Going for the W:  Justin Barcia

Going for the W Justin Barcia

March 7, 2012 5:30pm
After just three of nine races in Monster Energy Supercross Lites East, the buzz is already building. Can GEICO Honda’s Justin Barcia complete the perfect season?

Wait. What?

Are we really already hearing buzz about a perfect season with just one third of it complete? Sure are. That was the definitive feeling in the pits after last week’s St. Louis race, where Barcia proved he has the speed to straight-up pull away from fast kids Ken Roczen and Justin Bogle. The world had been waiting for the Roczen/Barcia showdown, and in their first real square off, Barcia was the better man.

Meanwhile, the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki team is falling shy of their usual high standards. Darryn Durham has been good but not great so far, and Blake Baggett, who certainly has the ability to match Barcia stride-for-stride, has not been himself. Blake Wharton has been solid on the Rockstar Suzuki, but Barcia has the total package going right now. Speed. Starts. And smarts. At least, for the standard some often pegged as the wild child.

The Roczen/Barcia showdown has yet to materialize.
Photo: Simon Cudby

Add it up and Barcia looks like an unbeatable force. However, history says we’re getting way, way ahead of ourselves with perfect season talk. First, recent history (last month) can point to Barcia’s West Region teammate Eli Tomac. Remember his three-race win streak (and points lead) going up in smoke in one whoop section? Supercross is unforgiving—one mistake can change it all, and chances are at least one mistake will be made in a nine-race series.

But go further back. What do past Lites class dominators like Christophe Pourcel, Chad Reed, James Stewart, Ryan Villopoto, Ivan Tedesco, Kevin Windham, Damon Huffman, Brian Swink, and Jeremy McGrath have in common? They completely owned their competition during their best year in the class, but never once did any of those boys pull off a perfect season in 125/Lites SX. Yup, it’s only half the races of the big class, but perfection is a narrow target that usually results not in accomplishment but in dissapointment.

Durham currently sits third in points. Can he stop Barcia?
Photo: Simon Cudby

To which I say, Barcia isn’t even aiming for it. Yeah, he wants to win badly and has the tools to do it. And just like last year, his starts are really, really on point, which helps immensely. But perfection? It will start with the start, and to expect anyone to nail nine good ones is a bit much. As often as Barcia is thought of as the wild child, he doesn’t carry a crash and burn highlight reel on YouTube. In other words, he gets aggressive with other riders, but he doesn’t ride over his head and throw it away as often as you’d think.

The point? At some point, Barcia will get a sub-par start, or deal with a quick washout or tipover. Not a yard sale, but just enough to make a race win a long shot. Then he’ll be smart enough to take his podium and his points and defend that number-one plate. No harm there, it happened to the best (see above).

The GOAT is the only Lites rider to go undefeated.
Photo: Racer X Archives

And the competition is certainly capable. We’d have skipped a lot of great races if we could just decide no one could win after three races. Rocze/Bogle/Baggett/Durham//Wharton and the rest will be back—on any given night, the night could be theirs.

For the record, the perfect season happened one time: in 1998, Ricky Carmichael won every single 125 East race. One time, ever. Half the races as the big class, with the competition sliced in half into two coasts. And it still only happened once.

History says it’s hard to do.