The start to Cheyenne Harmon's 2021 racing season reads like the story in a country song: He parted ways with his team two weeks before the first race of the season, bought a new bike but it broke, borrowed an engine and crashed out, missed the second round but that hardly mattered since his bike wasn't ready, then bought a different bike and spent a week scrambling to prepare it in time for his hometown race in the heart of Texas. "It would have been very easy so many times to just say 'I'm done,' just walk away and go get a real job or just do something else. But I didn't. I want to race. I believe in my abilities. So I'm trying to make it happen."
Were it not for Harmon's title sponsor, his season likely would not have happened. That title sponsor is not a motorcycle manufacturer, not a beverage company, not a retail chain or even a sandwich shop. Harmon's title sponsor is none other than MCA Nashville’s shining star, ACM award nominee for “Best New Artist” of the year, and Texas native - Parker McCollum. And that country story starts last year, shortly after nearly everything on earth came to a screeching halt with the spread of COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdowns.
It was June of 2020 when McCollum tweeted about his dismay that there weren't sports to provide some release from lockdown stresses. Harmon, already a fan and twitter follower of McCollum’s took note and tweeted a reply to McCollum, a stranger to him then, letting the country singer know there was in fact a sport to watch. Supercross was one of the first sports to create what is now widely known as a bubble and took up residence in Salt Lake City to resume the final seven races of its season. McCollum replied back to Harmon to let him know that he already knew that because he was already tuned in. It turned out McCollum was already a big fan of the sport. The connection was made between two Texans, living in different worlds, who both loved dirt bikes and country music.
Then in 2021, as Harmon scrambled to put together an eleventh hour race program, another Parker McCollum tweet caught the young racer's attention. "One of his tweets was about Supercross. I had a picture of my new bike that I just bought and I commented back with a picture saying 'Your logo would look good on here for Supercross races.' And he responded to it, I think his words were, 'Bro, I got you.'… Then we messaged back and forth and I kind of threw an idea at him and we just went from there… There wasn't really a 'Hey, I'm expecting you to do this,’ I think it was more like something that was cool for him to do, 'Hey, I get my name out there on a Supercross bike, a sport that I am a fan of, and a Texas kid, I’m going to help him out.'"
The connection makes sense – both country music and Supercross racing extol the virtues of independence, hard work, performing when called upon, big dreaming and the sacrifice those dreams require.
The professional connection all stemmed from an emotional connection to McCollum's music. Harmon explained, "I pretty much love every one of his songs. I am sure I know every one of them." When asked to single out a favorite, "There's a song titled 'Misunderstood' that I have adopted as mine as it really speaks to me personally. I feel like a lot of people misunderstand me for who I am. I'm actually a pretty down to earth, nice guy, but a lot of people seem to see me as something else, so I relate to that song pretty well."
"I'm a Texas boy at heart. My mom was a barrel racer, my grandpa's actually in the AQHA (American Quarter Horse Association) Hall of Fame, so I grew up with a Western background, and I mean, my name's Cheyenne West Harmon, my name comes from a Western side. I'm a Texas country boy at heart and 95% of the time I'm listening to country music on the way to the track and at the track… I’m DFW-born and raised, so the Arlington races are my legit hometown races. Where I live now it only takes about 25 minutes to get to the stadium."
Parker McCollum may be the most recent country star who's been captivated by the action of Supercross racing, but he’s not the only. Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line is an avid rider and calls 5-Time Supercross champion Ricky Carmichael a friend. Hubbard also recently rode with the “King of Supercross” Jeremy McGrath in a promotional video for Kawasaki. Florida Georgia Line even featured the former Supercross racer turned Nitro-Circus visionary Travis Pastrana in their video for the song “This is How We Roll.” Blake Redferrin, who has written songs for Florida Georgia Line and others, is a former pro racer who recently released his first major label single “Red In My Last Name” for Warner Music Nashville that features him riding throughout the video.
And perhaps the quintessential love affair between country music and Supercross was born in Houston and is preserved by lifelong fan and former local expert class racer - American Icon and 4-time Grammy Award winning, Lyle Lovett. Lovett attended his first local race in 1969 and was hooked from the get-go. He still remembers the date – March 14, 1969, the location – the original Fairbanks Track, and the awe-inspiring performance - European pro Gunnar Lindstrom in the mud while racing in coveralls. Lovett raced #32L throughout high school while also working at a local dealership called the Cycle Shack where the early Husqvarna and Penton brands were sold. Lovett attended the inaugural Supercross race in Houston at the Astrodome and continues to race vintage races on one of his three vintage bikes (’74 Husqvarna 125, ’74 Penton 250, ’80 YZ 125) when his schedule allows.
The two worlds of country music and Supercross have a big overlap, and the partnership that's formed between Texans Parker McCollum and Cheyenne Harmon are one perfect representation of how the emotional connection formed from listening to good music or spectating an exciting event can really interconnect and change lives.
McCollum brought his dad to AT&T Stadium this past Tuesday night for the second of three races in Arlington and watched as Harmon continued to learn the intricacies of his new motorcycle, switching from GASGAS to Yamaha in a matter of just a couple of weeks. Overall it was a tough night for Harmon and didn’t produce the result he was looking for, but that is all part of the journey and McCollum’s support will continue as professional musicians and professional racers understand the struggle that it takes to perform or compete at the top level; some nights just don’t go your way.
McCollum will hit the road supporting his new EP “Hollywood Gold” while Harmon will suit up again this Saturday night for the third and final hometown race at AT&T Stadium. He too will hit the road as the series continues in Atlanta for another triple-header at Atlanta Motor Speedway (April 10, 13, and 17) and then returns to Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City for the final two races of the season on April 24 and May 1.