Catching up with Chris Canning
September 22, 2017
by Dawn McClintock
We recently caught up with Manchester, CT native Chris Canning to learn more about his background, his debilitating injury that has left him sidelined for months, his return to the national circuit, his day job and his recent win at the Racer X Maine Event where he turned heads taking home the big purse in the 450A class.
Hi Chris, thanks for taking time to chat with us and congratulations on your big win at the Racer X Maine Event. What was it like racing that event?
Well it’s pretty cool you know. It’s a close track. I’ve race there a few times throughout the year so it’s cool to have people from out of this area to race with.
You took the win in the 450A and second in the 250A. What was the competition like?
There was a lot of fast guys. It went all the way up to tenth with guys who have raced outdoor nationals so it definitely had a lot of fast people and it felt good to be in front of them that’s for sure.
Give us a little background on how you started out in the sport.
I have two brothers, one older and one younger so we never really had the nicest bikes or anything like that. My dad supported three of us by himself so it was tough, we managed to race every weekend but we never got to do any of the huge amateur races. I mean I did Loretta’s but we always managed to having bike issues or something bad always happened there. Growing up we just always raced locally. I started racing professionally when I was 16 or 17 in 2011. I kind of did one or two nationals a year (just the local ones) just to get going and then in 2015 I chased the entire outdoor series. I qualified for every round but bike issues and injuries kind of prevented me from finishing where I should have been finishing. I had a couple of good finishes but I kind of had a rough year. I left one of my vans in Utah because it broke down. I had a U-Haul truck to have something to race in, bummed rides to get to other nationals. I just had a lot of adversity going through that year. It was a tough one and then this year I wanted to go to all the amateur nationals and then I ended up injuring my shoulder which put me out for just short of 8 months. The last couple years has been a rough go.
There’s plenty of fast guys that have come out of the New England area. Was there anyone in particular you looked up to as a kid growing up there?
Obviously John Dowd or Doug Henry, those guys are always a favourite. Now they are older guys and they still put a whoopin’ on most of the young guys around here. I still look up to them. I will never forget the first time I beat Dowd. That to me is a huge thing. All those national guys are awesome and Robbie Marshall, I’ve always at as super smooth and he’s only a couple years older than me but he’s always in that next class above me. Like you said, there’s a lot of fast people that come from here so there’s a good amount of people to look up to for sure.
You mentioned that you ended up with a pretty nasty shoulder injury. What happened?
I don’t really remember the incident itself. I got a concussion when I did it. It was down in Florida and it was off a jump. I feel like I remember hitting something on the lip. I smashed my shoulder and I broke half the ball off the top of my humorous. Which is like everywhere the rotator cuff buckles and all that attaches, it broke that whole piece off so they had to to plate that all back on and I broke my shoulder blade in four spots. So my shoulder was pretty much shut down for four months. I couldn’t move it never mind do anything with it. I couldn’t even lift it up. Like even when I started not wearing the sling, even when I was walking it wouldn’t even swing. It just stayed in place. So that was a real tough one for me. Even now to see my shoulder it’s all bone. I’ve been doing the physical therapy to build the muscle back but they said it could take up to a year. So it’s definitely a long process.
You made your return at the Southwick National. You must not have had much time to ease yourself back into it after you got the all-clear to ride.
I bought a two stroke while I was injured just because I was had the mindset that I was going to start doing this for fun and I was like, ah Southwick’s always a fun track especially for the national. The 450s get the nice smooth track for first practice. So I’ll go out there on the two stroke and have some fun. I rode twice before that so Southwick national was my third ride back on the bike. [laughs] There was no time for prep at all. Like I said I went there for fun. I didn’t really care about my finish or anything. I qualified really good. I think it was like twelfth or thirteenth. To go one lap really fast is easy. So I was like, alright we’ll go out and do the moto, get a good gate pick, let’s have some fun. I ended up coming out tenth place off the start [laughs] and fun went out the window real fast. I held tenth for about half the moto and then you know obviously my fitness set in and I fell back to about twentieth in that moto. If I was in shape, I felt comfortable out there even being off the bike that long. That’s really where I belong.
Are you happy with the progression you’ve made with your racing since your injury?
Yeah, I’m happy with it. I’ve been trying to take it easy for the most part. I haven’t really been able to ride during the week or anything. I get sore really fast. I’m still doing physical therapy with the little pink weights. [laughs] You know the little pink two-pound weights that I’m trying to work it out with. It’s definitely a tough thing to deal with. It doesn’t hurt when I ride anymore so that’s a good thing. My doctor told me I was crazy just because the bone is healed but there’s no muscle to hold it together. It’s not going to hurt it, like I can take a hit to it but the problem is if I take a hit to it like I did, there’s nothing to hold it together. It’s definitely something that sits in the back of my head a lot.
You’ve done your fair share of crisscrossing the country in your van travelling to the national rounds. Do you have any crazy road trip stories?
Yeah I have a few. Probably the most memorable was leaving my van in the middle of Utah and selling that to the U-Haul guy. That sticks in my head for sure. [laughs] The van I’m driving now when I first bought it was a green and it was used to transport medical equipment or something and it had all the medical symbols on it. I was in Oregon right before Washougal and a cop pulled me over and asked me if I had like nuclear weapons and stuff. [laughs] That was a memorable one too. I’ve got quite a few. I drove all the way out to Cali one time just for one supercross point through the arenacross series so that was a three day, each way for about five minutes of riding in the stadium. There’s quite a few stories I have. I’d have to really sit and think about that for sure.
You run MX schools during the week? What does a typical week look like for you?
During the summer while school is out, it’s pretty much morning and night just training one kid at a time or small groups at a time and trying to fit riding in between. With my injury it just kind of worked in the favour of making money because normally when I’m racing nationals I’m not around much so I don’t get to train kids as much as I do now. I came out with this school this year and I’ve been promoting it a lot more than I normally do. It’s been going over really well this year.
It has to be pretty rewarding helping these kids out.
It’s awesome to go to the local races. I’ve always raced locally but I’ve never really watched any of the other classes because I didn’t really have anyone else to watch. So now it’s nice, any class that’s on the track I have kids that I’ve worked with in the area. It’s super cool. I actually get excited when I see kids I’m training out on the track. It’s definitely given me a whole new look at the races to see the progression we’ve made with our training.
What are your plans for any upcoming races?
I would like hit some of these amateur nationals and keep trying to build my name up. Right now I’m racing NEXC the local series up here. I’m trying to win both of those championships so that I don’t feel like I’ve wasted the entire year. You know I sat out the whole year because of my shoulder so it feels good to kind of accomplish something for the year. So that’s why I’m chasing those and then next year I plan on probably just hitting local nationals and racing stuff like Baja Brawl, Freestone and Daytona. I’m kind of just going with the flow because I spent a lot of money that I didn’t have when I went and did all the nationals and I struggled through the whole thing money-wise and I can’t tell you how many times, I don’t know why but it was always $6 but I had $6 in my bank account. To be in California with $6 in your bank account it’s just a whole other level of stress. [laughs] To do that again with that much stress and that much to worry about it doesn’t make much sense just to say I did it again. I’ve done it once and I’m just kind of having fun riding my dirt bike again. To go and do it myself, these other guys are flying in and they’ve got people paying for their bikes. Like I have one 450 and one 250 and that’s what I practice and race on. To do everything, it’s a whole different level than most people even understand. You see me at the races and I’m all smiles and I’m always having fun but to do it right I can’t finish where I need to finish. I can’t afford to do it that way. It doesn’t make much sense to do it.
Maybe hitting up some of these high profile races you mentioned might help turn some heads and get you some added support too.
Yeah that’s the goal. Everybody says that they’d like to help and but you have to find someone who is actually going to help you and is looking out for you and not just seeing dollar signs. It’s definitely hard to find. Like I said, I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and have fun and when I get to a race, go as fast as I can and whatever happens, happens.
Thanks for chatting with us Chris and all the best with the rest of your season.
Thank you guys. I appreciate everything you guys do for me.