By Briar Starr, Staff Writer
In this week’s first season where Kickin’ The Tires catches up with a motorsports figure past or present to talk about their rookie year in racing, we caught up with current Supercross 450 and Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GasGas rider, Justin Barcia. While Barcia has been competing in the 450 class for the past several years, he first entered Supercross in 2010 through 2011 by competing in the Supercross 250 East Coast class.
During that time period, Barcia was successful right off the bat in his then-Honda CRF250R. The now 30-year-old rider reflects on his career in this week’s first season.
In Barcia’s early stint as a rider, he competed in the Motocross series which competes in the outdoors. The New York native was consistent with his success as he was able to land a ride in the 250 East coast class at the beginning of the 2010 season. Barcia discusses what the transition was like and how the opportunity came about to race for Honda.
“Everything happens so fast in this sport,” Barcia said. “I went from racing in amateur, winning world races to boom I’m flying to races, I’m racing Supercross and I’m in the stadium and I’m riding for Honda. It was quite surreal at the time and dream come true for me. I was always in the moment and never thought ahead. (Racing Supercross) was something I always wanted to do.”
Even though Barcia is now racing with GasGas, Honda was a huge part of his career very early on. The manufacturer played into a huge amount of success for Barcia.
“Racing for Honda started early on in my career, right when I was about to get on the big bikes,” he said. “I had some different opportunities with different brands. I rode with KTM on the 85cc, and I rode Hondas for a long time, but what did it for me was, I had a great relationship with someone from “Ziggy” Factory Connection E.”
“He ran the Geico Honda team and I trusted him, so I ended up signing with the Geico Honda team. That was my last year of amateur before I moved up professionally to the 450s. It was a good fit for me. Being a part of that team was like a family atmosphere. For me and my career, it was a great decision that I made to go there.”
In his first season of Supercross, Barcia competed in just six races. Racing in those six races doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to recover from early-season mistakes. The New York native goes into detail about what was on his mind at the time when entering the series and if he had any expectations.
“For me, I don’t think I ever really put pressure on myself,” Barcia said. “I had expectations sure, but my expectation was to win races. I wasn’t focused on winning championships. My first year was quite wild and after my first year, started clicking off wins and then the championship came. So for me, even at this point in my career, let’s focus on the little picture first and then we can focus on the bigger picture.”
“I think you have to focus on the small things first to work on the big things that come later in your career.”
Barcia’s first start that season came at Indianapolis, where the 30-year-old finished an impressive third in his first outing. Prior to making his first start at Indy, he discuss what the weeks were like leading up to this first race and if he was at all nervous.
“I was more thrilled than anything to make my first start,” the New York native said. “It was like the unknown, you just don’t know what you’re getting into. Even as an amateur, I didn’t watch many professional races because I was focused on myself. It was one of those things where you don’t know what you’re getting into. You just take it one day at a time.”
“Even to this day, it’s the excitement factor. I never really get that worked up or too crazy about it. The thrill keeps me going and the wins obviously. Thrills and excitement are what did it in for me.”
Like many motorsports figures, Daytona is a special place. Whether it’s NASCAR, IMSA, or Supercross, many often remember their first experience at the ‘World Center of Racing.’ For Barcia, the experience was no different.”
“It was cool for me because I was living in Georgia at the time, so I was not too far away from there,” Barcia said. “Daytona was like a home race for me. That place was super special for me to be there. The track has that special atmosphere feeling to it. For me, it was more exciting than the first race, just because it was Daytona.”
“As an amateur, you race a lot of outdoor races. So, it was like okay, this is up my alley a little bit by having a mixture of both outdoor and indoor experience. My family was also there, so it was a fun night in general.”
Following Daytona, Barcia’s impressive rookie season continued by securing his first victory at Toronto. The 30-year-old reflects back on what that victory meant to him all these years later and if he ever had a chance to rewatch it.
“Yeah, it’s super cool, I saw some clips of that race not too long ago,” he said. “It was thrilling because you’re on the edge. That win, it’s all or nothing. I was giving my all and I wasn’t letting up until the last lap. I can remember it was a tough night to start with. I got tangled up with a rider and I was sore, beat up a little.”
“When the main event came, I got out front and win the race, it was so special. Winning at Toronto also had more meaning to it because I had never been out of the country. The fans in Canada were so excited. The excitement level was through the roof. It was so cool to be that young to win.”
After a good start to his Supercross career by winning two races at Toronto and St. Louis, Barcia had a lot of momentum going into 2011. In fact, he would win at Houston, Jacksonville, and St. Louis before achieving his first-ever Supercross 250 East championship. He remembers how successful that season was.
“In the offseason, I had great riding and putting in the work,” Barcia said. “When I came out, I was really competitive and the wins started coming. I was focused on winning races and you start looking at the points, and you’re like, alright we have a chance to do something here.”
Additionally, Barcia claims he didn’t think about winning the championship all that much until now.
“I didn’t think about winning the championship all that much,” he added. “The feeling of winning the championship was unbelievable. It’s what you worked for your entire career to win a Supercross championship. It was solidifying with all the hard work and sacrifices my parents made. Winning the championship was unreal.”
After winning back-to-back championships in 2011 and 2012, the 30-year-old wishes he could go back and cherish the moments a bit more before moving up to the 450 class in 2013.
“100 percent,” the New Yorker said. “It all goes by so fast. I try to be in the moment and take it all in. Once the season or race is over, you’re back to training and riding and trying to improve from the last season. So yes, I would love to go back and relieve those moments and soak it all in. Unfortunately, that’s just life, it goes by way too fast.”
“Now in my career, I have my wife and my son. To this day, I’m trying to figure out how to go fast on the track but slow it down off track.”
In Barcia’s career, the New York native has won 11 races in the 250 Class while winning five in the 450. The Supercross rider reflects on what his favorite trophy is.
“I think my first 450 win was in Phoenix, I believe that was my best one,” he said. “I saw that race not too long ago. Things clicked right for me and the competition in that race was just stacked. Reflecting back on it, I can still feel the flames coming off the heat going across the start/finish line and coming off the track.”
“I can remember the race perfectly but I wish I could remember what it was like afterward. That race, I can remember hitting my marks, and crossing the finish line. Phoenix is definitely the one I remember most.”
Speaking of favorite wins, Barcia also has a collection of memorabilia from his early years in the sport.
“I recently bought a dream house in Florida, so we’re working on trying to tie it all together with my memorabilia,” Barcia said. “I think for me, I was able to keep my two 250 championship bikes and I have those at my training facility in Florida. I have those on my wall in the gym and it’s cool to go in there and see those.”
As the interview came to a close, Barcia ponders if he could do anything differently now that he wiser and more experienced rider.
“I would have things I would do differently, but you would never learn from those experiences,” Barcia said. “I could go back and do all these things, however, I wouldn’t have all this experience. Honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing if time travel was available. I would still go out there, put my helmet on, and go all in 100 percent no matter what. First or last place, I know I went out there and gave it my all.”
Throughout Barcia’s career, he has achieved 11 wins in the 250 class, 5 wins in the 450 class as of this writing, and won two 250 Supercross championships. Additionally, he has finished fourth in the 450 Supercross standings two times in 2013 and 2021. Barcia also finished fifth in the 450 standings three times in 2014, 2020, and 2021.