Written by J. Patrick Eaken
Thursday, 03 September 2009 12:06
If you’re into watching extreme motor sports on television, you may find Oak Harbor High sophomore Jeremy Kitchin Jr. competing in national motocross races.
He’s following in his father’s footsteps.
“I’ve been racing dirt bikes all my life and I tried to get him on a dirt bike, and he wouldn’t get on a dirt bike. He wanted to race four-wheelers,” said Jeremy Kitchin Sr., a two-time national champion racer.
“So I sold my go-kart for a little Honda, and he started racing it in arena-cross in the winter of the 2008 series. He brought home quite a few trophies racing in the ATV class, which is the same class that I raced in. He did really well with it and it just kind of took off from there.”
Jeremy, 15, and his parents Jeremy Sr. and Eva Kitchen live in rural Benton Township. Jeremy Sr., at age 38, can still be seen on the national dirt bike circuit today.
Jeremy Jr. placed seventh overall nationally in his class in this year’s ATVA/AMA National Motocross Series, which is sponsored by ITP/Moose Racing.
Jeremy Jr.’s national championship run started last February and March. His national championship races will be televised on the Versus Channel starting the end of September and early October.
For Jeremy Jr. to achieve his standing, the family traveled to Alabama, Kentucky, Virginia, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan with the final race held at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch in Tennessee. Jeremy Jr. says his favorite courses are in Michigan and Virginia.
“I’ve got an ’08 truck, and I’ve already got 40,000 miles on it,” Dad said, adding that the family has easily spent $100,000 in pursuit of the racing trophies.
Jeremy Jr. races in the Schoolboy Senior Class on an LTZ 400 Suzuki ATV, while his father competes in the adult divisions. In two years on the circuit, Jeremy Jr. has brought home 40 trophies and plaques, including 25 this past year. In an arena-cross series in which he took third place, he brought home a three-foot high trophy, Dad said.
“Our first trip was to Falls City, Alabama for the national races and he started racing really well,” Dad said. “He was in the top five, and then we had bike problems the last two races so that dropped him down to the top seven. Anything within the top 10 in the United States you’re (considered) a national champion.”
Jeremy Jr. will be honored at a banquet held at Pigeon Forge, Tennessee on November 14.
“This is his sport,” Dad said. “He was on the Oak Harbor football team which was undefeated. He quit the football team do to this because he told his coach, ‘Racing comes first,’ and his coach said, ‘Well, we can work around it,’ He’s like, ‘No, you don’t understand. Racing comes first. If I get hurt in a football game, I can’t race.’ So, he dropped out of all other sports to do this.’”
Jeremy Jr. said, “I actually get to do a sport that I like to do, because I’ve always loved to ride four-wheelers. I get to meet some new people there, too.”
The ATVs can reach 90 miles per hour, Jeremy Jr. says, and when it gets muddy you have to “try to go as fast as you can through it and lean back.”
It doesn’t come without sacrifices.
“He’s been hurt a couple times. He’s been on a stretcher once and he decided not to (race that week),” Dad said. “He got t-boned one time, and he struck his face on the handle bars. The kid that t-boned him fell off his bike and my son ended up running him over.
“It’s a dangerous sport. People die every year in it. People break their necks every year. But I’m right alongside of him racing in it.”
Jeremy Jr. says, “It takes a lot of endurance and training.”
There’s more to the team than father and son. Mom, Eva Kitchin, plays her part.
“She’s also our cook and everything for our trips, and I’m pretty appreciative of that,” Jeremy Jr. said.
Dad added, “She’s the one who keeps us straight, you know what I mean? She’s the one who you ask to go out there — you need to do this, you need to do that. She’s our pit person; I guess you could call it. She’s the one who gives us the vote of confidence.”
In October, Jeremy Jr. will be 16 and can race bigger bikes. Within a year he can join a pro-am classification, Dad said. Dad expects Jeremy Jr. to turn professional when he reaches the age of 18.
Starting October 5, Jeremy Sr. begins attending classes four days a week at Power Sports Institute, located in Independence, Ohio.
“I do all the work on the bikes. The manufacturers are there to teach you how to work on the bikes. It’s the only place in the country where you can learn this. It’s where he (Jeremy Jr.) is going to be attending, too. He could do post secondary over there in the next couple years. So he’ll be able to graduate with an associate degree in mechanics,” Jeremy Sr. said.
Jeremy started racing at age 13. His father began racing at age 20. For Dad, he was always riding some kind of recreational motor vehicle as a youngster,
“My buddies were always right there running dirt bikes and four wheelers and stuff. We had a track over at my buddy’s house,” Dad recalled.
“He (Jeremy Jr.) kind of followed in his dad’s footsteps, except that I couldn’t get him on a dirt bike. It had to be a four-wheeler. He likes the four-wheelers and that kid ain’t scared of nothing. He can jump a 120-feet jump and land it, you know.”
Jeremy Jr. says, besides being the lead mechanic, his father is “like a motivator and he just tells me I can go faster and everything.”