Speed racers

Published 8:21 am Friday, July 31, 2009

FRANKLIN—As far as careers go, Police Lt. Tim Whitt agrees that being a police officer can be both exciting and challenging.

But the Franklin officer supplements his need for speed with an exciting hobby when out of uniform, too — motorcycle racing.

“I love anything fast,” Whitt said, straddling his Triumph Daytona 675. “I like adrenaline-type things. Fishing and bowling? That’s just not for me.”

Whitt, 52, got into the sport through his friend, expert racer Todd “Hulkster” Cutchins, 43, a Franklin native who now lives in Courtland.Cutchins and his cousin, Troy “Jester” Carr, race motorcycles about six times a year at the Virginia International Raceway near Danville. Whitt also races the 2.25-mile road course with the intermediate riders.

“If you watch the (American Motorcyclist Association) race the weekend of Aug. 15 and 16, you’ll see the track we visit all the time,” Cutchins said.

Whitt said motorcycles have always been a passion for him. Road racing takes that to another level, albeit a safe one.

“It fulfills my speed cravings,” he said. “(Racing the track) beats the cost of a speeding ticket and a lawyer and possible accident on the street.”

Racing is in the officer’s blood.

Whitt’s father, Oren Whitt, was a professional racer who drove funny cars in the 1970s and 1980s at the Suffolk Raceway.

The endurance level of motorcyle racers, Cutchins said, would rival anyone participating in a tough sport.

“It’s unreal,” he said. “After 20 minutes, you’re whipped. People don’t realize what it takes to ride these bikes.

“This is a whole lot more of a sport than NASCAR is. I’ll take any Average Joe and let them run one lap and see what they think.”

Cutchins, who races a Yamaha R1 and who has been riding dirt bikes since he was 8, stays in shape by working out every day at the local YMCA. He rides his bike as often as he can, but it’s the track time that gives him the real push — something he has tried to teach Whitt.

“You learn more on the track in one day than you learn on the street in five years. You can push you and your bike to the limit there.”

Whitt and Cutchins will travel back to the track on Aug. 10.

For the first time, Whitt’s wife, Cathy, and Cutchins’ fiancé, Beth Villa, will be in the audience.

“Beth rides horses, so she understands the passion I have for this,” Cutchins said.

Whitt and Cutchins said they would like to see more people become interested in motorcycle racing. At the very least, they’d like to see people adopt the safety habits of racers.

“I see people riding on the street all the time in jeans and T-shirts and tennis shoes. That’s not good. Not good at all,” said Cutchins, who worked for professional racer Nate Kern and was an instructor for three years.

“I don’t think there ought to be a law to make you wear a helmet. You just ought to be smart enough to wear one.

“I have seen every kind of crash you can think of. (Riders) need to wear a full-faced helmet, not the kind that looks like they have a bowl sitting on their heads.”

Both men stressed the importance of learning the sport from a trained professional.

“This is not something you just go out and do,” Cutchins said. “It’s an acquired skill. It’s fun.”

Anyone wishing to learn more about the sport, can call Cutchins at 556-9294.