Levi Kitchen is coming home this week, but it’s not the homecoming he was hoping for.
In his first full season as a professional motocross racer, the 21-year-old from Washougal suffered a broken wrist last week, which will sideline him for Saturday’s Motosport Washougal National.
“It’s a bummer, but at least I still get to go,” Kitchen said from Tallahassee, Fla. “I was definitely excited for the chance to race at Washougal. It was the first place I rode when I was four years old or whenever it was. It’s a pretty special place, and I raced there all my years until I was 18. So it was definitely something that I was looking forward to, but unfortunately, I ended up getting hurt before it.”
Kitchen races in the 250cc class for Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing. After finding success as an amateur, Kitchen turned pro last August, after the 2021 Washougal race.
That came after two years of work when he decided at 18 to move to Louisiana to pursue a career as a motocross racer.
“I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” he said. “I liked racing, but I wasn’t really that serious into it. And then I got to that age when my parents said ‘Well it’s either time to get a job or do you want to give this racing thing a shot? We’ll support you for a little bit longer to get to a training facility to start working out and putting everything into it.’
“So I decided to move to Louisiana on my own and live in motorhome. It basically all started there on my journey to make it to where I’m at now. I just put in a lot of work, giving it as much effort as I could, and I ended up winning a lot of races as an amateur. And then I got myself a spot on a team as a professional.”
After a couple of top-10 finishes last season, Kitchen broke through with his first podium finish in June, placing third at Thunder Valley in Lakewood, Colo.
“That one was weird,” Kitchen said. “I was really sick going into it, and I wasn’t even sure that day if I was going to race or not. I knew my weakness was my starts the whole season leading up to that. And that race, I ended up coming out of the first turn in first place. And then I was able to maintain that and stayed out front the whole race. That was cool. And then the second race, I ended up in fifth. I had to fight my way up to fifth, and I finished third overall.”
The high didn’t last long, as Kitchen placed 12th in the next event at High Point in Mt. Morris, Penn.
“It shows the highs and lows of this sport,” Kitchen said. “I came into that one pretty confident, but ended up for me, in my eyes, I sucked that week. … It was really just a reality check of how these things go.”
Kitchen regrouped with back-to-back top-5 finishes, leaving him in fifth place in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship series. Then he got hurt last week preparing for the event at Springcreek in Millville, Minn.
“I just came up short on a jump,” he said. “I didn’t even crash or anything. Just the impact broke my wrist. It was a practice day, the last day of practice before I was supposed to fly out to Minnesota.”
Now all his focus is trying to get back on his bike.
“As soon as we get hurt, our mentality is we don’t really care about … it sounds really bad, but we’re not too worried about our health,” Kitchen said. “Like I’ve got a broken wrist, but I’m not worried about that. It’s more like ‘When can I get back on the bike?’ ”
Kitchen is hoping to return to action for the next event on Aug. 13 in New Berlin, N.Y., although he admits that may be pushing things.
Kitchen will still make the journey from his home base in Florida to Washougal this weekend. But instead of racing, he will be relegated to a spectator, something he’s done many times before at Washougal MX Park.
“I’m just going to Washougal to hang out, see friends and family,” he said. “I haven’t been home in a really long time. And I’ll be there to support my team. …
“It’s going to be a little hard for me to watch because I wish I was out there. But there’s always next year, I guess.”