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Interview with AutoTrader/JGR/Monster Energy/Suzuki’s Justin Barcia

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AutoTrader/JGR/Monster Energy/Suzuki’s Justin Barcia’s has had a combination of successes and setbacks so far in 2017. A wrist injury derailed his Supercross season forcing him to begin racing at round seven at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Having only raced 11 rounds, Barcia managed to finish 17th overall in the point standings. At the opening round of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross series at Hangtown, Barcia piloted his Suzuki RM-Z450 to 9th place overall with 11-5 moto finishes. We caught up with Barcia at the 2nd Annual Suzuki MOTO T.E.A.M. Day to hear what his thoughts are on his Supercross season, his crash at Hangtown, and the changes made to the layout at Glen Helen.

You missed the first six rounds of Supercross due to a wrist injury. What challenges did you face coming back from that midway through the season? “Every challenge you could possibly throw at me [laughs]. It’s really hard to do that and I’ve had to do it a couple times. I got injured and it just kind of put me behind the eight ball. I had just gotten on the new bike and was getting ready. I had to kind of start over again and try to get the bike where I wanted it. My confidence was down coming in going against everybody. At the top level, it’s tough when they’re already six rounds in. I just finished out the season and did the best I could. It wasn’t great and I wasn’t happy with it whatsoever. I just had to get through it and move on. It’s always a really hard challenge and it’s definitely not fun to come in the middle of the season and try to get on that pace. It was a struggle.”

You won a heat race in Daytona and looked pretty comfortable at that race, which is more of an outdoor style track. Does that get you fired up for outdoors knowing you had good speed on that type of track? “Yeah, I did have a good race in Daytona. I think I went down in the main event there, but I was riding well. I had a good heat race win in Seattle, too. I was running close to [Ryan] Dungey and [Marvin] Musquin. I seem to do a little better in the ruttier tracks for some reason. But yes, it always boosts your confidence a little bit going into outdoors when you do good on a ruttier racetrack like Daytona or Seattle.”

Do you feel you’re better on the rutted tracks because you grew up riding at the Millsaps Training Facility (MTF) in Georgia? The clay on the east coast seems to rut up pretty well. “Yeah, I always feel I do better in a ruttier, wetter condition being from New York and living down South in the clay. I’ve never been the greatest in the hardpack conditions. I do have some good races on hardpack tracks, but I definitely prefer the wetter, deeper dirt.”

This is your first year racing the Pro Motocross series on a Suzuki. Does it do anything different outdoors that you were impressed with that perhaps it didn’t do in Supercross? “Not so much really. It’s a good turning bike and the chassis has been the same for a long time. I think it’s a good chassis, so they haven’t really had to change it. We’ve got our bike pretty good right now and all in all, it’s just a good turning machine.”

Last weekend at Hangtown, you had a crash in the first moto. What happened from your perspective? “That was the worst that Hangtown has ever been for me since I’ve been racing. They just haven’t had enough water out there and then they try to water the hell out of it. It was muddy and then it turned into dry ruts. I jumped down the hill, went a little too far, landed, cross-rutted in some ruts, and went down. It was my fault. I just kind of sent it a little too hard on the first lap trying to make passes, but that’s what you’ve got to do because everyone’s going as fast as they can. I charged back and had a good ride. I came back to 11th, which is not where I want to be, but it was alright. In the second moto, I rode pretty well. I was a little tight in the middle of the race and stayed in fifth. All in all, it was a decent weekend and I think I’ve got a lot more to show.”

Some riders talk about how it’s difficult to set a bike up for Hangtown. What are your thoughts on that? “Hangtown is just a weird race. It’s a strange track. They try to build some awkward stuff. It was more of an outdoor track during my first year racing and now they try to make it a little more exciting and put some weird stuff in there. All in all, it gets a weird, rough, choppy feel. There are a lot of lines that lead into one line coming out of a corner. It makes your bike do weird things. I felt like I had a pretty good setup for Hangtown and I think it’ll be really good for Glen Helen as well. They always do a lot of crazy stuff at Glen Helen as well, so we’ll see. The first two rounds are always weird, but I’d definitely like to be up front and close to the podium, if not, on it. I think I can do that. I just need to keep it on two wheels, have some solid rides, get out of California, and keep picking it up.”

They made some changes to parts of the Glen Helen track. Do you like them? “I haven’t ridden it at all. I stay away from California. I really like Florida. It’s my favorite place to be and it’s my home. This is my first week out here. We rode Pala yesterday, which was good. It’s a different track and gets a weird type of rough. They build stuff every year at Glen Helen. I heard they took out Talladega, but everyone’s got to race the same track, so it will be interesting.”

Other riders have mentioned they were happy to hear the Glen Helen track builders took out the massive triple step-up jump from last year. Do you feel the same? “I like jumping, but if anything ever happens while you’re going that fast, it’s really dangerous. I like big jumps, for sure. I have some cool jumps at my house, but that jump was insane. In race conditions, it was just really crazy. We saw that guy on press day overshoot it a bit and absolutely annihilate himself. It’s probably good that they took it out. For me, I’m from New York and it’s more natural motocross tracks. I like Unadilla because they don’t really change it too much. It is what it is. Every once in a while they will put in a couple jumps. I prefer the more outdoor style, natural tracks, but I’ve always had fun at Glen Helen, so I look forward to it this weekend.”

Which track on the Pro Motocross Circuit do you look forward to the most each year? “There are a lot of really good tracks on the east coast. Obviously, everyone loves Red Bud for the dirt. I like Unadilla because it’s like a home race for me. Southwick is always fun. It’s kind of different now because it has a hard base to it, but I still enjoy going there. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but every year it’s good to go to Red Bud, so I’d say that’s at the top of my list.