After a rough and tumble three-year run with the Joe Gibbs Racing MX enterprise, shortly after the running of the Monster Energy MXGP of USA, Justin Barcia, who placed a lowly 14th overall in the event, issued an open letter on Instagram, basically highlighted by a sentence which read, “For now I am going to take a little break to allow for my mind, body and spirit to heal and then it will be back to work prepping for 2018 so when an opportunity arises I will be ready.”
Without a ride and without a win for well over two seasons with JGR, Barcia, a former two-time 250SX East Region Supercross Champion and once-perennial podium placing 450 rider during what was a five-year run with Honda, found himself on the outside looking in. To a degree he still is, but as of a handful of days ago, Barcia has decided to take matters into his own hands and do something about it. Come October 14, 2017 and the Monster Energy Cup, Barcia will go to the starting gate as a full-on privateer riding a Honda CRF450R. With the help of a few close friends and some loyal sponsors, the former Monster Energy Cup winner wants to remind everyone that not only is he capable of winning, but perhaps more importantly to him, that he just loves racing.
Last week Racer X caught up with the 25-year-old via a phone call. Somewhat humbled and totally honest with himself, Barcia has embraced the recent changes he has experienced and is putting in a big effort toward “being Bam-Bam again.”
Racer X: Justin, what are you up to today?
Justin Barcia: Actually, I’m in the UK. I leave tomorrow to come home.
Wow, you’re in England?
Yeah, I had a couple of people I needed to talk to and my fiancé lives over here, so I’ve been over here for a little bit and then I head back home tomorrow.
Okay, so when you get back home, just what will you have going on? Sounds like you’re putting something together for a run at the fast-approaching Monster Energy Cup.
Yeah, I’m putting something together, for sure. It honestly happened last minute because I had a few things that maybe could have worked out with maybe a factory team or two, but it just didn’t work out with me having my gear contracts and stuff like that. Other teams have their own things, so I wasn’t able to do that. So I was just kind of sitting around and talking to a few buddies of mine and we were just like, “Alright, let’s get some bikes and do this!” That was probably about four days ago. It was that soon ago that we decided to do it. Luckily, we’ve had a lot of success with old sponsors of mine coming through. It’s really great. My friend Tim Bennett, he owns a company called TCD Racing, he actually helped out with the bike. My friend and old racer and training partner Levi Kilbarger, he also owns a suspension company now, he went to Morgantown Powersports and they hooked us up with the bike. The guys picked the bikes up yesterday and they’re building them up. I get home this week and the bikes should be finished by Monday, hopefully. If so, I’ll start training on Monday. It doesn’t leave me a ton of time, but I’m up for it.
When did you last put some time on a Honda?
Yeah, I haven’t ridden a Honda since I left factory Honda and went to JGR. That’s been a long time. For me, it [trying the Honda] seemed like the right thing to do. I mean I remember that bike being good for me and I was happy when I was there, for the most part. When I first looked at the Monster Cup, I was going to buy bikes myself. I was like, “You know what? I’m going to do this on my own.” I actually had a couple of offers that I could have taken, but it wasn’t really the direction that I wanted to go and I just decided to do it on my own. Luckily my buddies came through and helped out, and like I said, so did a lot of my sponsors, and we were able to do this.
Any thoughts on what might happen for you after the Monster Energy Cup? Do you have anything significant in the works or is it maybe too early to tell right now?
Yeah, it’s tough right now. I can definitely race in Europe. I already have a couple of, I wouldn’t quite say offers, but I have some things in the works. I have a couple of teams I’ve been talking to in Europe. It’s hard right now because I really want to ride for a factory team, but there are no factory rides in Europe or America right now. I’ve just kind of been talking with some teams. If it came down to it, I could probably do it myself. You know if I need to put my money in, then that’s what I’m going to do to go racing. That’s just what I’ve got to do right now. That’s how it worked out. I’ve had a tough couple years and I’ve just kind of got to restart and build back up. I think that will give me the confidence in knowing that I did it myself. I just have to get out there and pretty much get my own thing going. The sport is tough right now, for sure. There is not a lot of money out there, there are not a lot of teams. It’s very unique. Will I be racing in 2018? Yes, I’ll be racing, for sure. I’m not 100 percent sure what I’ll be doing right now. You never know what can happen in a season, if a guy gets injured or something and has to miss some races, I could do a fill-in thing. There are a few rides out there that I could do, but I’m just kind of keeping the door open and seeing what’s going to happen. Worse comes to worse, I think I can do it on my own for a little while and be in it for the fight. I know I’m still fast enough and if I stay healthy and get me training right, which I haven’t been able to do with the injuries the past few years, and if I can get a good bike, I’ll be good, for sure.
"It’s just getting that train back on the tracks and being happy again. It’s been a roller coaster the past few years."
Immediately after the Monster Energy MXGP of USA you posted an open letter on Instagram informing everyone that you wanted “to take a little break to allow for my mind, body and spirit to heal…” Have you been able to take that break like you wanted?
Yeah, I took the time. I didn’t really plan on racing the Monster Cup to be honest with you. Nothing was really coming together and the things that I wanted to come together weren’t working out, but all of a sudden I had my two buddies come to me and say, “I think we can get the Monster Cup thing done in a short amount of time.” Like I said, it’s not a lot of time, but it will be enough time to test a little bit and get the bike right. I haven’t ridden a Honda in a long time, but I’ve heard good things about it and it’s won a lot of shootouts and stuff. I think we’ll be alright. If anything, I’m just excited to go racing. I’ll be going as a privateer, but I’m excited for it.
As you said, you’re a privateer now. Is it tough, at least for the time being, to be on the outside looking in? You’ve never been in this position before.
Yeah, if you would have come to me a couple of years ago and said that I’d be in this situation right now, I would have kind of giggled a little. It’s just the way it worked out. A lot of things at JGR didn’t go to plan—for them or for me. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work out. By doing the Monster Cup it’s showing that I want to race because I’m going out and putting this together with two friends. I still want to race and I definitely still think I have a lot of good years left in me. I’m only 25 now. It’s definitely weird to be doing this. It’s a lot of work behind closed doors, but it’s going to be fun. I haven’t really been this excited to get back on the bike and go racing in a long time. It’s cool to me.
The Monster Energy Cup has been good to you. In fact, you won the whole thing in 2012 with 2-1-2 moto scores. Is it a race you feel good about and, realistically, what do you hope to achieve in Vegas?
It’s kind of up in the air right now, but, yeah, I do love the Monster Cup. It’s a great race. It’s really unique. The track is different. It mixes motocross and supercross stuff together. I’ll go there and it’ll be interesting. I’ll be there for press day and I’ll get to ride that stuff and see how I’m feeling. I think if everything goes as planned, I should be up there fighting for the podium. I’d love to be able to win that thing again. It would be amazing. The last time I was there with Honda, I came away with the overall.
Your last season with the Joe Gibbs Racing seemed like a season where if anything could go wrong for you, for all intents and purposes, it did. What do you think?
Yeah, every year I had an injury before the season or an injury in the season which took me out of it. Mentally, it hurt me bad. It just my confidence way down and it just seemed like it was one bike to another bike, and with all the injuries, it was just hard to get that good feel again. I haven’t been able to get that in a long time. I think right now with where I’m at, I think that if I just have a fresh start, I can do what I can do and just try to bring back the fun of riding. I hate to say it, but maybe this is just something that I needed. I’ve had plenty of great rides and I have plenty of money in the bank, so I’m not really worried about that. Now I can just worry about doing what’s good for me and going racing just for me. Not going racing for the team or anyone else. It’s kind of like when I was an amateur when I was having fun going racing and I had nothing to worry about. Honestly, it could be a great thing that this happened. It shows right now that I love racing. I’m fortunate enough to have a lot of good people still behind me that are going to help me out to go race the Monster Cup and into the future.
Just trying to get the train back on the tracks?
Yeah, exactly. That’s exactly it. It’s just getting that train back on the tracks and being happy again. It’s been a roller coaster the past few years. Now this is just something completely new that I haven’t down since I was 14 or 15 years old, so it’s pretty cool. It’s about getting that BamBam attitude and confidence back again.