Straight out of Washougal, Washington, a city of 17,039 inhabitants and named by a wild-eyed fur dealer named Alexander Ross method again in 1811, Levi Kitchen grew up with close by Washougal MX Park as one thing of a yard whereas he minimize his aggressive enamel as an novice racer. Now two years into his skilled profession and a member of Mitch Payton’s formidable Monster Power/Professional Circuit/Kawasaki organisation, Kitchen is three rounds into the 2024 250SX West Supercross Championship. And it has gone nicely for child straight out of the rolling hills and evergreen forests of America’s Most Scenic Raceway.
The third-place finisher on the season opener at Angel Stadium in Orange County, California, Kitchen soldiered on by the driving rain and flying mud of San Fran’s Oracle Park to come back up brief by an eyeblink margin of +0.913 seconds to put runner-up to Principal Occasion winner, Jordan Smith. One week later, additionally within the rain and dust, this time at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego, Kitchen stalked down race chief and was seeking to make a move when he tipped over and fell. Kitchen charged again to fifth on the end line and is now a rock-solid second within the 250SX West factors heading into what will likely be a sunlit Angel Stadium this approaching Saturday in Anaheim, California.
“I’m fairly happy with the way it’s gone thus far,” answered the pleasant child out of the Pacific Northwest whereas ready out the rain this week. “I imply, final weekend felt just like the one which acquired away somewhat bit for me. I don’t know, speed-wise and stuff, I felt like I used to be in a great spot to win. However the positives had been… I suppose you may say that I’m feeling actually good on the bike and we’re nonetheless in a great spot points-wise. I imply I’m simply eight factors again from Jordan Smith. I’m glad and I’ve simply acquired to maintain plugging away. There’s quite a lot of racing left nonetheless. With that being mentioned, although, it additionally seems like there’s not a ton of racing left from a championship standpoint. I simply have to make some stuff occur fast in these subsequent few weeks. I simply sort of wish to flip it round somewhat bit. I imply, I’m proud of two podiums to begin off the season, however I have to get on somewhat little bit of a roll right here and attempt to click on off some wins.
With the competitors and the fierceness of all of it operating so very deep within the 2024 250SX West collection, there actually isn’t any margin for error in anyway. In actual fact, this author spoke with Jo Shimoda concerning the gap the Japanese rider is in solely three rounds into 2024. I additionally requested Kitchen to discuss the aggressive panorama and no margin for error.
“No, there’s not a margin in any respect,” declared Kitchen. “You already know, and I feel such as you mentioned, Jo’s like 30-something factors down now. I imply, statistically, he’s out of it. There’s completely no method now. With someone like Jo, I may get second behind him the remainder of the season and nonetheless get the championship. Jo’s off my listing and Nate Thrasher is now additionally off my listing. These guys have nice velocity, however it’s between Jordan Smith and R.J. Hampshire now. Garrett Marchbanks is using very well, too. However when you go down 25 factors, which is just about a race win, it’s gonna be fairly powerful to come back again within the championship. So I’m not too apprehensive concerning the others. I simply have to maintain doing my factor and see the place that takes me.”
Of his Anaheim 1 third-place podium trip, Kitchen was quietly happy.
“Yeah, it was it was alright for me. Nerves acquired to me actually unhealthy on race day. That was somewhat little bit of a bummer, however you understand, I feel going into this coming weekend at Angel Stadium, I feel the nerves will likely be just about gone. Final 12 months at A2 went nicely for me. I acquired my first supercross race win, so I’m actually wanting ahead to this weekend. I feel if I can simply trip like myself and calm down, I can for positive do some harm.”
Displaying glorious velocity and dedication at Snapdragon Stadium final Saturday, Kitchen laments what may need been if not for the small Principal Occasion miscue.
“For positive I used to be bummed about San Diego,” he mentioned. “Yeah, Spherical 3 was very irritating for me after I was finished, however on the identical time, issues could possibly be worse. I could possibly be off the tempo and questioning how one can be on tempo. So I feel if anyone goes again and watches the race and appears at instances, I undoubtedly had the velocity to win and I felt like I may catch folks each time I wanted to. It was simply arduous to execute a move there and that’s sort of what harm me. I used to be getting somewhat bit impatient behind R.J. [Hampshire] and I ought to have waited for a mistake from him. However I compelled it and it price me.”
Kitchen let it’s recognized in the course of the low season that he had left the Star Racing Yamaha organisation after the 2023 racing season to maneuver over to Monster Power/Professional Circuit/Kawasaki in an effort to achieve extra freedom and to, nicely, make a wanted change.
“Sure, there’s all the time questions on whether or not you made the suitable transfer,” defined Kitchen of shifting from Yamaha after a two-year run with the model. “I feel there’s all the time going to be professionals and cons to something you do in life, so for me I used to be actually stunned at how straightforward the transition was although. I began stressing as a result of Chase Sexton – and I practice with him now – he takes a reasonably lengthy low season after racing. He was going to a brand new workforce too in 2024 and mentioned to me, ‘Belief me, man. You’ll have loads of time on the bike. You’ll be good’.”
“I took virtually over a month off and Mitch and these guys had been in all probability like, ‘Man, what is that this man going to get again on the bike?’ And yeah, I did, and inside three weeks, I used to be completely snug. We acquired all the things sort of dialled in for me that I went to Florida for – three weeks and it was tremendous straightforward. I actually appreciated the bike. However going racing on it, it could possibly go the opposite method. You already know racing is clearly a bit completely different than practising. Even in a race atmosphere thus far, it has been nice. At Anaheim 1, we struggled somewhat bit with a few issues on the bike, however that’s sort of frequent it doesn’t matter what bike or workforce you’re on. Observe tracks are all the time completely different than the racetrack. So with the race bike, it was undoubtedly nothing out of the extraordinary. It was a very easy transition. The workforce atmosphere has been wonderful for me. It’s been unreal.
“And I take pleasure in it quite a bit and such as you mentioned, with the freedom-side, I can sort of change issues in my program if wanted,” continued Kitchen. “I feel for me, being somewhat bit happier has helped my mindset and my confidence. I’m actually assured as a result of all the things is how I need it. Clearly – and I feel with any athlete, particularly on the high stage – all of us take care of being somewhat bit egocentric at instances, however it’s sort of the way in which now we have to be in our mindset.”
And based on Kitchen, so far contained in the Monster Power/Professional Circuit/Kawasaki outfit, it has been a actuality of thus far, so good.
“Yeah, I’m actually loving it thus far,” he nodded with a smile. “You already know folks can say Mitch will be arduous on you or no matter. I don’t know… Coming from Star Yamaha, Bobby Regan was fairly old-school, and he will be fairly powerful on you too. It wasn’t stunning or something and thus far, for me, Mitch just isn’t actually that tough on me in any respect. He’s simply trustworthy and tells the reality with all the things. All the pieces Mitch says is smart to me, so I don’t blame him for ever saying something to me. You already know, that was one factor that when Mitch let me go to Florida, he was identical to, ‘Levi, don’t give me a purpose to take you away from Florida’.And I knew. I wish to win simply as unhealthy as Mitch desires to win. I would wish to win much more!”
Having received the second Anaheim Supercross spherical in 2023, Kitchen is absolutely centered on successful at Angel Stadium when he walks contained in the paddock come Saturday morning race day.
“It’s time to win,” he says matter-of-factly. “I’d wish to put three 1s up on the board and get the General on Saturday after which go proper into Glendale. Clearly the objective is to win, however podiums are nice, for positive. I feel after that fifth place this final weekend in San Diego, I sort of deliberate the entire season in my head and that fifth place now must be unhealthy race. I have to get it again collectively. You already know, it’s all the time been aggressive, however I really feel prefer it’s undoubtedly getting extra and aggressive as a result of I feel the taking part in area is getting somewhat extra whilst all people does comparable applications. That’s why I sort of needed to step away and do my very own factor as a result of I didn’t wish to do the identical factor as all people else. I needed to attempt to get the higher hand.”
Earlier than Kitchen packed all the things up and commenced wanting in the direction of this Saturday’s Anaheim 2 – and what all of us hope will likely be a sunny Saturday – we talked about what rising up with Washougal MX Park was like.
“Yeah, it’s all the time been part of my life. It acquired to the purpose after I was a youngster the place I liked this sport, however I purely appreciated it simply to have enjoyable with it. Successful wasn’t all the things at that stage in my life. As soon as I selected to do it extra significantly and practice on the weekends and stuff, that modified all the things for me as a result of after I began placing the work in, I didn’t need that to be for nothing. Then the mindset sort of modified to, ‘I have to win. I wish to win!’ You already know, it’s superior to do that, for positive. There are occasions when it’s a job. However now, and particularly this 12 months, it feels much less of a job for me. I’m having fun with it extra and I feel the happier I’m on race day, you’re going see higher outcomes from me. And I feel that’s exhibiting now.”
POSTSCRIPT: ROUND 4 UPDATE…
Final Saturday evening, only a few days after this interview was penned by Eric Johnson, Kitchen went 1-2-3 at Anaheim 2’s Triple Header format and took Spherical 4’s General win. He now shares the factors lead because the 250SX West Area takes a break and the championship heads to Detroit subsequent weekend.
“Right this moment at Anaheim 2 was all-around day,” Kitchen defined within the wake of his win at A2. “Qualifying went nicely, securing second General. Within the first Principal Occasion, I acquired the win after asking for it early on. In the second, I completed second, which is stable, and I felt like I had the velocity all through the evening. The third one started with begin, however I made a slight mistake. Nonetheless, I acquired behind Nate Thrasher, maintained focus, and realised I had a considerable factors hole. From there, I rode it in easily. It was an total nice evening, and having the purple plate is cool for me. I can’t thank my Monster Power/Professional Circuit/Kawasaki workforce sufficient. My KX250 was nice all day!”
250SX CLASS WESTERN REGION – POINTS (AFTER RD4)
- Levi Kitchen (Kawasaki), 84pts
- Jordon Smith (Yamaha), 84pts
- RJ Hampshire (Husqvarna), 76pts
- Garrett Marchbanks (Yamaha), 70pts
- Anthony Bourdon (Suzuki), 55pts
- Jo Shimoda (Honda), 54pts
- Mitchell Oldenburg (Honda), 51pts
- Nate Thrasher (Yamaha), 50pts
- Julien Beaumer (KTM), 48pts
- Carson Mumford (Honda), 47pts