Riders Association, 67-year-old Bob Cardwell still surrounds himself with motorcycles. He met his wife at a motocross race and raised his children around the sport of motocross.
Bob is a fixture at BMC events, often serving as the announcer when he is not helping his grandsons or cheering them on from the crowd.
Bob's youngest son Tom raced for many years before his marriage to Lori in 1986 and the arrival of their eldest son Sean in 1991. At the young age of three Sean received his first dirt bike — a pink Yamaha PW50 — and began racing at BMC club events shortly after. Since then, Sean has amassed over 200 trophies and awards and has progressively graduated from his PW50 to a Suzuki RMZ 250.
With 13 years of competitive racing under his belt, Sean is passing his knowledge to his younger brothers.
"Hopefully they learn from me," said Sean. "I practice with them and try to help them pick their lines on the track."
Tyler, the youngest Cardwell on his 60cc dirt bike, has been racing longer than his older brother Austin and is quickly becoming a standout rider. Tyler and Austin have even raced against each other in the 50cc and 60cc classes.
Tyler is known around the track as "Tycat" and already has his own trademark — a feather that flies from the back of his helmet.
"I love motocross because it's so much fun and I've made so many friends in it," said Tyler.
Austin started on his own 50cc dirt bike at the age of five, and now, on his KTM 85cc, he is making himself known. He took third place in his class at the well-known Washougal Motocross Park two years ago, last year he finished first in the 85cc (7-11 year old) MonDak Series, and was the first person to hit the double on the island track at the BMC.
"It's pretty cool because when I go to races I usually make new friends," said Austin.
The brothers agree that their father is the backbone of their racing. "Without him I don't know if we would even be able to race," said Austin.
Tom suffered a stroke nearly nine months ago, and other family members and friends have since stepped in to help at races. Lori's sister, Traci Silvis, and her husband Mark are often helping the Cardwell family and Lori has taken over most of the driving to and from events.
"It was hard to learn how to drive a truck with a fifth-wheel toy hauler on the back, but eventually I picked it up, and it's not so bad anymore," said Lori.
The family continues to race not only at the BMC, but also in the MonDak series and High Country Motocross Association series.
"It keeps everyone in the same spot," said Tom, with Lori adding "motocross is a sport where I never have to worry about the kids getting into trouble. If they do, I always threaten to take away their bikes and it always stops real quick."
Through the first four races of this year's Reiter's Cup Thursday Night Series, Tyler is in second place, Austin is in eighth place, and Sean is in first place in their respective classes. Tonight and next Thursday (June 29) mark the final two races of the series.
NOTE: Tonight's races begin at 6 p.m. at the Billings Motorcycle Club. For information, visit www.blgsmotoclub.org.