“Can you hear my spin bike? I’m just doing a cooldown spin,” asked Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing racer Levi Kitchen.
The rider from Washougal, Washington was getting in a bit of pre-race conditioning before looking towards Angel Stadium and the opening round of the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross Championship. Kitchen only competed in nine AMA Pro Racing events in 2022 – two supercross main events, as well as nine Lucas Oil Pro Motocross 250MX races – and raced to a convincing win in the opening 250cc moto.
A broken wrist suffered immediately after the Southwick National in July threw a wet blanket on the remainder of the season for the 21 year-old, but he’s now fully healed and ready to get to work alongside teammate Stiles Robertson.
Q: How are you and the team and the motorcycle? Everything in order?
LEVI KITCHEN: Yep.. It’s been great. Everything feels pretty easy now. The situation is nice here. The team building and everything is done. Yeah, everything is good with the team and bike. I tested quite a bit at the beginning of the season, but I haven’t changed much recently. I’m pretty happy.
Q: You haven’t raced inside Angel Stadium before, have you?
LK: Nope, nope. Last year was my rookie year in supercross and I was East Region. I was pretty bummed. I came into the season and after being an amateur, I didn’t really ride supercross all that much. When I first got on the Star team they had me ride it some. Anyway, I didn’t have a ton of supercross experience. I felt pretty good going into my rookie year, but I’d already been hurt in the preseason. I broke my shoulder and then I got a few weeks on the bike and then went racing. I was pretty happy with my speed, really. I think my problem and why I got hurt at Texas was because I kind of ride over my head maybe, so I just wanted to try to go to the front and it bit me in the butt. This year I think I’m more mature mentally, and kind of know I should be. I honestly feel like I’m putting less pressure on myself this year than I did last year.
Q: You raced the Minneapolis 250SX East Region main event last February and placed ninth, and spoke about how much you felt you earned in your first supercross. A good point of reference leading into Angel Stadium on Saturday?
LK: Yeah, I know that I’m capable. It’s also easy to gauge if you’re capable by riding with Star, because I’m doing motos with Dylan Ferrandis and Jordan Smith and Nate Thrasher and you name it every day. It’s pretty easy to know that if you’re keeping up with those guys than you’re probably going to be okay.
Q: Have you been able to size up your competition? It appears that Jett Lawrence of Honda, Austin Forkner of Kawasaki and RJ Hampshire of Husqvarna, to name but a few, are inked in to be behind the starting gate this Saturday evening.
LK: Kind of. The teams seem to kind of keep it a secret, especially our team. They like to keep it a secret. As of now it sounds like me and Stilez Robertson are on my team. Like you said, Forkner and McAdoo will be racing for Kawasaki and RJ Hampshire will be on Husqvarna. Jett Lawrence will race for Honda. I don’t know. I’m not really too sure as what everybody is doing. I’ve kind of heard, but you just never know. I would think everybody would have their minds made up by now. Who knows?
Q: You only lined up for a total of nine races in 2022, but you know your speed and racecraft are going to be right there, huh?
LK: Yeah, definitely. I’ve changed my whole mindset going into this year. Last year I wanted to show my speed. Last year I was basically a dumb kid who was trying to go as fast as he could. It works, obviously, but I also ended up getting hurt probably too many times. This year I really just want to be there every race, and if that means I take a fourth on a night and that’s just where I’m at, well, I’m happy to move on to the next weekend. That is how I’m approaching this year because I just know how important it is. If a guy gets a full season in and you only get half of it, you can never make that back up. I just want to be there for every race and to try and build every weekend, really.
Q: I’ve read in some recent media you’ve done that you still feel like you’re learning quite a bit as you move forward as a professional…
LK: Yeah, I’m not as young as some, but I’m still new to the pro thing. Even as far as the factory supported side of things, I’ve only been on a race team for a couple of years now, so I’m learning all of these things. Everything they throw at me, I’m like, ‘Wow, this is cool. This is all new to me.’ It’s still like that. You know, I was used to riding just basic stuff. To me, now everything is cool and everything feels good. It’s a little bit hard for me to set up a bike, but I can kind of adapt to anything. There is still a lot more for me to learn, especially on the racecraft side of things. I’ve only entered two full seasons now and only made two supercross races and six outdoor races in 2022. I have a lot of racing still to do.
Q: How can you do when that gate drops on Saturday night?
LK: To be honest, my expectation with the way I’ve been riding out here, I know deep down that I can win, but it’s going to take some experience. I don’t even know. I know that if I feel good on a night and I don’t let the fact that I’m at a stadium filled with people and racing under lights get to me, I think I’ll surprise a lot of people. I’m not really on anybody’s radar. I kind of like that. I’ve always been an underdog my whole life. I like that feeling.