Photo by: Ryne Swannberg
When you have been fully supported as a factory rider in motocross since you were 11 or 12 years old and won at every professional level of Supercross and Motocross, there has got to be nothing more humbling than waking up at 25 years old and realizing you are unemployed and your phone has stopped ringing. That is exactly what Justin Barcia has experienced this offseason.
It has been a four-year slide for the #51 with bike struggles and numerous injuries, but basically overnight he went from one of the highest paid riders in the sport to pitting out of his van with his family, friends and a privateer Honda for the 2017 Monster Energy Cup.
With the dirt bike economy down and the teams in the pits not as healthy as they once were, this is becoming a more common occurrence than it was in years past, but just last year Dean Wilson showed that it can be overcome. The #15 showed up at A1 with a van, his family and a privateer Yamaha and parlayed that into a factory ride just a few weeks later. Justin is trying to use the same playbook that Deano used, and he got right to work at last weekend’s Monster Energy Cup.
With some help from long time sponsors that have stuck with him as well as family and friends, Justin swallowed his pride and put together his own program for the Monster Energy Cup. The weekend started off tough with a weird crash practicing starts during Friday’s press day, but things got better every time he got on the bike.
In the end, Justin went 10-6-5 for sixth overall and showed he still has the skills and pace to compete with anyone. More importantly, though, he showed that despite having a bank account that most would be happy to retire with, he still has the desire to race with the best riders on earth and the humility to go after it on his own dime if that’s what he has to do.
After the race, we caught up to Justin to talk about his night in Vegas, the difference between racing with a factory team and on your own and his desire to continue chasing the dream.
Justin, 10-6-5 scores for sixth overall tonight. Not a great start to the night, but you and your results got better with each main event.
Yeah, it got better the whole night. I wish it would have went better in the first race and the second race, but all and all it was good. We didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for this, but with the time we did have, I think we did pretty good.
How did the bike work for you tonight? You have ridden factory bikes your whole career, but you put this one together yourself.
We had some great sponsors help us. I really honestly don’t think it’s lacking anything from a factory bike. The only thing it’s really only lacking is titanium bolts. Titanium bolts is just a little weight, and we’re alright with that. We changed things all day long, and each race it got better and better. I think if we had three more races it would have got even better.
How did you like the track tonight? It looked so hard to get any kind of flow out there.
Oh man, it was tough. The deep g-outs and stuff in the rhythm sections were tough. It’s Vegas dirt, though. It’s hard and slick, and you got to have good throttle control. The track layout was alright, just the rhythms were a little tough.
Yeah, I’ve been told the transitions were unusually steep in the rhythms.
A couple guys went down really hard in them. It kind of sucks to see that, just because it maybe could have been prevented, but that’s racing. It happens. I think overall they did a good job on the track, just the g-outs were gnarly. (laughs)
You had a really good battle with Deano [Dean Wilson] in that second main event. You guys were going at it. I talked to Dean and he said he didn’t know what to do because he knew if he got aggressive in one turn, you were 100% going to retaliate in the next turn. (laughs)
Yeah, it was a good race! He ran it in on me a few times and then he got around me and I tried to run it back in on him. It was good racing. It was fun. I wish I would have got him. (laughs) It’s alright; I’ll try again next time.
What did you think about that start tonight, the metal grate in front and behind the gate, the split lane? Was it something you liked?
It started out terrible on press day; I crashed my brains out on it. I pretty much got great starts all night, so it wasn’t too bad really.
Overall, from what you expected coming into the night to how you finished overall, how would you rate your one race as a privateer?
It was just—I kept an open mind and I was really happy all day. I was probably more happy than the usual of being under a factory tent. That being said, I think it went really good. I put a lot of great people around me, and it was nice to be happy all day and around family and friends all day ’cause usually you’re around the team that you have. They’re your friends, but they’re not your family. It was cool because I consider all these people my family.
I have to be honest, I have been doing this for seven seasons and before this weekend, I had interviewed you twice in those seven seasons. You were always impossible to find after the races. This weekend, though, you have been totally accessible. Every time I’ve seen you, you are outside working on the bike or the tent setup. It’s different for sure.
Yeah, I was out here cutting down lights tonight and helping the crew out. (laughs) It was all in all a really good night and fun. I wish we could have done better in the first two races, but in the last race, I showed good speed and was getting more and more comfortable on the bike.
It has to feel a little bit like amateur days: mom, family and friends at the races.
Yeah, it’s just more fun. I mean, on the factory teams, when it’s going great, it’s great. But when it’s hard, it’s a lot of pressure. Today I put my own pressure on myself, but I didn’t have anyone putting pressure on me which was nice. They were cool with however I did, and luckily I came through at the end alright.
Last question: do we see you at A1 no matter what?
I will be there racing for sure—unless I end up at MXGP somehow, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. If not, I will be racing SX for sure.
Alright, we appreciate the time this weekend, Justin, and good luck going forward.