POWHATAN – Jakson Castlebury has been around motocross all his life.
His dad, Jeff Castlebury, raced a little bit when he was a kid himself, and Jakson’s older siblings started riding at an older age when they were around 12 or 13. Jakson was born when they were racing, so he’s been going to the tracks ever since he was a baby.
He’s been racing for at least five years, and the 8-year-old Powhatan resident’s knack for the sport can be seen in the way he graces the high line around a banked corner. It can also be seen in the variety of tricks he can pull off while in the air. He can do a no-footer, and when he jumps in the air, he can do a one-hand trick and look over. He’s also starting to do whips and scrubs.
“I like going around turns and jumping jumps and…my dad’s bike’s not fixed, but if it is, I like to ride with him or my friends,” Jakson said.
His passion for motocross has quickly translated into wins. Jakson last year earned the triple crown in the District 13 MX Series and collected seven championships in all, as he also competed in the District 29 MX Series, in an Eastern Series and in the Maryland State MX Championship.
He has a few favorite races from those series. There was the race at Axton’s Lake Sugar Tree, which is one of his and his family’s favorite tracks. There also was the North Carolina Motorsports Park April race in which he had to surge forward from a ways back to pass Lincoln Snider for first place. He recalled another race in Elizabeth City, where he wrecked and fell to third before rallying to the front to win it.
Racing has taken Jakson and his family up to Pennsylvania and down to North Carolina, and the year before last, he got to race in the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. Last year, he was two places away from qualifying, but his bike was broken, forcing him to miss out. His goal this year is to make it back to nationals, which have been described as the Super Bowl of Amateur Motocross.
“To say you’ve been is a prestigious thing,” Jakson’s dad Jeff said.
When Jakson competed at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch, his bike broke on the first moto – there are three motos – and from his positions in the other two, he still ranked 22nd in the United States.
Jakson’s favorite kind of bike is his 65cc; he just moved up this year to the larger machine after racing the 50cc.
“It’s fast and, on my 50, I didn’t have any suspension, so I didn’t get to jump a lot,” Jakson said. “But now that I have the 65, I get to jump way more.”
Whether it’s navigating turns or doing tricks on towering jumps, Jakson can practice those different things on the winding course right beside his house. John Rusch of Rusch Land Management will come by to fix the track every once in a while, and when it’s fixed and the weather allows it, Jakson will ride on the course just about every day.
He also has a couple of friends who will come over and ride with him, and if he’s not riding, it’s very likely that he’s playing with his toy dirt bikes and toy dirt bike track, or he’s watching motocross videos.
So far, he’s had just one day of official training – his dad, however, said that his one day of training, held a few months ago with Motocross racer Randall Everett, really helped him – but in addition to putting in time on his home track, Jakson picks up a lot from watching other pros race.
He likes Justin Barcia and Eli Tomac. “They’re just really fast,” he said.
From his day with Everett, Jakson learned about braking, seat positioning and foot positioning. And with the larger 65cc bike having a clutch – the 50cc didn’t have gears – he’s gotten to know how to upshift and downshift on the track. He’s also starting to pick up on things related to the setup of the bike – almost more than his own dad, Jeff said.
“He’ll tell me, ‘Hey dad, my bike’s doing this.’ I look and I’m like, ‘No it’s not.’ And then he’ll go back out on the track, come back [and say] ‘It’s still doing it.’ And then I’ll find something,” Jeff said. “He’ll tell me what the bike’s doing and it’s up to me to find out what’s causing it, but he’s very in tune with his bike.”
In about 30 days, there will be qualifiers at different tracks on the East Coast; Jakson and his family will hit as many of them as they can. Competitors who finish eighth or better at the qualifiers will qualify for regionals – one of the regionals is in Florida this year; another is in West Virginia – and the top six finishers from regionals will receive the grand tickets granting them entry into nationals at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch.
With the heavy travelling that Jakson and his family must do for competitions, he has to leave early from school sometimes, so his family places emphasis on Jakson doing well academically. He’s on the AB Honor Roll, and his teacher, Lindsay Salyers, has been a big help for him as far as making sure his work is done.
Others who have supported Jakson and his family along the way have included Rusch Land Management, Robbins Plumbing, R&N Performance, Rusty Rogers and Michael Schaeffer of Schaeffer Racing.