"Labor of love for Litz family"
Sunday, July 14, 2013 12:45 am
Posted on Jul 14, 2013 by Allen Gregory
BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. – For hours Saturday at Muddy Creek Raceway, Steve Litz divided his time between mechanical, managerial and motivational duties.
By the final event in day two of the 29th annual Kawasaki Tennessee State Championship motocross, Litz was covered in sweat and dust. It was all a labor of love.
“I’ve been in this sport 30 years as a rider and businessman, and it’s been great to see how things have taken off,” Litz said.
Litz and his brother Mike own and operate Litz Racing, a full-service company based in Blountville, Tenn., which has supported thousands of racers across the country since 1981.
“We basically built our company on motocross, but we’ve also helped riders in supercross, supermoto, off-road racing and drag bikes,” Litz said. “We love it all.”
The latest rider in the Litz Racing stable is 35-year-old Takeshi Koikeda. A two-time Japan National Cross Country series champion and former Japan Motocross titlist, Koikeda plans to run the full Grand National Cross Country schedule for the Litz team. The GNCC is America’s premier off-road motorcycle, ATV and UTV racing series
On Saturday, Koikeda recorded finishes of second and third in the 35-and-over and vet expert 25-and-up classes.
“Litz has a very good team here. They are helping me and we’re having fun together,” said Koikeda, whose hometown is near Tokyo.
Serious motocross fans are familiar with Koikeda and his story. He jumped on a bike for the first time at age four and gradually developed into one of the premier riders in Japan.
Koikeda was a regular factor in Outdoor National events in the United States and qualified for the main event in two Supercross races in the late 1990s. Then came a common hurdle.
“I had many injuries along with broken bones and many surgeries,” Koikeda said. “I switched to enduro racing. The races are long and it takes a lot of strength and training but I enjoy it.”
On June 1, Koikeda watched the nationally televised Lucas Oil Motocross Championship from Muddy Creek. He said the facility lived up to its billing Saturday.
“It’s a high-speed track with big jumps. I like it,” said Koikeda, who also qualified in two classes for the famed Loretta Lynn Amateur Nationals which begins July 29 in Hurricane Mills, Tenn.
Koikeda currently ranks eighth in points for the elite C1 GNCC class. Josh Barker of Mt. Carmel, Tenn., another Litz Racing rider, leads the Open A point standings.
Steve Litz appreciates the passion and sportsmanship that Koikeda brings to his expansive team.
“Takeshi has quite a resume in the sport,” Litz said. “He’s been one of the top riders in Japan and I remember when he had top-five finishes in Outdoor National events. Takeshi is very fast and awesome to work with.”
As usual, hundreds of riders from around the southeast are competing in the Kawasaki event at Muddy Creek. The event, featuring top riders in the 250 and 450 pro classes, concludes today.
For Litz, the large crowd of racers and fans is a source of pride.
“NASCAR has been the dominant sport in this area for a long time and it’s done an awesome job of bringing attention to the region,” Litz said. “Unfortunately interest in NASCAR has been tapering down, but that’s helped extreme sports like motocross grow.”
The attendance for the Lucas Oil event at Muddy Creek was nearly 20,000, with a majority of those fans under age 35. Litz soaked in every minute of the action.
“Coverage on outlets like the NBC Sports Network, Fuel TV and MAVTV has helped, and corporations have taken notice,” Litz said. “So many kids have grown up with video games with motocross and supercross themes, and they’ve been inspired to duplicate the stars of the sport.
“Drivers used to show up with pickup trucks, and now they have transporters. And the bikes have progressed so much.”
The hours are long and the tasks are endless, but Litz loves his behind-the-scenes role as guiding light and kingmaker.
“It’s phenomenal how much talent there is in the youth classes, and that includes many riders within 100 miles of Bristol,” Litz said. “With the large crowds and television coverage, it’s all very encouraging.
“I love supporting the riders and it just makes me proud to watch the sport grow like this. We try to do our part.”
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