Kitchen looking to put his stamp on the motocross field at Pala

Deep into his third year of being a factory satellite 250cc competitor Levi Kitchen three 250SX supercross main events wins to his credit, but an overall win in the AMA Pro Motocross Championship still eludes him.

“Yes, I want that first outdoor win bad,” he said ahead of this weekend’s season-opening round at Fox Raceway in Pala, California.

“I know I’m in good shape, and it’s going to take two good starts and I think that’s what I need to win one of these. I just need to put two motos together. Last year I had the speed. I would put a strong moto together pretty regularly. I think I just need to nail two good starts and go from there. The thing about outdoors that is kind of cool is that you don’t necessarily have to win to win the overall. You can go two-two and win the overall. You’ve just got to put two motos together and you can give yourself a pretty good shot at winning.


“I’m feeling good heading into Pala this weekend. We got some testing done, and that puts me in a good spot. Yeah, I’m feeling good. Kind of feeling like I want redemption after the supercross series.”

Kitchen lost out on winning the 2024 AMA 250SX West Region Supercross Championship by four seconds and five points to rival RJ Hampshire at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, last May. Kitchen talked about the emotions that came afterwards.

“Now after it’s all said and done, it’s tough to lose, I guess you could say,” he said. “But honestly, it wasn’t too bad a couple of days later. I kind of turned the page and now the focus is the outdoors. I couldn’t believe how quick it came up. I don’t want to say that I forgot about it, but there is a lot more racing ahead, so it wasn’t as bad as I thought.”

In recent interviews, Kitchen has spoken about self confidence in world class motocross racing. “Once you win, you learn how to do it, and I think I’m finally learning to do that part,” Kitchen recently told Ricky Carmichael and Ryan Villopoto. “It helps. There’s just so much confidence when I’m on the line now.”

This writer asked Kitchen if he has been able to work on his racing self-confidence.

“Yeah, for sure,” he said. “The mindset is completely different now this year. From supercross especially, I led some races from start to finish and won. I know I can win. I also felt like, just overall speed-wise, I was in a good spot. You don’t have much time in supercross, where in outdoors, I think that if I can just start even in the top five and let the race come to me, I think I can check some of those boxes and win some of these.

“And honestly, after you win one, you’re not satisfied unless you win again. It changes your mindset. Last year, if I got a podium, I would be jumping up and down. I’m still grateful for having those results and even being able to do it, but I’m not truly excited and happy unless I win now. My motivation changed a little bit.”

In his very first year as a member of the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team, Kitchen believes he has fallen right in step with team owner Mitch Payton’s battalion of mechanics and technicians.

“It’s been such an unbelievable relationship, for sure,” he said. “There is Mitch, and the whole crew has been great. They’re super-laid back, which is kind of my personality. They trust in me enough to know that I know what I need to do, and I think that goes a long way when you don’t have people in your ear all of the time telling you how to do stuff. In order to do all of that takes trust, and I feel like they have trust in me and I trust in them. It has been really good. While I’m in California, I’m actually staying at Mitch’s house. He’s got a little apartment. It all feels like a family. I would say that is definitely kind of a different atmosphere than the previous team I was on.”

Kitchen talked about the emotions Payton felt after losing out on the 250SX West title.

“He was the same as me, you know? We didn’t want to talk to anybody and we were just upset and taking it all in,” he said. “As bad as it sounds, it is good to see how upset Mitch is. It just shows that he wants it and so do I. Yeah, I think he’s good now and he’s also super-motivated like all of us. That’s the cool thing. It’s like he’s one of us out there racing because he just wants it so badly.”

Next stop: Pala Raceway and the starting gate this Saturday afternoon in Southern California. Kitchen spoke about what he will be up against in the curtain-raising Pro Motocross round on Saturday.

“I’m going to approach it just like I did Anaheim I,” said Kitchen, who stood atop the podium at Anaheim 2 earlier this year. “I think there are going to be some nerves, which is normal for the first round because you don’t really know where you stack up. At the same time, I kind of do know where I stack up and I feel like I know the guys to watch out for; I know who is going to be good. I’ve been it long enough now, I’ve been here over three years, and I’ve learned. I know who is good late in the motos. I know who is sprinter at the beginning of the motos. Everybody has their strong points, you know? I don’t know. I like to think I’m the guy.”

Story originally appeared on Racer