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5 Minutes with... Justin Barcia

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GEICO Powersports Honda’s Justin Barcia was perhaps the most highly anticipated guy to hit the Lites class this supercross season coming into Indy. He won a national in his rookie outdoor season, after all, and people assumed that his scrubs and whips would translate into a winning supercross racer. And they might. But at Indy, he worked to minimize his mistakes, and he made a last-lap pass on Ryan Sipes to finish on the podium in his first effort. We talked to Barcia yesterday from his home at MTF.

Racer X: Before your series started up back east in Indy, you seemed really pumped about getting ready to go for supercross. How do you think it went for you on the first night in Indy?
Justin Barcia: I think it went really good, actually. It was a pretty tough night, and I worked through some hard times in practice and stuff like that – I was very nervous coming into practice, and the first practice didn’t go very well for me, but the second practice went a little better, and the third practice I was fourth-fastest. As the night went on, as we got on the gate and stuff like that, I just kind of felt like I was back at the nationals again, almost. I wanted to grab the holeshot and get out there. I was really pumped to get third, and I barely got it because I made the pass on the last lap. It was really good.

But you did have that crash a little ways in...
Yeah, I think maybe it was around the fifth lap or something, I’m not sure...

Right, but besides that, it was a pretty good main event. It’s easy to chalk up your fall as a “rookie mistake” but in reality, veterans fall, too...
Yeah, definitely. I made that one mistake, and it cost me a lot. I think I could’ve done a little bit better if not for that fall, but all in all it was a great race, and I watched it on TV when I got home, and I was really happy with the stuff the guys have to say, like Jeff Emig and Ricky Carmichael – he said a lot of good stuff about me, and that made me really happy because Ricky’s the GOAT, the greatest of all time, and I really appreciate what those guys said about me on TV. Next weekend, I’m definitely going to come out swinging again and do my best. I don’t think I’ll have as many nerves, and it’s kind of my hometown race, so I think it will be cool.

Yeah, it’s kind of your hometown race because you have been at the Millsaps Training Facility for a long time, and that’s nearby, but what’s funny is that since you’ve lived at MTF for so long, even though you’re a rookie in supercross, you’ve actually ridden supercross for a long time, haven’t you?
Oh, yeah, I’ve been at MTF since I was a little guy on 80s, so I’ve been riding supercross for something like five years now off and on from 85s to 125s to 250Fs – just kind of with motocross suspension – but I definitely have a little bit of experience, and right now I’m working my butt off out there, so it’s going good.

Your riding style is pretty wild and erratic-looking, and it’s cool to watch, but that track was so slippery... Did you feel like you had to tone yourself down a little bit?
To be honest with you, I think going out to California to test my bikes with the GEICO Powersports Honda team helped me out a ton, because that Honda test track is like concrete. That helped me a lot. And then at home, we have the tacky Georgia clay, so I’ve gotten to ride both a lot. That race at Indy, it was a little tacky in spots, but I expected it to be a lot more tacky. Instead, it was really hard-packed and slick. In the beginning, I tried to be real mellow, and it wasn’t working for me in practice. I felt absolutely terrible. I was like, “Man, am I going to make the main tonight, or what?!” So I decided to just go out there and ride how I ride, and that’s what I did. I mean, I toned it down a little and smoothed out a little bit, but I tried to ride like I rode in the outdoors, and I think it worked out good.

Yeah, your riding style obviously works really good when you have a lot of traction, but that first turn, and the turn before the finish line, and a couple other spots were like glass, and you seemed to handle it okay. As a spectator, I didn’t know if you’d be able to hold it together for 15 laps...
I definitely had a couple of close calls in the beginning of the races, but I smoothed it out a lot, so it helped.

And Christophe Pourcel is the definition of “smooth”...
Yeah, he’s definitely really smooth, and he had a great race and got out fast, and I believe that if I get out front, I can do real good, too.

Is that the plan? Now that you’ve got one down, and you know where you fit in a bit better, are you going to go out there and really start giving it a go to win?
I feel like every race give me more experience, and last year with the outdoors, I went home and studied the stuff I did wrong and what I did right, and I’m going to learn a lot at every race – every supercross. I feel like if I’m in the mix with those guys up front, I’m going to learn a lot, and I believe I can win some races, and I believe it will happen this year. I just need to stay off the ground and make no mistakes. Pourcel’s going to be really tough, and Austin Stroupe, and all those guys, and I’m sure there are going to be guys that will shine during the season, but I think if I just stay smooth I’ll be up there every weekend – as long as I stay off the ground and ride how I know how to ride.

You have a pretty big fan following considering how short of a time you’ve been racing. Coming into this season, there was a lot of hype around you, and there were a lot of “Justin Barcia” banners and signs in the crowd at Indy. What’s it like for you to run into this sort of “Barcia-Mania”?
To be honest with you, I was absolutely shocked with how many fans I had. I’m a nice guy, I guess, and I love the guys who just ride in their backyards every once in a while. Everyone who rides, they’re usually good people, and seeing all the fans out there was incredible. That stadium was absolutely jammed up, and it was cool. I talked to a lot of fans, signed a lot of autographs, and stuff like that, so all in all, I just hope to gain more fans just by being my normal nice self – off the track. Maybe not on...

Yeah, let’s talk about that, because in the heat race, you were running behind Nico Izzi, and I don’t know if he cut you off over the triple or what, but before the off-camber turn, you nearly put him off the track. So it’s funny you mention that you’re a nice guy off the track, but maybe not on it...
Yeah, definitely. I had a blast in that heat race. That was fun for me. I felt like I was at home on the practice track banging bars with my buddies, so it was cool! I don’t think everyone else felt like that in the heat race... I think I pissed some guys off a lot, but I’m not trying to be dirty or anything, I was just having fun, and if you get out front, you won’t have to do that. I just need a good holeshot. I don’t want to be hitting people, so if I pissed anyone off, my bad!

But if someone has a line on you, I would imagine you’re not going to whine about banging some bars the other way, either...
If someone hits me, and it’s a good pass, I’m not going to be mad at all – even if it’s not a good pass, like if it’s a dirty pass, I mean, what goes around comes around. Racing’s all about bar-banging action. Watching supercross back in the day, those guys, I remember watching maybe Damon Bradshaw and Jeff Matiasevich go at it...

Yeah, that’s about as “bar-banging” as it gets...
Yeah, I was watching them, and you don’t see any of that stuff nowadays, so I feel like it’s a good thing.

I agree with you on that. People don’t buy $40 seats to watch guys parade around in order...
Yeah, definitely, that’s the truth, and that’s what you kind of see in the 450s these days – at least until James Stewart and Chad Reed got hurt. But you see a guy get out front and run away with it, and then you’ve got the guys who are just battling a little bit back in the pack, but people don’t get too aggressive these days.

So you might as well throw down, huh?
Yeah, I mean, a lot’s on the line, so you’ve got to throw down...

Yeah, as much as you like the guys who ride in their backyards and stuff, this isn’t backyard motocross, this is actually for a lot of money, for a lot of prestige, and it determines sponsorship dollars for your teams, etc.
Money’s a big thing, but more than anything, I mean, I don’t even think about the money at all. I never have. I just want to go out there and kick butt. I want to win! [Laughs] That’s what we’re shooting for...

Good luck this weekend in your sort of hometown race, Mr. Barcia.
Yeah, thanks very much.

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