By Jim Kimball
What a year it has been for Justin Barcia! He went from full-on privateer, to fill-in rider at Yamaha for Supercross, won an AMA 450 National and now has signed a new two-year deal with the Monster Energy Yamaha team for 2019-2020. Here is what he thinks about the past, present and future
YOU MUST BE PUMPED WITH THE WAY THE AMA NATIONALS ENDED? Yes, for sure. I mean everything went perfect at Ironman. I worked hard this whole year, and you know at first there were many races that I was good at, but not like this one. Maybe It was a blessing in disguise during the first rounds. This is what we wanted, and it is now the icing on the cake!
LOOKING BACK ON THE YEAR; THE WAY IT ALL CAME TOGETHER WAS INCREDIBLE. It is crazy to think that at the beginning of the year I was a total privateer rider. Then I got the Yamaha fill-in ride and got some podiums in Supercross. Then I had an injury, but I came back at outdoors and was pretty strong and getting a win at the last National was awesome. Before this all happened, I had no ride, and I did not know what was going on, so from where I was at last year at this time to now, is incredible.
WHAT WAS GOING ON LAST YEAR AT JGR? I did not like the bike. I could never get it right. It was uncomfortable for me to ride. I was not having fun. I don’t think the team was that happy with my performance, and I was not happy either, so everyone was just PO’ed the entire time. I really like everyone at JGR, we are all cool, but it was not gelling. It was not the right fit for me.
IT STARTED WELL AT JGR, THEN WHAT HAPPENED? I went in with high hopes, but a lot of guys have gone to JGR and it has not worked out for them either. I am not the only one, so that is a good thing, I guess. it just did not work out. I did not know what I was going to do after that. It kind of burned me out and ran me into the ground, but I got this opportunity at Yamaha and made the best of it.
THE YAMAHA YZ450F HAS BEEN A CONTROVERSIAL BIKE. WHAT DO YOU THINK? I did not like the Yamahas at JGR. It was a difficult bike to get right. It was never easy, but this new Yamaha is a lot better, and people realize the new Yamaha is better. The power has never been an issue, the engine is great, so it was just the chassis. And now that the chassis is good, everyone is happy and getting along with it better. It still has a long way to go. It is a brand-new bike and we have a lot of work still to do, but it is a good team that knows what they are doing.
YOU GOT BEAT BY ONE POINT FOR THIRD IN THE 450 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP. WAS THAT DISAPPOINTING? I was only one point out of third in the final points. it would have been nice to get top 3, but that was not really in the cards, and that was not the goal. I did not go into the season saying, “I want to get the top 3 in the championship.” Either you want to win the championship, or you don’t care. I would say that it was not my goal to win this year’s championship. That was a little farfetched from where I came from. But how I felt all year and where I got to was huge for me. My goal was to get a moto win at some point, and I went 1-1 at the final race of the series. That was icing on the cake.
TELL US ABOUT BEING PICKED FOR THE MOTOCROSS DES NATIONS TEAM. It is going to be unbelievable. I have been picked for Motocross des Nations three times now and always have done well there. I enjoy the race and I enjoy the pressure that is put on the USA. I have handled that well. It is always fun to race new guys, like the last time we raced in France, I had a really good time there. I won my class and was racing against people I had not raced before. You get used to guys you race with here in America, so I always look forward to that. Like you said, it is an honor to race for America. We have a really solid team this year, and we are on home soil, which is very nice.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR DEPARTED YAMAHA TEAMMATE COOPER WEBB? There was no tension or anything the whole year. It was not like we hated each other. We raced hard, and we had our moments, like at one of the Anaheims we collided, but it is what it is. Sometimes things happen, and at Unadilla, we battled a little. You know, we get mad at each other, but we made up. I would not say that we are best friends. We are competitive and we want to be the best, so I wish him well at his new venture. I will be seeing him around.
TELL US ABOUT YOU NEW YAMAHA TEAMMATE AARON PLESSINGER. It is so exciting. I have not been this excited to have a new teammate in a long time. I have had a lot of teammates in my career and having A.P. come over here is great. For one thing, he is a great racer. He is a lot younger than me, so he is going to keep me on my toes. Maybe I can give him a little experience, but I think he has plenty of that winning all of these 250 championships. I’m excited. Our personalities are very similar, and I feel like we are going to bring a lot of fun to the team. it is not going to be just me bringing the excitement out, it is going to be the two of us. The team is in for a handful with us two. I think we will be great teammates.
WHAT’S ON THE SCHEDULE AFTER THE MXDN? It will be a busy off season. My fiance and I will go to England and take two weeks off the dirt bike, just to kind of put that to the side for a little bit. Then I fly straight to California in two weeks and start testing Motocross of Nations set-ups, fuels, and things like that. Then I start testing the Monster Energy Cup set-up, because that is a week after the Motocross des Nations. I will get married to Amber on November 2. That is exciting. One week later, we will go to Australia to race and two weeks after that, we go to Geneva to race. So, it is full bore. No break.
DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE FANS APPRECIATED WHAT YOU ACHIEVED THIS YEAR? I had a lot of fans stick behind me through these tough times, and that has been the most awesome things. The fans have been great this year. I am honored to be on such a great team. They treat me really well. I want to win, and it has just been a great year.
Photos: Brian Converse, Daryl Ecklund, Yamaha, MXA archives