Gig Harbor High School junior Joe Malich has been riding dirt bikes nearly his entire life.
The 17-year-old started riding when he was about 3, and began racing when he was in kindergarten. His father, Joe, also a professional motocross racer, raised his son on bikes. It wasn’t until 2012 that the teenager started getting into competitive racing. He quickly realized he had a knack for it.
“I started getting faster and we started doing more races,” Malich said.
Malich rides year-round now on the American Motorcyclist Association circuit, but most of the competitive races occur in the summer. Malich recently won a Pro-National race in the Tri-Cities, a race with about 50 competitors. Malich also qualified for regionals in Sacramento, California, in June. A top-four finish there will earn him an invite to motocross’ biggest race, the Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee.
Malich’s success has earned him several sponsors; most recently, Peninsula Husqvarna, part of the Peninsula Auto Group. His other sponsors include EKS Brand, FMF pipes, Fly Racing, Merge and Husqvarna. Malich practices at his house, where the family has set up a course, complete with hills and jumps.
“Training is almost every day,” Malich said. “I get some time on the bike, keep my speed up at my house on the Key Peninsula. We have a course dug up, we have a nice sand track. The property is five acres or so. It’s all on hills.”
The bikes used in competition aren’t toys — most of them can top out around 60 to 70 mph, although racers rarely reach that speed during a race. The average speed during a race is 30 to 40 mph.
“It’s more about acceleration than top speed,” Malich said.
Even so, 30 to 40 mph on challenging dirt courses with various sized jumps is quite the thrill ride.
“I like to go fast, and I like to win,” Malich said.
Malich recently won a race at Pacific Raceways in Kent, and will spend much of the next month competing at Washougal MX Park in southwest Washington.Jon Manley: 253-358-4151 firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @gateway_jon