Three rounds into into the 2024 250SX West Supercross Championship, things are going well for Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider Levi Kitchen.
The third place finisher at the season-opener at Angel Stadium in Orange County, California, Kitchen soldiered on through the rain and mud of Oracle Park to come up 0.913s short to main event winner Jordan Smith. One week later, also in the rain and mud, this time at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego, Kitchen stalked down race leader and was looking to make a pass when he tipped over and fell. He charged back to fifth at the finish line and is now second in 250SX West points heading into Angel Stadium in Anaheium this weekend.
“I’m pretty satisfied I’d say with how it’s gone so far,” he says. “Last weekend felt like the one that got away a little bit for me. Speed-wise and stuff, I felt like I was in a good spot to win. But the positives were that I’m feeling really good on the bike and we’re still in a good spot points-wise. I’m just eight points back from Jordan Smith. I’m happy, and I’ve just got to keep plugging away. There’s a lot of racing left still. With that being said though, it also feels like there’s not a ton of racing left from a championship standpoint. I just need to make some stuff happen quick in these next few weeks. I want to turn it around a little bit. I’m happy with two podiums to start off the season, but I need to get on a roll here and try to click off some wins.”
With the competition running so deep in the 2024 250SX West series, there is no margin for error.
“No, there’s not a margin at all,” said Kitchen. “Jo [Shimoda] is, like, 30-something points down now. Statistically, he’s out of it. There’s absolutely no way now. With somebody like Jo, I could get second behind him the rest of the season and still get the championship. Jo’s off my list and Nate Thrasher is now also off my list. Those guys are great, but it’s between Jordan Smith and R.J. Hampshire now. Garrett Marchbanks is riding really well, too. But once you go down 25 points, which is pretty much a race win, it’s going to be pretty tough to come back in the championship. So I’m not too worried about the others. I just need to keep doing my thing and see where that takes me.”.
Of his Anaheim 1 third place podium ride, Kitchen was quietly pleased.
“It was alright for me,” he said. “Nerves got to me really bad on race day. That was a little bit of a bummer, but going into this weekend at Angel Stadium, the nerves are pretty much gone. Last year at A2 went well for me. I got my first supercross race win, so I’m really looking forward to this weekend. If I can just ride like myself and relax, I can do some damage.”
Displaying excellent speed at Snapdragon Stadium last Saturday, Kitchen laments what might have been.
“For sure I was bummed about San Diego,” he said. “At the same time, things could be worse. I could be off the pace and wondering how to be on pace. If anybody goes back and watches the race and looks at times or anything in that matter, I definitely had the speed to win and I felt like I could catch people whenever I needed to.
“It was just hard to execute a pass there and that’s what hurt me. I was getting a little bit impatient behind R.J. Anderson and I should have waited for a mistake from him. But I forced it and it cost me.”
Kitchen let it be known during the off-season that he had left the Star Racing Yamaha organization after the 2023 racing season to move over to Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki in an effort to gain more freedom and make a needed change.
“Yes, there’s always questions if you made the right move,” he said. “There’s always going to be pros and cons to anything you do in life, so I was truly surprised at how easy the transition was. I started stressing because Chase Sexton, and I train with him now, he takes a pretty long off-season after racing. He was going to a new team too in 2024 and said to me, “Trust me, man, you’ll have plenty of time on the bike. You’ll be good.” I took almost over a month off.
“And within three weeks, I was perfectly comfortable. You know, racing is obviously a bit different than practicing. Even in a race environment so far, it has been great. At Anaheim we struggled a little bit with a couple of things on the bike, but that’s common no matter what bike or team you’re on. Practice tracks are always different than the race track. So with the race bike, it was definitely nothing out of the ordinary. It was a really easy transition. The team environment has been amazing for me. It’s been pretty unreal.
“I enjoy it a lot and with the freedom side, I can change things in my program if needed. Being a little bit happier has helped my mindset and my confidence. I’m really confident because everything is how I want it. Obviously, and I think with any athlete, especially at the top level, we all deal with being a little bit selfish at times, but the way we have to be in our mindset.”
According to Kitchen, life inside the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki outfit has been a case of so far, so good.
“I am really loving it so far,” he nodded with a smile. “You know people can say Mitch [Payton] can be hard on hard on you… Coming from Star Yamaha, Bobby Regan was pretty old school and he can be pretty tough on you, too. It wasn’t shocking or anything and so far, Mitch is not really that hard on me at all. He’s just honest and tells the truth with everything. Everything Mitch says makes sense to me, so I don’t blame him for ever saying anything to me. I want to win just as bad as Mitich wants to win. I might want to win even more.”
Having won the second Anaheim Supercross round in 2023, Kitchen is fully focused on winning at Angel Stadium when he walks into the paddock come Saturday morning.
“It’s time to win,” he said. “I’d like to put three ones up on the board and get the overall on Saturday and then go right into Glendale. Obviously the goal is to win, so podiums are great, for sure. After that fifth place this last weekend in San Diego, I planned the whole season in my head and that fifth place now needs to be bad race. I need to get it back together. It’s always been competitive, but I feel like it’s definitely getting more and competitive because the playing field is getting a little more even. Everybody does similar programs. That’s why I wanted to step away and do my own thing, because I didn’t want to do the same thing as everybody else. I wanted to try and get the upper hand.”