From Sleeper to Reaper, Trent Lowe Breaks Through

Trent Lowe entered last weekend’s Mission Dallas Half-Mile presented by Roof Systems having politely knocked at victory’s door for the past five seasons.

Following 54 Parts Unlimited AFT Singles presented by KICKER Main Events, 21 top fives, eight podiums, and four runner-ups, no less than the voice of the sport, Scottie Deubler, had recently taken to calling Lowe “the sleeper” in direct reference to the ever-present odds of him landing that long-awaited first triumph.

While not exactly fond of the moniker, the only option Lowe had to shed a sticky Deubler nickname was to get that elusive maiden win. Tired of waiting for it to happen, he made it so. He smashed down the door at Devil’s Bowl Speedway, transforming what had come to be seen as a ‘it’s not a matter of if but when’ into ‘back then.’

Now officially the newest winner in the long, illustrious history of Progressive American Flat Track, the accomplishment represented a culmination of breakthroughs as Lowe worked diligently to elevate his mental game to match his prodigious natural skills.

And while not the final breakthrough needed in order to ultimately win a championship, it’s a far cry from where he found himself at the opening of his professional career.

Lowe stepped up to the Progressive AFT ranks as a highly decorated amateur who battled with the likes of Dallas Daniels and company going all the way back to their 65cc days. After witnessing several top-ranked talents he’d raced again (and frequently gotten the better of) break into the pros and enjoy immediate success, he expected the same from himself.

Instead, his rookie season in 2019 was spent mostly trying – and failing – to make Main Events. At the end of Lowe’s debut campaign, he’d advanced to just three of 18 Mains and ranked a lowly 26th in the final standings.

“I struggled more mentally than anything,” he admitted. “I was in pretty good physical shape – I actually started training pretty early, I would say. But, mentally I was not there, and it definitely took a lot of time to get me there.

“I think… I don't know... I kind of moved up with a lot of confidence. I had raced against some of those guys and done really well. Well, then I put that pressure on myself. I was kind of just mentally defeating myself.

“I knew that I should have been in every Main Event, but I just couldn't do that. I was breaking under the pressure.”

A late season fifth-place finish provided a ray of much-needed light at the end of the tunnel, yet only came following a shift in mindset.

“That was right at the point where I was going, ‘I know I should be doing better than I am, but at this point, I just have to look at it as I'm going to just ride for fun and not worry about the results.’ I made a couple Mains before that, but to get that top five, that definitely gave me that confidence back and gave me a boost going into the next year.”

An exponentially bigger boost came in the form of a mental boot camp, courtesy of a certain two-time Production Twins champion and, apparently, part-time drill sergeant, who took Lowe under his wing that following offseason.

“Cory Texter was really the one who kind of changed that mental part of me and got me out of that little bubble I was in,” Lowe said. “He works in a weird way. A lot of people cannot put up with him. But all that stuff he does, he has reasoning for it. There's a reason for everything that he does, even if it’s the strangest thing.

“He almost tries to mentally break you throughout the offseason, trying to get you to leave and not want to be there and training with him. But if you can stay through that stuff, it makes you stronger by dealing with it. I definitely saw an improvement right away.”

That improvement was more than evident during Lowe’s impressive sophomore campaign, one in which he finished inside the Parts Unlimited AFT Singles championship top five. In fact, Lowe hasn’t failed to make a Main Event since he started working with Texter.

And now Lowe stands as a huge proponent of owning complete mastery over the mental side of the game – and not just his own…

“Cory definitely just works mentally. Physically, most of the riders are not going to get tired during a Main Event. Cory said, 'You can beat any rider if you can break them mentally.' That's what we worked on a lot, this offseason especially.

“I work to try to beat people before I even pass them. It feels like sometimes guys almost just let me by, but it's because I've messed with their head a little bit.

“I try to let people get up behind me in practice and then pull away from them. That's what I've gone toward – let them follow me for a while and then pull away or pass them in practice or something, just to kind of make them think about how much faster I was, like it doesn't even matter what they do.”

In fact, it wasn’t only individual riders who were targeted for a dose of gamesmanship. Lowe actually made it his mission to get into the collective head of the entire Turner Racing outfit a year ago.

At some point, he figured, he would make himself impossible to ignore. Consider it the racing equivalent to teasing the girl you like during recess.

Lowe explained, “My whole goal last year was to beat the factory Hondas as much as possible. I wanted those guys to want me so bad because I was just beating them. That was my goal going into every race. I've got to beat them. I've got to beat them. I didn't care much about anything else. I just wanted to be the top Honda in as many races as possible.”

And, after finishing ahead of all three Turner Honda pilots in five races – and at least one in 14 of 18 – a spot did in fact open up for Lowe, allowing him to trade in his independent CRF450R to an American Honda-backed machine in 2023.

“This was the opportunity I've been working for this whole time and hadn't quite gotten. When it came along, I was like, ‘That's where I need to be. I need to be on the team where I'm no longer working on my own bikes throughout the week and doing all this extra stuff on my own.’ I can now take all my time and effort to make sure that I'm ready to go to the racetrack.

“And already, I'm feeling very comfortable working with them. I've worked with (AMA Hall of Famer) Kenny (Coolbeth) a lot so far now. He's gotten my riding style down and knows how I like the bike set-up. I can almost come off the track and tell him what the bike is doing and he knows what I'm going to want done.

“It's just good to have that feeling. I had that same feeling working on my bikes with my dad, but it's different now. It's good to be able to move on and get away from where me and my family are having to work on the bikes. It's on someone else, and I can come to the track prepared to race.”

However, no matter how positive things looked, there was still that matter of earning that first victory.

“That almost became a mental hurdle of its own. It didn't bother me too much until the very end of last season. I started getting on the podium and finding I just wasn't excited by that anymore. I only wanted to win.

“Going into this year, I knew I had to win early in the season, and I knew I needed to start winning races (plural). I'm not satisfied with podiums. That feeling has made me push a little harder too.”

The first four races didn’t follow Lowe’s script. Over that span, he failed to finish on the box and saw his best result (fourth) erased due to a DQ due to a technical infraction.

However, the Dallas Half-Mile provided a golden opportunity to get his season back on track.

“On the starting line, I was thinking, ‘I have to win this thing and get this over with. I cannot let this go on any longer.’ Before I even started that race, I knew it just had to be done.”

An added complication was the fact that he was once again pit up against the remainder of the Turner Racing squad – and this time not by choice. He battled for the win with now-teammates Chase Saathoff and Morgen Mischler – both of whom were equally desperate to win following less-than-ideal openings of their own.

“You do not want to take your teammate out. It actually went through my head at the beginning of the Main Event when I had both of those guys in front of me. ‘I have to get by them somehow.’ Finally, after sitting behind them, I was like, ‘I've just got to make a move and hope it doesn't turn out bad.’

“After getting past Morgen, I was able to catch Chase. and he was running a different line than me, so it was good I didn't have to get aggressive with him.”

Once in front and free, Lowe demonstrated his inner strength with a drama-free run to the checkered flag – one he intends to ensure becomes just the first of many.

“The race wasn't over yet, but I didn't get excited. I didn't really have much emotion. I wasn't nervous or anything. I just stayed calm and made sure I hit every mark as perfectly as I could.

“I think it's definitely going to be a big breakthrough. I know the first one is always the hardest. Getting that out of the way, I think there's going to be a lot more to come. I see a lot more wins coming for the whole team in general, and I hope they start to come soon. I feel we're going to have that momentum to get those more and more often.”