By Tim Chambers
The love for motorcycles has been there since his early childhood days for one Cloudland High School senior. Eli “Wahoo” Buchanan continues to climb the ladder of success in the sport of motocross.
Buchanan is hoping to make the Nationals this year in the C Division. He’ll compete at the “B” level next year, which is only two steps away from his dream of racing as a professional.
It would be the ultimate dream for the Roan Mountain native that knew since age three that he wanted to ride motorcycles..
“My sister Sydnie rode a small one around the house when I was little and I love it,” said Buchanan. “I told my dad that I wanted a motorbike more than anything. He said if I would learn to ride my bicycle without training wheels then he would get me one. I rode my bike without them for the first time about 45 feet before falling off. After than I never wrecked it again.”
From that point he traded his pedals and banana seat for sure horsepower with spoked wheels. He’s owned a motorcycle ever since.
“I played football all throughout junior high school and I love it,” he said. “But after going to my first motocross race as a 13-year old, I knew this was what I wanted to do.”
Buchanan was not just a team participant dressed out in uniform. He was one of the best football players on the field.
“I always hoped that it didn’t come down to me picking and choosing between the two,” added Buchanan. “Ever since my freshman year of football practice, I knew motocross was what I wanted to do. To be good at something you’ve got to work hard and practice. That’s why I wanted to give my all to the sport. It’s hard chasing two things, but football did help me to be competitive. Regardless of what I’m doing, I always want to win.”
He got his career off to a good start at age 13 in Greeneville. He won his first race ever and has gathered up many more since that inaugural event. Lately he’s been climbing the ladder of success at a rapid pace — much like Jack did the beanstalk. He too is hoping to find gold, plus have one giant of a run.
“I was planning on racing in the B Class this year, but broke my femur last year,” added Buchanan. “That put me back a bit, but last month I qualified for the regional by winning at Muddy Creek. We’re leaving in two weeks for that event in Pell City, Alabama. If I can finish in the top seven, then we’ll qualify for the Nationals at Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, in August.”
“Wahoo,” whom he is known by his racing peers and buddies, drives a pair of two Yamaha 450’s. It’s his dad and partner, Kerry, that he gives all the credit to for him being where he is today.
“Me and dad have been best friends every since I came out of my mother’s womb,” said Wahoo. “He’s always there to support me and to make sure everything is taken care of. I couldn’t do any of this if it wasn’t for him. He’s the one who makes it all possible.”
He said that his mother, Karen, and sister, Sidney, support what he does, too — but his mother doesn’t like it.
“She knows it’s what I have a passion for, so she lets me go ahead with it,” he said. “But she also knows how easy it is for me to get hurt, so I don’t believe she’s thrilled about that part.”
Buchanan mentioned tracks at Muddy Creek in Blountville, the Gray Station Fair Grounds and Greeneville I-81 as the few tracks where he races regionally.
“We always race at Muddy Creek when they have one there,” added Buchanan. “It’s a very good track and it’s not a great distance to travel.”
Buchanan made me aware of the vigorous training it takes just to compete in the sport.
“You’ve got to be physically fit because supposedly your heart rate is at 180 for however long you ride — at least a good 15-18 minutes,” he said. “We are sometimes jumping 20-30 feet high, so it can take its toll on your body. You have to have patience to race, but you also can’t wait too long to be aggressive. You’ve also got to be physically fit, too.”
Despite all that, he was quick to point out as to where his main source of strength came from.
“None of this would be possible without Jesus Christ,” said Buchanan. “We try and share His love to all the ones we race with. The motocross family is built around Christ and the love He has for us. Without him, we couldn’t be anything.”
Buchanan carries a 4.0 GPA despite his busy schedule. He hopes to be valedictorian next year at graduation.
“I’ve got to keep my grades up or I wouldn’t be racing,” added Buchanan. “That’s one thing my parents stress. If my grades slip, then neither of them would let me be out there.” He thanked his mechanic Jason Gwyn, and Gary Hinkle at G-Force Suspension for all the hard work that they’ve put into his efforts. He also praised Highlander BBQ, Johnson Roofing Concepts and Birchfield Line Maintenance for their support. He singled out Jamie McCoy for making him a better rider by improving his technique.
He saved his highest praise for Southern Appalachian Motor Sports in Roan Mountain, with whom he mentioned last.
“My dad owns it,” he said with a laugh. “I couldn’t do any of this if it wasn’t for him. I guess we had better mention it.”
Buchanan offered up this advice to any parent who want to see their kids play baseball, basketball or football.
“Don’t buy them a motorcycle,” he chuckled. “They might end up like me.”