The 2020 Monster Energy AMA Supercross season opened last night inside Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California. Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Justin Barcia led early but a mistake cost him the lead to 450SX class rookie Adam Cianciarulo. A mistake by Cianciarulo allowed Barcia to retake the lead and claim his second straight Anaheim 1 victory.
Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Cianciarulo finished second and Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb, who was dealing with a sickness, finished third in the first race of his title defense.
All three riders spoke with the media after the race.
If you prefer the audio version of the press conference, you can listen below or subscribe via iTunes or your favorite podcast app by searching for the Racer X Podcast Network. The 250SX West Region podium starts off the press conference, followed by the 450SX podium at the 12:52 mark.
Racer X: Cooper, take us through the day. We found out after qualifying that you were dealing with a sickness. How challenging was that and from start to finish, how were you able to overcome and fight through what you went through today?
Cooper Webb: It was a tough day, for sure. Sometimes that happens, so it was good to go out and practice wasn’t anything great. I was around 15th, so that wasn’t too good. Felt like when the race started, the heat went pretty good and then that main event just kind of plugged away. Had a decent start and made a few good passes and found a good little comfort zone there in third. Just kind of rode it on in.
Adam, you’ve had a pretty good off-season. You guys have done a lot of work. Obviously you come into the opening round feeling confident in what you’ve done, but you don’t really know until you hit the track. After free practice and both qualifying sessions, did it all kind of sink in that the work was right? We’re ready to go racing?
Adam Cianciarulo: Yeah. You still have that little bit of, even after practice you’re still kind of wondering where you fit in in a race setting. I’ve been around long enough to where there’s guys, like Cooper for example. He can go out and qualify 15th and you know he’s going to be there in the main event every time. Just practice. I’ve always felt pretty comfortable and felt like I could throw fast laps down. Definitely feel like I’m lucky enough to be able to kind of ride with Eli and ride with Ken, so I have a good gauge of where the speed is. I know that I’m not too far off or anything. So I felt like I had a good chance if I kept my head on straight.
Justin, there’s been a lot of talk coming into this season about how you made bike changes, you started over, and built the bike around you. One of the things that people have talked about is that you went back to riding your way, which is more aggressive, rev it out, let it go. Was that the changes that were needed for you to be able to feel comfortable again? Because you did look I’d say more like old Bam-Bam.
Justin Barcia: Yeah. Thank goodness. It was a big off-season. A lot of work. A lot of new employees at Yamaha. It was very positive to see they knew they weren’t in a good place. Cooper left, and we seen what Cooper did. We went to the drawing board and changed a lot of things this year. We still have a lot of work to do obviously, but we reset big time. We got Sergio over there now. He’s been around forever and worked with James Stewart, Ryan Villopoto. You name it, he’s worked with them. So me and him bonded really well. We don’t have a test rider, so I did all the work myself. I’ve never rode so much in my life, but I really enjoyed it and it showed. Everything I did, it worked tonight. I rode a lot of different tracks. I raced in Europe this year. The bike worked pretty good everywhere. I was nervous coming in here for sure. I wasn’t sure what the bike was going to be like. I knew I liked it pretty much everywhere I rode. So it was good here. Definitely excited. Good things to come, for sure.
Without there being a test rider and you being that guy pretty much, is there things that you learned that last few months that you didn’t know before about a bike, and just learning how to craft something towards your liking? Any things that you learned?
Barcia: Yeah, for sure. We don’t get factory parts from Japan. That’s just not really a thing anymore, at least for Yamaha. So we do a lot of in-house things. For me, the bike is pretty much chassis standard setup. I’m running stock triple clamps. I requested a lot of things last year and it didn’t happen. This year when Sergio came in, the things I requested, he agreed with me and it was cool to see that. We got things that I asked for this year. That was a good feeling. The things I asked for worked for me, so it was cool to see that. It made me happy. I think it helps a lot. I’m becoming a better rider all around. I’ve learned a lot of things about the motorcycle. I feel like I’ve matured a lot and a lot smarter. It’s a good feeling to do your own work, for sure.
Adam, what was it like to be in 450? Obviously the longer race distance, but lead at around the sort of midway point? What was that race distance like for you?
Cianciarulo: It’s quite a lot different. As a 250 guy, you do 20’s. You practice during the off-season. A lot of the time you’re doing the longer motos, 20 plus one or whatever, but race setting is always different. The track breaks down more. Obviously you’re going from the gate, so the heart rate is higher right from the get-go. A practice moto, you’re kind of getting into it, getting into your flow. It was crazy, man, getting out front and leading. Honestly, I didn’t feel too nervous. I felt more nervous last year in the 250’s and definitely the years prior. Just it’s crazy, man. There’s so many good guys. It’s like I just don’t look over. I don’t look right. I don’t look left. I just pretend like there’s nobody else out there. It’s the only thing you can do because everybody’s so good. So it was cool to kind of be up front in the battle.
Justin, you talked about the bike changes. We’ve heard a lot about that. Tonight was some of the best riding I’ve seen you do. Super aggressive. Weege made a comment about how quick you were in the corners. How much of that is the bike, and how much of that is maybe just something with yourself that you’ve changed?
Barcia: For sure. I definitely went back to the drawing board before this season. The bike obviously, I won Anaheim last year but it was a mud race. I think any motorcycle can do a mud race, and I’m a really good mud rider, so that was cool. But then after that it was a rocky road to ride, for sure. So, the bike is a big help. But like I said, I went back to the drawing board. My really good friend, Leroy KILBARGER, we used to train together back in the day on 250’s. I brought him out to California and he worked with me on things. You can hire a trainer and you don’t always listen to them. I’ve had a lot of trainers, and just something never really clicked. The best one I had was Jeff Stanton. I enjoyed working with him. But to bring a friend in that knows what they’re doing and what they’re talking about, he shoots it straight. He’ll tell me if I suck or if I don’t. Other people I just feel like these days just want a check and will sugar coat it. So it’s cool to have him on board. It was awesome to get starts. I haven’t gotten good starts in forever, so that was cool to see all the hard work I put into starts, and also my riding on the track was good. So it was a little bit of riding and a lot of bike as well.
Cooper, a similar question to what I asked Dylan, the 250 champion. We heard Jason Anderson kind of talk about all the things that come with winning a championship that he didn’t like doing. Did any of that put any extra pressure on you? Did it affect you any way for coming into this year?
Webb: I don't think so. Everybody handles it differently for sure. It was more of a confidence-booster kind of knowing that I was able to achieve that last year. So I feel like I kind of know what to expect this year. I can do a lot of things a lot better than I did last year, but I kind of know how to achieve that goal. So for me, I thought it was pretty cool to see the number one here at Anaheim on the 450 was very special. Obviously it comes with responsibilities, but I still had to work for it.
Adam, what did you do to Justin Hill? He was trying to kill you every time he got a chance.
Cianciarulo: Really? I thought it was fine. One of the first laps of the heat race, I had to go super far inside. I think it might have been Cooper. Somebody was on my inside and I felt like I was going to get plowed if I didn’t go super far inside. I didn’t run into him, but I kind of came out of the corner of his eye. He was probably like, what are you doing? Then I made a mistake in the heat and I went wide in the corner. I was in the top rut and he was totally going to get me, no matter what. So I’m like, okay, cool. I’ll just ride up here. He came across all the ruts and I was like, man, really? I’m off the track again? We’re like three minutes into this thing. But it was fine. Justin’s always been cool. He’s always been aggressive. Really talented rider. Not trying to get into any spats this early.
Adam, you and Cooper, you’ve been battling since pee-wee’s, Loretta Lynn’s champions, Monster Cup, 250, now here. Talk a little bit about just being on the 450 podium and being where you’re at now. It’s the pinnacle of the sport.
Cianciarulo: Yeah, it’s cool. Obviously Cooper has had a great career. I’ve had a pretty decent one. I’ve accomplished some things. It’s just cool that I’m up here racing with all these guys. There’s so many guys. It’s kind of cool that Cooper and I come from the same generation, one or two years apart. I always enjoy racing him. As you can see tonight, he’s sick. I swear, you could take a foot peg off the bike and he’d still find a way to get a podium. He’s a good competitor. All these guys. I’m stoked to be up here, stoked to be battling. Just want to be in the fight.
Adam, you kind of said in the press conference yesterday just trying to stay away from the noise a little bit. There was a lot of hype, especially after you won Monster Cup. Then you were fastest in every practice. How did you not get too far ahead of yourself, or did you have to check yourself at times?
Cianciarulo: No. I think sometimes. Monster Cup was kind of a little bit of a surprise for me, so when I got done with that I was pretty stoked with where I was. I was like, okay, maybe I could be a contender first year. I wasn’t quite sure where my head was at going into the season until after that. I was like, okay. Got some momentum. I think it’s a constant. For me personally, I have to constantly level myself out because ultimately this stuff is so sick to me. I love this stuff. I would be one of you guys if I didn’t have the talent to race a dirt bike. I would be down there or serving popcorn in the stands so I could catch a free seat. I love supercross. Just being up here with these guys and racing them… I passed Brayton earlier in the race. I'm like, “That’s Justin Brayton.” He’s been around a long time. I was watching Budds Creek ’03 the other day and Brayton was out there. Even that stuff goes through my mind. So it’s a constant process for me of saying, chill out. You belong here. You’re one of these guys. It’s cool. It makes the tough times in the sport better when you love it as much as I do.
When you did make a mistake and lost the lead, were you able to again check yourself and say, second would be awesome in the opener? Or were you frustrated at one point?
Cianciarulo: To be honest with you, I felt really good. I made a mistake, kind of knocked the wind out of myself. Justin is coming by me, aggressive as he is. I’m like, dude. I really didn’t want the smoke. I was good with second after that, to be honest with you. I settled a little bit too much and three, four laps to go I told myself my trainer, Nick Wey, was going to be so pissed at me for settling. But Justin rode great. I made the mistake and he was better, so second it is.
Cooper, you got a pretty quick turnaround to St. Louis. What does your week look like now that you’re sick? Do you work through it? Do you rest? What do you do?
Webb: I’m not sure. I’m actually headed back to Florida. Ride out there. St. Louis dirt is always pretty good. I think our dirt is pretty similar. I’ll try to head east and recover. I think it’s just kind of like a little 24-hour deal, hopefully. A quick week for sure, but we’ll do everything in our power to get back to 100%.
Did Zach give this to you?
Webb: Yeah, we were too busy hanging out.
Barcia and AC, usually when we see two riders go after each other and go back and forth on the track it’s usually one guy getting each other in the corner, and the other guy getting each other in the whoops…
Cianciarulo: No, we’re just sketchy, dude. It looked like the battle of who is going to make the mistake. Barcia, you made that little slip. AC goes by you. Then AC, you made the slip and he goes back by you. Is that more of a mental game versus a physical game?
Barcia: We were just pushing it pretty hard. My mistake was huge, not little. I landed on top of the tuff blocks. Luckily didn’t crash. Squirrelled out and got back on. When I got behind AC I was like, all right, be smart. Try to reel it in if I can. Then I seen he made a mistake and I seen an opportunity and jumped in there. I think we were pushing pretty hard in that moment.
Cianciarulo: It’s Anaheim 1, too, so obviously the electricity is kind of in the air, for lack of a better term. Just exciting out there. I really don’t feel like I would have done anything different. I kind of spun out on the triple face and I hit the same line every lap. Maybe I gave it just a tiny more gas and it slipped out on me, so it wasn’t one of those brain fart deals. It’s one of those things where we were just pushing hard. I guess I’ll front flip if I have to do it to win. So it’s just one of those deals where you’re going to put it on the line.
Justin, you won this race a year ago and you were really adamant about don’t let the highs get too high. But it almost looked like at one point a fleeting moment like, am I going to get all the way back up there and win Anaheim 1 again? Is it almost surreal? You got a perfect reset. It didn’t work out for a championship last year, but you’re back on top again. It just took a whole year to get back and win again.
Barcia: It’s cool. I’ll be honest. Last year I wasn’t comfortable on the bike at all, so that was a huge shock. I’m not saying I came here to win this race, but I wanted to be up there somewhere, consistent. My main goal is obviously the championship. I want to be in the fight all year. I feel like where my motorcycle is at right now I can do that. So, last year physically, mentally, I won this race but it probably wasn’t my year, and obviously it wasn’t. I think where I’m at now I’m in a really good place. Once I got into second I was like, all right, this is all right. Just keep plugging away. Whatever it was, it was. Like AC made that little mistake, and it fell in my hands a little bit. I’ll obviously take it for sure. It was great. I’m just excited, grateful, happy, all of the above.
Justin, when you had your close call, how close were you to going down and what was going through your mind as it was happening?
Barcia: Hold on for dear life. I was holding that Yamaha wide open when I landed on those Tuff Blox. Tried to shoot off them. Even like Forkner said. I think he got in the Tuff Blox a little. You just never know what’s going to happen when you hit those Tuff Blox. I went into the triple and got a little cross-rutted and it just sent me right into the right-hand side and I landed right on top of those suckers. Luckily I just popped off and rode back on the track, but it definitely got the blood pumping a little bit. I was able to regroup though and AC got me pretty good. Then I was able to plug away a little bit. It was scary, for sure.
Justin, when you hit the Tuff Blox, went off the track, got back on, it looked like you had a straight line to the end of the berm. There was a number 9 guy there. Was there a second option possible?
Barcia: I could have T-boned AC for sure, but I try not to be like that anymore. If it was 250 days, I would have definitely done it. I’m in this for the long haul and just want to have fun racing. Today was fun. It was good racing. I love it. Like AC said, we live for this stuff. If you’re not in it, you’re not going to be up here. So we love this stuff. It was awesome. I’m excited for a great rest of the year. What was cool as well is Justin Cooper, we’re just both kids from New York that had big dreams and it’s cool to see two New York winners up here. That’s pretty exciting. Just stoked. Ready for next weekend.