By DAVID GREEN
Kenny Maxfield has no trouble describing what he likes about racing motorcycles: It’s the speed.
“It’s fun,” he says. “You get to go fast.”
The 13-year-old Morenci youth proved himself a state champion two weeks ago in Midland, finishing first in his class (7 to 13 years) in the 85cc short course—the quarter mile track.
He went on to place second in the 250cc event—an open class race where he faced drivers from any age group.
He was the youngest driver in the American Motorcycle Association sanctioned race and it was only the third time he’d been on the bike.
His father, Ken Sr., was impressed.
“I never knew he could ride it that hard,” he said.
The lack of practice time makes his feat even more impressive. There are no tracks available in this part of the state and the nearest opportunity for practice is more than three hours away.
Kenny’s sport isn’t motorcross, the high-flying stunt event often seen on television. He remains grounded to the old-fashioned dirt or clay track.
“The idea is to keep on the track and go as fast as you can,” Ken said.
Sometimes that means literally on the track, with the bike on its side. Kenny has had a few crashes over the years—he’s been racing since he was nine years old—and the seat of his pants has worn a little thin from the occasional mishap.
Track surfaces are either dirt, clay or cush—a loose gravel.
“I like cush,” Kenny said. “You can slide better on cush.”
He’s talking about a power slide around a corner, in which the handlebars are turned to the right to get the slide to the left.
Some oval tracks are banked for extra speed. Others depart from the simple oval into a series of right- and left-hand turns. That’s known as the Tourist Trophy or TT track, named after a famous race in England, and it makes for an interesting race.
On the 85cc, speeds up to 75 mph are reached on a good half-mile track. Kenny parted with that bike recently, because he’s now 14 years old and can no longer compete on that size.
He’ll focus on the 250cc, which, of course, is faster. He’s hit 85 mph on that bike, but he hasn’t yet run it on a mile track where speeds of 120 are experienced on a good surface.
He raced on Caro’s half-mile track last weekend and finished with a pair of fourth-place finishes.
The season is over in Michigan, but he might hit some events in Ohio and Indiana before cold weather sets in. That’s when he’ll turn his attention to ice racing with studded tires.
He competed at the nationals in Wisconsin last winter and he hopes the event moves to one of the 10 ice tracks he’s aware of in Michigan.
There’s also indoor racing, but before that happens, he needs to get his 125cc bike repaired. He’s a couple of years too young to climb aboard the 250 on an indoor track.
After that, it’s back to the dirt next summer where he will concentrate on succeeding with the 250.
Is there strategy involved in dirt course racing?
No really, Kenny says.
“You just go.”