If Paul and Sara Kitchen lose sight of their 9-year-old son Levi, all they have to do is listen for the sound of his motorcycle.
The Kitchen family lives about two miles away from the Washougal Motocross Park. Levi also has access to a couple of racing tracks in the neighborhood. He has been riding the one in his backyard since he got his first bike at the age of 3.
“I just grew up liking it because my dad used to do it,” Levi said. “A lot of my friends race like me. Sometimes, we go out together.”
After competing in several races over the past year, including five nationals, Levi finds himself in elite company. He has qualified for the 2010 Loretta Lynn National Motocross Championships, Aug. 2-7, in Hurricane Mills, Tenn.
“I’m really excited. It’s a lot of fun, even if I don’t get first,” Levi said. “As long as I give my best effort, it feels good when I cross the finish line.”
On March 20, Levi won an area qualifier at Horn Rapids MX Park in Richland, Wash., to advance to the Honey Lake Motocross Regional in Milford, Calif. On June 12, he captured the regional championship to earn the opportunity to race against some of the best riders in the nation at the Loretta Lynn Nationals.
“We are totally excited for him,” Paul said. “They call Loretta’s the ‘Super Bowl’ of motocross. It’s something I wanted to do myself, but never got the chance.”
The Kitchens are packing up their motor home for the cross country road trip. After leaving on July 21, they hope to reach Oklahoma in time for Levi to compete in the Ponca City Grand National, July 26-31, at Jack Blevins MX Park.
“It should be a fun time for the whole family. The farthest east we’ve been is Utah,” Paul said. “It’s about a 5,000-mile trip. We hope to be back by Aug. 11.”
On top of a $365 entry fee, the Kitchens had to raise money to cover traveling expenses for a family of four. Those funds came from a garage sale and sponsors Cam Kitchen, Kitchen Electric, Devol Sportswear, MS3 Footpegs, Thursday Night Motocross, Facing First Racing, 2nd Moto and Hyper X Racewear.
“For everything we’re putting into it, it will be worth it for [Levi] to be able to say he raced against 41 of the fastest kids in the nation,” Paul said.
As if the racing wasn’t exciting enough, Paul and Sara said they also enjoy the family atmosphere that surrounds the track. A couple of days of camping before the event gives people plenty of time to get to know each other.
“You get to meet a lot of nice families,” Sara said.
“Underneath it all, everyone’s stressed out,” Paul added.
“They want their kid to be the best,” Sara concluded.
Levi had his share of spills in the past. He qualified for Loretta Lynn’s two years ago, but broke his leg three days before he was supposed to leave. He also came back from a fractured collarbone and a couple of concussions.
He could quit riding motorcycles tomorrow and his parents would still be proud, but Levi shows no signs of slowing down. This Kitchen is having too much fun kicking up dirt.
“With all of the effort he puts into racing, it’s rewarding to see him do so well,” Sara said. “We get a lot of compliments about the way he handles himself. He goes to these big races, and it just seems so natural to him.”
“I don’t think he has ever come in after a race and said he didn’t give it 100 percent. He always gives it 100 percent,” Paul said. “I see a lot of kids who just go out and ride. Levi goes out and races.”