Had one said that Justin Barcia, of the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing squad, would win round one of the 2019 Monster Energy Supercross series twelve months ago, that person would have been considered crazy. Barcia has now completed a remarkable turnaround in his career though and stood atop the box yet again on Saturday night. The triumph was his first since April in 2013.
Rather than bask in his own glory on Saturday, he opted to reflect on the remarkable road that he has been down. "It is a cool story, for sure," Justin Barcia stated in the post-race press conference. "I think I have not won since Seattle six years ago in the 450SX class, so that is pretty crazy. That would discourage anyone, I think, so I have been through a lot the last couple of years with injuries and just been in a tough place with the motorcycles and not having fun with racing. I got the opportunity, like you said, last year and made the best of that. I know it could have gone a different direction, so to be here and get a win is unbelievable."
The last portion of that quote is poignant. Had Davi Millsaps not suffered a career-ending concussion a year ago, Justin Barcia would have not been asked to join Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing. Had the stars aligned in that way, he would have started the previous season as a privateer and it would have been even harder to rebound from a dismal stint with the JGR team. It is known that he really reached rock bottom in that time, but just how far down was that? In the time with JGR, which spanned over three seasons, he hit the top five just once. Amazingly, he is now winning races again.
It would be easy to get caught up in the situation, seeing as he had to wait two thousand and eighty-seven days to light the candles in a stadium again. The memory of what rock bottom is like, something that some of his competitors are not aware of, is really keeping him grounded though. "I think with this race I will just kind of take the confidence with it and use it to my advantage, for sure," he mentioned. "It was good tonight because I was in third for a long time and just consistent. I am just kind of proud of myself, because I usually ride over my head a little bit and try to get into the lead fast."
"I knew I could win it, for sure," Justin Barcia continued in that press conference. "Honestly, I kept thinking, ‘When am I going to make this happen?’ Malcolm [Stewart] would catch Dean [Wilson] and I was just there, but it worked out. When Malcolm fell, then I was able to just… I knew I was faster than both of them so, once Malcolm went down, I made the charge at Dean and made a good pass then kind of checked out from there. Definitely it was in my mind the whole time that I could win tonight." It is that confidence that made him so great once and could certainly transform him into a title contender again.
Justin Barcia has certainly matured and managed to shake some negative traits that he once possessed, as mentioned there, but there were still signs of his former self at Anaheim 1. The old Bam Bam resurfaced at points, as there was a run-in with Blake Baggett in practice and then he forced the issue when battling with Jason Anderson early on in the main event. Barcia was fairly nonchalant about that when questioned about the latter in the post-race press conference though. The former was not tackled but was a product of those riders getting a little too close for comfort in what was a tense qualifying session.
This is just the start of a seventeen-round campaign and anything could, and undoubtedly will, happen, but for now it seems as though the sky is the limit for Justin Barcia. There is absolutely no doubt that some are still somewhat sceptical, as it was a mud race after all, but the man himself does not see things in that way. "It was not like an insane mud race. If we were rolling the triple, rolling through the whoops and things like that, then I think it would be different, but I think that this is a good sign for the rest of the year." Time will tell, of course, but that statement could be backed up in Glendale, Arizona, this weekend.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: ConwayMX