Last Sunday was an emotional day for professional motorcycle racer JD Beach, of Philpot.
Eight days prior, Beach earned his first American Flat Track premier class win at the Super TT in Phoenix, Arizona. Then on Sunday, he won his first MotoAmerica Superbike road race on his Estenson Attack Performance Yamaha, making him the first rider to win both a Grand National (dirt race) and Superbike (road race) in the same season since Owensboro’s Nicky Hayden accomplished the feat back in 2002.
But on a more personal level, May 5 also marked 12 years to the day Beach’s close family friend Ethan Gillim passed away from injuries sustained during a motorcycle race at Paducah International Raceway when Ethan was just 10 years old.
“I think about him every day,” Beach said on an Instagram post Sunday. “He’s the reason I run #95.” Beach still races with an Ethan Gillim #95 memorial sticker on his helmet to this day.
Ethan was the youngest son of Kerri and Frankie Gillim of Philpot and brother to Hayden Gillim, who currently races for Rickdiculous Racing in the MotoAmerica Supersport class. Ethan and Hayden grew up riding dirt bikes with their older brother Frankie Lee along with other cousins and friends, including current professional riders Jake Lewis, Nick McFadden, and JD Beach among others.
The loss was devastating to the Gillim family, their extended family and friends, the racing community and Country Heights Elementary, where Ethan was a fourth grade student.
Stacy Harper was Ethan’s teacher at the time, and is now the principal a CHES. The school installed a bench and planted a tree in Ethan’s memory and Mrs. Harper says he is still thought of everyday by many at CHES. She remembers Ethan always bringing a spark of joy and excitement.
“Ethan and his family enjoyed life with positivity and energy, which Ethan shared with everyone in our class,” she said. “I have vivid memories of Ethan’s smile, especially since his eyes reflected that same level of happiness when he smiled. He loved the color pink, loved being silly in class, was confident in math, but writing was not his favorite. Ethan was definitely the kid in class that others enjoyed and everyone wanted to be his friend.”
Those who knew him knew his biggest love was motorcycle racing from the time he was four years old. In his six years of racing, Ethan was a member of the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) and won 18 national championship titles in dirt track racing. In 2004, he won the AMA Youth Horizon Award.
The AMA considered Ethan one of the leading youth riders in America and expressed condolences to the Gillim family following the accident in a statement where AMA Flat Track Director Ken Saillant said, “Many of us at AMA watched Ethan come up through the ranks… It was obvious that Ethan had a bright future in the sport.”
In 2015, Hayden Gillim and JD Beach started the Ethan Gillim “Chasing Down a Dream” Foundation to support young flat-trackers and fund general rider safety initiatives. The foundation’s goal is to fit kids who are racing motorcycles with the best possible safety gear and help them improve their riding skills. Some of the foundation’s efforts include purchasing airfence for tracks, supplying amateur dirt-trackers with products and training-related scholarships, and helping Roadracing World Action Fund to provide soft barriers for professional flat track and road race events.
Team95 is another way to keep Ethan’s memory on the track. Racers who still remember Ethan put stickers on their helmets and bikes or use #Team95 on social media.
“Even at Ethan’s young age he wanted to grow up and give back to the sport he loved,” JD said. “With Team95 and the foundation, we can help racers of all ages and disciplines. In his memory, that is what we have tried to continue to do. Over the years, we’ve been able to give back to kids but also make the professional races safer with the air fence. We can remember him every day with that and when we see someone running a Team95 sticker we know we are doing the right thing.”
Reflecting on the 12 years since his younger brother’s passing, Hayden Gillim added, “When Ethan passed away I was only 12 years old. It was hard for me to express what I was feeling and thinking. As I’ve grown and thought about all the memories I’ve made and things I’ve done with my life it’s been hard wondering about what he would have accomplished. Myself, JD, and Frankie Lee were always pushed by him and I’ve always thought he was the best of us all. I’m just happy we have been able to do what we have in his honor.”