Luke Kalaitzian had some solid results throughout the 2019 racing season, landing in the top five overall at races such as Spring A Ding Ding, the FMF California Classic, and the Thor Winter Olympics. Additionally, he showed some solid pace at Ponca and proved himself to be capable of running at the front of the pack, but some bike problems held him back from achieving his optimal results that weekend. Kalaitzian ended the season with a strong 2nd place overall result at the AZ Open in December, priming himself for some strong finishes at the beginning of the 2020 racing season. The Californian displayed race-winning speed at Spring A Ding Ding this season with a moto win in the Schoolboy 1 class and since the quarantine has gone into effect, he’s been focused on keeping his fitness in order with a little bit of riding mixed in here and there. Kalaitzian has been doing some riding and training with the help of former professional racer and Factory Honda rider, Kyle Lewis, preparing himself for a good run at the Loretta Lynn Amateur National Championship this season. We got on the phone with Luke and recapped the 2019 racing season, talked about the riding situation in Los Angeles, and his mindset heading into the second half of the season.
What's it been like the last couple of months for you with the quarantine going on?
Yeah, a little self-isolated but I don't ride too much even when this wasn't going on. I've just been doing my normal program, working out off the bike with my trainer Tyler McKay and I've been riding maybe once a week. Things haven't changed too much, just not being able to go out, but we're a little way from the city so that's nice not being right in the middle of it.
What's the riding situation been like for you?
Recently, I've just been able to go to Glen Helen. Pala is like two hours away and I haven't made it down there since earlier this year, but with traffic that's like a three and a half-hour drive so Glen Helen is normally my go-to. We have a sand track up in the high desert that we're able to go ride when it rains, got to go down to Hunter Yoder's a couple of times, and Carson Mumford's track here and there. Then I've been riding at Kyle Lewis' track, I just started training with him so I've been riding there a little bit.
Cade Autenrieth works with him as well, right? Have you had the chance to ride with him?
Yeah, we've all been running outdoors for a while now. I'm not sure what his plans are, I'm sure he's gonna start riding some more supercross again but for the last two-three weeks we've all been riding at the compound and Glen Helen puttin' it work.
You mentioned that you typically don't ride that much even without this whole situation going on. Why is that?
Just the travel cost a little bit, but for the most part being on a one bike program adds up quickly and everything is just far. At the end of the week, right now it's not too bad, but normally it's a pain to get to the track. For the most part, I know what I can do on the bike so it's just putting in the work off the bike and getting my school done, keepin' my grades up, and everything else.
Who helps you out with bike work and all that stuff at home and while you're traveling to the races?
Yeah, it's mainly me, my dad, and my little brother. We do most of our program ourselves, any three of us can go to the shop, take the bike apart, my dad does all of my motor work. We've got most of it handled ourselves which is nice not having to source anything out.
Are you still doing public schooling as well?
I'm on a home school program, but I've been in and out of a hybrid program. For this year, I've been all homeschooled. So I just get my work, get it done, and then before all the craziness happened I'd meet my teacher every four weeks and get all my school turned in.
When racing initially got canceled, did you take a little bit of time off?
Right after Freestone, we went back down to Underground and the weather was less than perfect so we ended up goin' up to my girlfriend's house up in Oklahoma and we rode a couple of tracks up there for a few days, then we came back home. From there we just chilled for a couple of weeks and then slowly started getting back into riding.
Last year at The Motoplayground Race at Ponca City, you had a 6th place and then a DNF and didn't start the second motos. What happened there?
Ponca was fun while it lasted, I can say that. I hadn't ridden for a month or so comin' into it and I went out and had a quick qualifying time so everything was going good. In the first moto, I came out, started like 4th or 5th, made it up to the lead and started running away. I had an unfortunate bike problem and so we tried to get something together for the second moto, borrowing stuff, and it wasn't workin' so we decided to call it off, come home, regroup, and be ready for Mini Os.
How'd Mini Os go from your perspective?
It had a lot of ups and downs. I hadn't ridden since Ponca until the first day of practice at Mini Os, so hopping into the hybrid supercross track was definitely throwin' me off a little bit but I had a lot of good rides, just had a couple of problems that held me back. Overall my speed was right there to be runnin' with the top guys, so that was a big confidence boost coming into 2020.
It seemed like you were in a good rhythm by the time you hit the AZ Open on the way home, grabbing a 2nd overall in the 125cc (12-17) B/C class.
Yeah, definitely. You know, it only takes a little bit of riding to get back into the swing of things, so after Mini Os I was ready to go to AZ Open and run up front. I did that and was able to come away with a 2nd, I had a bike problem in one of the motos that put me out of contention for the other championship, but things happen. I was just ready for 2020 to start so I could come out swingin' for this season.
Spring A Ding Ding this year, you showed some good speed with a moto win. How'd the weekend go at Underground?
It went really well. It was nice to put down some good motos, have the speed to run up front and win some motos. It was a bummer that the last moto didn't go the way I wanted it to, but all in all, it was a really good week. I felt confident comin' into Freestone and it was definitely a bummer that got canceled 'cause I felt like I had a good shot at contending for the win.
You've gone to Spring A Ding Ding the last couple of years, what do you think of the track layout there?
It's definitely an amazing track. It really separates the men from the boys and it's nice that it's technical, but you can still get out and get movin'. It's a fun track!
What're your thoughts on the Super Regional format for Loretta's this year?
It's gonna be different, that's for sure. It'll be better than the last plan of having it all at Loretta's. It's gonna be really interesting out here in California, so I'm not sure where our Regionals are gonna be at but we'll be there.
You weren't at Loretta's last year. How many times have you made the trip to Hurricane Mills?
I've been to Loretta's for five years, non-consecutively. Last year I qualified and I was feeling good going into it, but I ended up getting appendicitis two days after my Regional, so that was definitely a bummer and we just had to sit that one out 'cause it was for the better. So I just went out to Baja and had some good finishes there. I knew after Baja that I really needed to put in some work if I wanted to come out strong at Ponca.
What's your mindset and focus heading into Loretta's this season?
It's just another race. I've been putting in the work and I'm gonna keep putting in the work. I'm going to be as strong and prepared as I can be going into it; I know I'll have the speed and the fitness to run up front, so we'll just see what happens there. I have all the expectations to win.
Have you thought about what your plans are going to be for the end of the year moving into the 2021 season?
Probably finish out the rest of the year until Mini Os on a 125, maybe get a 250 two-stroke and do something to that extent for the 2021 season, but as of right now we're gung-ho on running the 125 and trying to win as much as we can.