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Monday Conversation: Justin Barcia

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GEICO Powersports Honda’s Justin Barcia finally made good on the promise he showed at Glen Helen, when he led both motos in spectacular fashion, by winning his first AMA National at Southwick, passing points leader Ryan Dungey in both motos to do it. We talked with Barcia after his win.

Racer X: It’s not like you’ve been around for half-a-decade trying to win a national, but the way you started out your career, it sure seemed like it would come quicker than this, didn’t it?
Justin Barcia: It’s been a crazy season. Glen Helen was really good, and I led a lot of that race and got fourth overall, I believe. I went like 7-3 or something like that. I’ve had some good races, but I didn’t ever win a moto until today at Southwick, so that’s been really hard for me. I had a bad crash in Texas and my head was messed up and stuff like that, but I just didn’t give up. I didn’t quit. Every day, when it gets hard, I had my parents to push me, so it’s been good. Today was a great day here at Southwick, and I got my first win, so...

At Glen Helen, you took off and led a bunch, then they eventually chased you down and passed you. Here, you went the other way and passed your way forward throughout the race.
Definitely. I’ve been training really hard, riding my bicycle, lifting weights and stuff like that, and [Ryan] Dungey made a mistake, and I got around him, and then he caught up to me, and then I checked out a little in that first moto, but it was a pretty good race.

But you passed your way up through even to get there...
Yeah, I was probably seventh or eighth in the first corner, so I went a little crazy to get around all those guys, and then Dungey passed [Blake] Wharton, and I was behind Wharton, and then got around him and chased Dungey around for half the race or so. Then he finally made that mistake I was waiting for, and I capitalized on it.

During the second moto, when you were chasing him around a second time, it looked like there were spots where you had an advantage, but then he was adjusting to take your lines...
Definitely. I think I had some better lines than Ryan, but he saw what I was doing, and he saw I was almost passing him in a few spots, and he learned. He’s been around for a little bit now, and he’s a smart rider for sure, and that’s what I’m trying to learn now; to be a smarter rider, as my rookie season comes to an end for the nationals.

It’s about being smart, but you’ve had speed this whole time, and that’s probably the hardest part, isn’t it?
Yeah, definitely. I have speed, for sure, it’s just that I needed the cardio and stuff like that, and I have it now, so I just need to keep working really hard this off-season before supercross, and hopefully I can come out swinging in supercross. I’d like to do really good there. There are a lot of fans and stuff like that.

Glory hound! You like that there will be 50 or 60,000 people at those places, huh?
I know! I’ll probably be nervous at my first one, and I’m not sure if I’ll do east or west, but whatever happens, I’ll be fine.

The crowd here seemed to have your back, though. It’s not New York, but it is the northeast, and everyone seemed to be cheering you on...
For sure. These guys today were hanging over the fence screaming for me to get Dungey. It was incredible. These fans are great here. It’s probably one of the best races. Unadilla is really closer to my home. I know I did terribly there, but winning today, that’s the best. The fans everywhere have been really good in the outdoor season. It’s awesome.

How would you describe the transition from amateur to pro racing?
That’s a really hard question. Being an amateur was tough, driving to all the nationals and stuff like that, but I worked hard, and my parents worked hard to be with me non-stop in racing, winning championships – I won a few at Loretta’s, and a few everywhere else. It was an incredible feeling winning championships there, and I never thought I’d be up here winning motos and stuff, but hopefully one day I can get a championship here. It was crazy, though, the transition. It’s not comparable at all. You have to be on a factory team to do this, and the privateer stuff would be really hard. I don’t know if I could do it if I was on my own bike by myself with my parents. Being on a team is the big plus, but it’s still very, very hard to be a pro.

The tracks are a lot different, the competition’s faster, and the races are way longer here in the pros...
Yeah, pretty much. At Loretta’s and races like that, there are three fast guys that could win, but here there are at least 10 guys that can get a moto win or an overall, so the speed in pro racing, that’s something. I was kind of shocked at Glen Helen how I kind of checked out and did my thing, but they definitely have the speed, and they had a little more cardio than I did. I think I gained that now. But they’re also really smart riders.

Your team went through some changes recently with losing its team manager after the race last week, so how has the team been?
My team has been here 100 percent the whole time, working hard and testing. Nothing has changed. Before Glen Helen, we tested, and I was in California constantly testing. But it was worth it for the season. Our bike hasn’t really changed too much, surprisingly. We switched pipes a bit, but that’s about all we’ve changed since Glen Helen, so the team is the best one ever. Mike LaRocco [interim team manager], Ziggy, my mechanic Schnikey, everyone over there knows what they’re doing. They’ve been around for quite a while now. They’re a great team.

Now you’re headed back to a regular track, and it’s probably not going to rain, so how much can you carry into Steel City next week?
I can carry a lot of confidence. I know there’s going to be a championship race there also, so I have to be careful with those guys. I want to do what I have to do to win, but I would never try and take any of those guys out. But it’s going to be really good for me going into that race. I’m going to keep training and I hope to get another win there.
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