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Nov 5, 2013

Racer Profile: Conner Blevins

Conner Blevins Photo by Linz Leard / NineSevenImages
**Note: This racer profile originally appeared in the October 2013 print edition of Roadracing World Magazine. Don't miss out on other exclusive content like this found only in Roadracing World Magazine - Subscribe today!**

Conner Blevins knew from the beginning that his style attracted attention. On his first-ever trip to a paved road course, at Hallett Motor Racing Circuit, the Oklahoma youth hopped on a Honda NSR50 and proceeded to ride it in exactly the same manner in which he rode his dirt bike.

“I was riding it like a motocross bike, but I was fast because I was on the gas all the time,” says Blevins, now 18, of Noble, Oklahoma. “I came in and people were freaking out because of how I was riding—I was all over! I forgot that I was road racing.”

Blevins has since sorted out a few things about motorcycle road racing. On a family-built Kawasaki ZX-6R, he has taken wins and Championships in the hotly-contested CMRA middleweight classes. And Blevins has put that same motorcycle into the top 10 in the incredibly competitive AMA Pro Road Racing SuperSport class.

Blevins was born into a motorcycling family. His father, Robert, is a former motorcycle road racer and works on motorcycles; “he helped a lot of riders build bikes and stuff,” Blevins says. “He bought me a motorcycle when I was about three. I got that before I got a bicycle.”

Like many young riders, Blevins started out in the dirt, racing motocross on 50cc machines. “I was doing pretty good, then I broke my arm and that’s where I kinda started moving into road racing,” he says.

That led to the eventful track day at Hallett. Blevins was 11 or so, he recalls, and it was “definitely different,” he says. But it set the hook. “I like road racing a lot better. I still ride motocross, kind of just as a hobby. I’ve always liked the speed of it (road racing) more,” Blevins says.

Blevins’ first road race would have tested anyone’s desire to pursue the sport. It was an endurance race at Oak Hill Raceway on an NSR50. It was raining, and Blevins recalls that “it was really cold.” The good part was that Blevins’ teammate was Dustin Dominguez—the same guy now racing an EBR 1190RS in the AMA Pro National Guard Superbike series. “We actually won our class,” Blevins says. “I’m sure he pulled up all the slack I was leaving.”

Blevins worked his way up the ranks, progressing carefully and intelligently on age- and size-appropriate bikes, and impressing at each step along the path. It’s funny to read comments about Blevins posted by his competitors and fans in prior years. In 2009, for example, after Blevins won the CMRA 125cc GP Championship, future CMRA Board of Directors President and fellow 125cc GP competitor Christopher Corder wrote, “Can’t wait until he grows out of the lightweight classes...”

Blevins moved up from the lightweight classes in 2010. He got a year-old Kawasaki ZX-6R and started riding it at local track days. His first impression was that compared to the GP bike, the 600 was a breeze. Of course, it was—Blevins wasn’t up to speed on it yet, and he was well used to racing the GP machine. But once Blevins started pushing the 600 hard, it was a different story. “I liked the 600 at the time because it seemed easier to go fast. But now I can’t say that,” Blevins says.

Easy or not, Blevins has learned how to go fast on a 600. This year, so far he is second in the CMRA B Superstock and Superbike classes, and is leading the C Superstock and Superbike classes. At the National level, Blevins has dramatically improved his performance in the AMA Pro SuperSport class, racing to sixth in the SuperSport East division, with a best finish of sixth in the second SuperSport race at Road America.

“The leaders were just a little in front of me, and I was trying to chase them,” Blevins says. “Travis Ohge was right behind me, and I was running from him and chasing the leaders.” Blevins chased well, winding up only 3.8 seconds behind race winner Corey Alexander.

Blevins realized quickly that the Nationals brought a whole new level of competition to the table. “It was like, ‘Whoa!’ I was used to being the one who got the holeshot. In the AMA, every one of them gets the holeshot,” Blevins says. “When you go out there and every one of them is up to speed on the first lap, it’s a little hard to take in.”

And while Blevins definitely is progressing, he is not yet satisfied with his performances. “I’ve had some really close good finishes, but those were not quite where I need to be,” Blevins says. “I’m getting to where I want to be. I’m a long way off but I’m on the right track.”

That track includes the standard fare for the life of the privateer. Blevins works at a machine shop, where the first thing he arranged with his potential employer was the time off necessary to go racing. Thankfully, the employer was supportive. The down side—one that every privateer recognizes—that Blevins puts in hours on weekends and evenings to make up for the time spent racing.

Blevins and his father travel to the track in a car hauler towed by a truck. There’s about 20 feet of living space, and the rest is the race shop. Blevins’ dad builds the ZX-6R engines, Ohlins provides the suspension. They put a kit ECU and a quick-shifter on the bike and went racing—it’s a basic privateer racebike.

Blevins is hoping that it will take him to the Superbike level, where his former teammate from that rainy, cold endurance race all those years ago competes, and where he can challenge for National honors. “It’s where I want to end up. I want to win Championships there,” Blevins says. “Racing is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I’m going to do it until I can’t do it any more.”

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