Months of training, thousands of miles away from home, has paid off for 12-year-old Brandon Carvalho.
He most recently qualified for the largest amateur motocross race in the world — the 27th Annual Air Nautiques/AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch in Tennessee. Competing in a regional qualifier in Bowling Green, Ky., Carvalho finished in fifth place in both the 85cc Stock and Modified classes to beat out 64 other racers in each class for qualifying spots.
It was Carvalho’s goal this year to qualify and and in doing so, he was one of 20,000 vying for a qualifying position.
Carvalho of Kapa‘a has spent the last several months in Florida training for motocross races. He practices during the week and competes in events on the weekends.
He competes almost weekly in the local motoseries races there in hopes to be the next big athlete to come out of motocross. He runs, exercises, does laps around the motocross track and even lifts weights sometimes during practice.
“My favorite racer is Ricky Carmichael,” he said. “He works really hard at it. I met him once at his camp in Georgia last year in August.”
Carmichael and other top professional racers James Steward, Travis Pastrana and Jimmy McGrath have all won the AMA Amateur National Championships at Loretta Lynn’s.
Because of its growing popularity, three teen stars who competed last year —Trey Canard of Oklahoma, Nico Izzi of Michigan and Austin Stroupe of North Carolina — received six-figure pro contracts after their performance there.
Carvalho hopes to be one of them some day and eventually turn pro.
He has been riding since he was 6 years old and racing since he was 8. He said he took it up after watching his brother Michael and father Billy enjoy racing.
Last year, Carvalho left Kapa‘a for a few months to train with Randy Yoho, one of the top motocross trainers in the country. Carvalho’s mother, Michelle, said he and Michael were only there for a short time for training because they weren’t quite ready to train year-round just yet.
But Carvalho is ready, now. He attends the private, virtual hybrid school, Elite Element Academy, which has offices on Kaua‘i and O‘ahu. That allows Carvalho to continue his education as well as pursue motocross.
“In the beginning, it was easy (to do school and practice) and toward the end it got kind of hard,” he said. “I like it because I can go at my own pace.”
While all that is fine and good for him in Florida, he does miss some things of Kaua‘i.
“I like to go to the beach behind the golf course (Wailua), friends at school and hiking. I’m too busy training,” he said.
Earlier in the year, Carvalho took first place in the Florida Gold Cup Series and third in the Florida Winter Ams Series.
Next up for him will be the championship at Loretta Lynn’s.
“The Amateur Nationals at Loretta Lynn’s is the event every motocross racer in the country wants to compete in,” event director Tim Cotter said in a release. “A win at the Amateur Nationals can serve as a springboard to a lucrative professional motocross career.”
Carvalho hopes to have a good showing there and just maybe, he can be one of the few who comes out with a pro contract.
The championship runs from July 28 to August 2. Carvalho said he and his family will return to Kaua‘i after that.