In order to count down the days until the start of the 2019 Rocky Mountain ATV/MC AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn Ranch, we’re asking some of the top graduates from yesteryear to tell us about their favorite moto from the Ranch. Since the race was founded in 1982, we’ve got a bunch of fast folks to choose from.
Several recent subjects in our Loretta’s Favorite moto series have been underdog tales of riders suddenly finding their stride and going to a new level. So for today, it’s interesting to hear the story from the other side, a rider who came in and expected to win each year.
That rider is Justin Barcia, now of the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing team. In Barcia’s amateur heydays, as a Honda rider on CR85s, CRF150Rs, and CRF250Rs, he was the rider everyone knew they had to beat. He was the target. Justin understood this pressure and says he actually thrived on it, but because the wins were expected, he said he remembers the motos he didn’t win more than the races where he came out on top.
“Probably my second or third year there, I was on KTM 65s, and I got two third overalls,” Barcia explained. “That was huge for me. That was the stepping point. I wasn’t expected to do anything, and to get two thirds, that was sick. I’d say of all my wins, nothing really sticks out, nothing was too crazy. But I remember those podiums on the 65, and then I remember races where it didn’t work out. One year on 85s I should have won but I fried my engine near the last lap. My last year there I won every single moto besides one where I fell over on the first lap. Typical Honda back in the day with the early four strokes, the bikes just didn’t want to start when they were hot. I couldn’t get the bike to start and ended up having to push her back to the pits. I won five of the six motos. Yeah, that was tough.
“I thrived at Loretta’s because of that pressure,” he continued. “I don’t know why, I loved it.”
When Honda launched its new CRF150R four-stroke minicycle, Barcia was the poster child, appearing in television commercials and he was expected to go win motos against the two-stroke competition. However, he ended up getting injured just before Loretta’s and never got to race the bike there. In 2008, he returned as a dominant force in the MX Lites B classes, and then turned pro in 2009 for the opening round of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship.
“Loretta’s is lots of memories, some good some bad, but it’s awesome,” he said. “As a kid it was super fun for me. I remember riding my bicycle around, going fishing. I had so much fun. I think the only restriction I had was go to bed early. But otherwise I was able to go around and be a kid. Hey, that’s what it’s all about there.”
That’s when Barcia explains the real secret to life at the Ranch.
“Hey, a lot of the riders have sisters down there,” he said. “So that’s what you do. You chase them around.”
Looking back, Barcia would advise today’s amateurs to focus on the fun part of hanging at Loretta’s.
“When you’re pro, it’s a job,” he said. “It takes a bit of the fun out of it. We try to keep it fun, on a rainy day like today at Millville we have more time and it feels pretty loose around the truck. But usually, the pressure is on and it’s high stress. So I would tell those kids to enjoy it and have fun because you won’t be able to do that forever. You won’t be able to ride your bicycle down to your motorhome and go spend time with your family. Just try to have fun.”