A first-place finish at the Amateur and Youth motocross regionals earlier this month seemed to be in the cards for Storme Hawks.
Thousands across the country flock to race, and watch, this dirt-track sport.
That July 3 result at Washougal (Wash.) Motocross Park earned him a gate position at the American Motocross Association nationals at - of all places - Loretta Lynn Park in Hurricane Mills, Tenn., next month.
“I can’t wait to get to Tennessee,” he said. “That win in Washington was my first for-real No. 1 place.”
Hawks’ win shouldn’t have been unexpected. Assembled with hundreds of entries, dozens of classes, engines firing in every second at Washougal, Hawks has been close to front in plenty of regional events.
“I had to work the Fourth of July,” said Kealoha Hawks, who is Storme’s mother, “and his father (Darin) couldn’t make it up there.”
“So we sent him up with friends … and he wins,” she says, pausing. “Maybe we need to slap him on the back and say, ‘we’ll stay home and you go.’ ”
He is headed for eighth grade at Yucaipa’s Competitive Edge Charter Academy. He’s been on a dirt bike since he was six. There’s social media connections on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
“I’m ready for nationals,” Storme said. “I want to represent Yucaipa.”
This 13-year-old has hit more cities than a minor league ballplayer - Prairie City, near Sacramento; Deseret Peak, near Salt Lake City; Freestone in Wortham, Texas; Las Vegas; Mammoth Lakes; plus that isolated spot in Washougal, Wash., just over the Oregon-Washington border a few miles east of Interstate 5.
Finally. He’s been close a few times this year.
A little closer to home: Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, nearby Perris; then on up to Mammoth Lakes along state Highway 395; Pala Raceway down in San Diego County; Buckeye Cycle Park, just across the California-Arizona border along Interstate 10.
“Wins,” said Kealoha, “nearly every weekend.”
“My dad works at Glen Helen just so I can ride,” said Storme.
Darin Hawks, who raced modified stock cars in his day back in Arkansas, also chips in as his son’s mechanic. Said Storme: “He has all the tools. Our family used to own a car shop.”
There were lots of top 10 finishes, too, in regional rides. Riding one of his three $6,100 85-cc KTM dirt bikes, Hawks motored second in a couple of classifications at a February run in Buckeye.
Third place, Prairie City, back on Feb. 23. A day earlier, he had a pair of fifth-place runs in open limited and unlimited classifications.
Fourth, fifth and sixth-place finishes at a regionals run at Pala in June.
Each finish was good enough to land him a spot at the AMA nationals.
But he was still seeking that elusive regional victory.
Locked into a one-on-one duel with Arizona’s Jesson Turner, the pair finished 1-2 in both Moto 1 and Moto 2.
“We both crashed in the first moto,” he said, “but I got up the quickest and won.”
That second moto, crazy as it was, watched Storme rally from sixth place, winning from the outside.
It was jersey No. 16, Hawks, outgunning Turner’s jersey No. 257.
Incidentally, credit Cole Timboe, a Calimesa rider, with a top 10 finish in a field of nearly 50 entries in that hotbed 85-cc, age 10-12 class up in Washougal.
“They live 10 minutes from us,” said Storme. “Nice family. We met them racing.”
Gatherings like that are what makes up a motocross nation. Super Cross, which is the Super Bowl of motocross, puts the big boys up on those 250 cc and 500 cc bikes.
“I did a Super Cross Future … in Anaheim,” said Storme. “The crashes are worse. Anything can happen. You don’t have as much control.”
It’s crazy at any of these motocross events - 36 different classes of competition. All ages. Yamaha. Suzuki. Honda. Hawks’ KTP product. Virtually every color on those uniforms.
These days, Storme can compete in the 10-12 age class through Dec. 31 despite turning 13.
Sponsors? Here are the businesses: Global Pro Motocross, Pro Circuit, Fly Racing and Asterisks -- decals slathered all across Hawks’ equipment.
“My sister gives him money, too,” said Kealoha. “She just says, ‘have fun.’”
Things like wrist braces - Storme broke his wrist in Texas - or a knee brace, plus helmet, suspensions and motos are all part of the expenses. Discounts from plenty of businesses.
“We couldn’t make it without any of them,” says Kealoha.
And training. Ex-pro champion Kyle Lewis, in nearby Riverside County, has him three days a week on technique, grip, plus 20-minute moto runs.
“He’s got me working on the turns,” said Storme. “Different techniques. Working on little mistakes.”
“We started doing it for fun,” says Kealoha, “and we saw he had no fear. We got sucked in.”
Those quick starts. Hairpins turns. Possible pileups. Wheels coming off the track. Uphills. Downhills. Flying through the air. Uneven terrain and surfaces. Looking over your shoulder. Chasing down a leader. One leg off, steadying around a turn.
What’s needed is speed and balance. Throw in aggressiveness, position and just plain racing luck.
Lots to think about.
Plus injuries. There was that broken wrist. A scapula (shoulder) and collarbone twice -- broken. “Three concussions,” said Storme. “I usually take a month off after a concussion.”
“Every kid has (getting hurt) in the back of their mind,” said Storme.
“The worst thing for a mom,” says Kealoha, “is sending your kid so far away … and he gets hurt.”
All family will be present for that next stop: Hurricane Mills, Tenn., on Aug. 3-8.
That’s the national championship race, 39th annual, scheduled for Loretta Lynn’s Ranch.
Yes, it’s the “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” a track built and named for the legendary country singer.
And Storme is ready for a win.