Washougal’s own, Levi Kitchen, said he hopes to one day win the National on his home course
This was going to be a first for Levi Kitchen, even though he cannot count just how many times he has done it before, growing up in Washougal.
A 21-year-old motocross rider, Kitchen expected to return to Clark County to race on his home course for the first time as a professional.
Oh, he will be in Washougal this week. He just won’t be racing.
“I cannot get hurt before Washougal,” he recalled telling himself recently.
“Then I got hurt before Washougal.”
Kitchen broke his wrist in training last week and will miss Saturday’s Washougal MX National, part of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.
Kitchen rides for Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha, and he was making a name for himself in his first full season of motocross.
Kitchen competed a partial schedule on the motocross circuit last summer but did not race in Washougal in 2021. This Saturday was going to be his first pro race on his favorite course.
“It’s like another home in a sense,” Kitchen said. “It definitely means a lot to me and my family. It will always be a special place. It’s a place I will want to show my kids, my grandkids, down the road. It’s a place I’ll introduce to people and recommend to people because it’s pretty cool.”
Known for its trees and steep hills, the course at Washougal is world famous. Kitchen grew up next to this world. He was anticipating another great weekend there this year. Again, he will be there to watch and to represent his team, but he won’t be on the motorcycle this week.
Instead, he is looking forward to 2023’s Washougal National.
“I just can’t wait to do it with all my family and friends that I have there,” said Kitchen, who said it would be impossible to try to figure out just how many times he has been on the course as an amateur growing up in Clark County. “I’m going to have really high expectations. I think that will be a good thing. I don’t mind the pressure too much. That is a bucket-list goal of mine, to win that National one day. It would be awesome.”
Top priority right now is to get healthy again. He had surgery last week, and Kitchen is optimistic he will be riding again in the final rounds of the summer season.
“I came up short on a jump,” Kitchen said of the injury. “I didn’t even crash or fall off the bike. Just landed really hard. My wrist just snapped. It was a bummer.”
It put his 2022 season on pause.
“It was going amazing. I don’t want to say better than expected because I expect big things from myself,” Kitchen said. “I checked some boxes I didn’t think I was ready to do. I surprised myself, and that was awesome.”
That would include earning a top-five finish at a National, and a podium finish. Check and check. (Kitchen finished third at Thunder Valley, the third event of the series.)
Oh, and to get to that podium, he finished first in a Moto. Check.
He even earned himself a Hole Shot. Check.
Through six events, Kitchen was in fifth place overall for the series as a 250 rider.
Not a bad first full season for a guy who is kind of a late bloomer in this sport. There are many, many professionals who knew at an early age they were going to turn pro, that they were going to earn a sponsorship, a ride.
Kitchen did not go that route. He competed for years, and he was good. But when he turned 18, he wasn’t exactly sure he had the right stuff to truly make it.
“My dad and my mom (Paul and Sara) said, ‘Get a job, or do you want to try to make something out of this?’“ Kitchen recalled.
For a little while there, Levi opted to work for his dad.
But there was still a love, a passion for riding. It was now or never.
Levi moved to Louisiana, lived in a motorhome, and trained every day.
“I started doing that work, and I started winning as an amateur,” he said. “That was when I knew I would have a shot at this.”
He excelled at the 2020 Loretta Lynns, the national championship for amateurs. Did so well, in fact, that he was offered a sponsor’s deal. He was on his way. However, that team ended up folding just weeks later. Levi Kitchen would have to impress another sponsor. He crushed it again at an event in Florida.
“I have to show these people that ‘Loretta’ wasn’t a fluke,” Kitchen recalled.
He signed right then and there.
“That was cool,” Kitchen said. “It was a crazy few months.”
His journey has been unconventional, for sure. But he has made it.
“I’m very thankful to have the opportunity that I do,” Kitchen said. “If I’m ever doubting myself or anything like that, it’s easy to reassure myself. ‘You put in the work, and you did it.’”
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