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He dreams to extremes

By DAWN REISS
Published February 6, 2007


Curington, 16, remembers his first bike, a lime green Kawasaki KX 85.

He was 10. On Christmas morning, he found the bike by the tree. He'd asked for it after riding a bike at a friend's house.

He took it out a few minutes later and spent the day riding in the backyard.

"I didn't have to show him that much," said his father, Allen, who competed in B Class motocross from 1976-77. "He just kind of picked it up. It was like he was born to do it."

Allen started training his son, and a year later he convinced Bobby to give racing a try. They went to Dade City Motocross.

"It was kind of scary and fun," Curington said. "Though, I didn't know what to do."

He was intimidated by the more experienced riders. The smell of exhaust and loud engines filled the air. Lined up at the starting gate, he waited for it to drop into the ground, signaling the start of the race.

"I took it too quickly," Curington said.

Instead, he hit the metal gate.

"I just backed up the bike and went," Curington said.

Mud-splattered and tired, he completed the race. He didn't fall or finish last, but he realized how much work he had to do. He needed to turn the corners faster. Practice jumping. A lot of things. That's also when he started dreaming.

Since then, he has upped his workouts, adding swimming, weightlifting and running to his regimen. After going to Citrus last fall as a freshman, he opted out for home schooling this semester so he can concentrate on what he loves doing most: racing.

"I didn't like school," Curington said. "It was boring. I like to be home riding."

He also knows that most good riders go pro when they are 17 or 18. Most of his days, he spends riding alone on 50 acres of private property behind his Dawson Drive home in Citrus County.

Tucked off 491, the old dirt pit was Curington's childhood playground until his father convinced Bill Berry, a local general contractor originally from Massachusetts, to purchase the piece of property and make it a motocross playground.

"I let kids in the area practice there so they don't have to drive to Dade City," Berry said.

Most days, Curington practices for four hours behind his house. Thursday nights are usually spent in Dade City at evening practices at the motocross track.

Weekends are usually spent competing on different circuits like the Unlimited Sports Florida Winter Am Series, Dade City MX Series and Florida Motocross Series.

Curington's hard work is paying off. He's moved up from 85cc to C class to B class, one step below the highest amateur class. He earned the points title for the Dade City MX Series 125 B class and 250 B class championship by finishing first on multiple occasions during the 21-race series in 2006.

He's also earned the nickname "Holeshot" for his ability to get around the first turn in a race. Getting out in front first means he doesn't have dirt being kicked in his face by other riders.

That's not to say everything has been perfect. Curington is still working on improving the stamina of his 5-foot-6, 135- pound frame.

"We've been through difficult times," said Curington's father, who was a firefighter in the Navy and a Desert Storm veteran. "It's taken a while for him to not be intimidated by someone down at the gate."

But Allen hopes to give his son the opportunity he never had.

"I raced at Dade City, Miami, Homosassa back when there was a track, and St. Pete," said Curington's father, who competed in the 80 class when he was 14.

"My dad has asbestos in his lungs. He was a Navy Vietnam vet, so he couldn't take me to the tracks any more."

It's sunny, early on a Saturday morning. Gathered with a few other riders, this is their time to practice and play, on the property behind Curington's house.

He stands next to his No. 77. red Honda CRF 250R. He climbs on the back and is gone. Over the mounds of dirt he flies through the air, twisting and arching his bike and body.

He kicks up the dirt. Behind the goggles and helmet there seems to be a smile. From behind a corner he loops around and launches into the air. He swings his feet around the handlebars in a horseshoe fashion and clicks his heels together.

Then, he is gone.

HERNANDO

Dressed in a red jumpsuit with a winged white and black breastplate, Bobby Curington looks more space-age warrior than local motocross athlete. He can picture the day when he is a professional and his motorcycle earns him a living. Until then, he knows he has a lot of work to do.

Fast Facts:

What is motocross?

- Offroad motorcycle racing held on closed dirt tracks with steep hills and pointed curves. Tracks generally range from .5 miles to 2 miles.

- Its name is a combination of "motorcycle" and "cross country."

- Usually 40-65 riders compete in a race.

- Bikes are placed into categories depending on their engine capacity, ranging from 50cc to 550cc.

- Want to really sound like you're in the know? Call the sport "MX."

Source: Times archive research, compiled by Dawn Reiss

Sound like a pro

Camelback: A jump built into the track. One bigger ramp in the center of two smaller ramps.

Can-can: A freestyle trick in which a rider puts one foot over the seat in front of the other and replaces it for the landing.

Candybar: A freestyle trick in which a rider puts one foot over the bars and replaces it for the landing.

Heelclicker: One of the original tricks where the rider brings feet up over the handlebars and around the front of the bike making a horseshoe with legs so the heels click together.

Holeshot: The rider in the lead around the first turn at the start of the race.

Roost: Dirt or debris thrown in the air from a spinning rear tire.