Feld Entertainment Inc.

Supercross: Justin Barcia set to attack the final nine rounds

Leave a comment

Justin Barcia’s plan for the last nine rounds of the Monster Energy Supercross season is simple: attack.

Currently fourth in the standings, one point out of third, Barcia is in the best position ever to win a Supercross championship. And he is aware that the past two titles have gone to surprise winners with Jason Anderson in 2018 and Cooper Webb last year.

To replicate their feat, he needs to make up 27 points on Eli Tomac. That equals three points per race.

“I know who the guys are in the championship,” Barcia told NBC the week after the second Triple Crown of the season in Dallas. “It’s been proven week in and week out who is going to be there. And there is definitely solid competition, but there are also guys who are very fast on certain weekends.

“The biggest thing is to focus on myself and my racing. If I started to focus on the other guys I’d probably drive myself insane. That’s something I have done in the past, but I’ve grown and matured as a rider.”

Barcia’s perspective is unique. Wedged between the 2019 champion Webb and 2018’s Anderson in the standings, he is comfortably inside the top five. With Adam Cianciarulo suffering an injury that will keep him off the bike for a while, Barcia holds a 32-point advantage over what will become sixth-place after this week’s Atlanta race (February 29, 5 p.m. on NBCSN or stream live on the NBC App).

“For sure, I haven’t been in this good a position in a championship since I can’t even remember the last time,” Barcia said. “Right now, I’m just plugging along.”

Barcia finished fourth in the 2013 points standings. He was fifth in 2014. Since then, he’s cracked the top 10 only once with a 10th in 2018.

“Even though I know I’m in a good spot in the points, I haven’t really gotten that in my head,” Barcia said. “I’ve just been focusing on getting everything on the track and being the best I can. All in all I don’t really have a lot of pressure. I’m doing more than probably some people expected I would do, so for me this is a great position to be in.

“I don’t have the same pressure of those guys who are expected to be in the championship hunt – or those guys who are expected to do better. I’m in a super comfortable place right now. I know I can win, so that is a great feeling. I have the speed and I have the team behind me to do that.”

To get to his current spot in the points, Barcia has relied on consistency. His last five races ended between fourth and sixth. In last week’s Triple Crown race, he finished 4-5-4 in the three Mains. And while consistency is important in a championship run, Barcia wants to get back to where he was in the first two weeks.

He won the season opening race at Anaheim. Barcia finished second the next week in St. Louis for his only two podiums of the year.

Known as ‘Bam Bam’ for his aggressive nature, Justin Barcia’s key to success is in attacking the track and the competition. Feld Entertainment Inc.

But Barcia has a plan in mind for how to challenge the leaders. It begins and ends with attacking. If he can get an aggressive start, a clear track is his biggest obstacle. If he cannot, he has to attack the competition.

“If you start in the back of the pack, it’s full attack mode for most of the race,” Barcia said. “I just want to get whoever is in front of me and to get as far as can – whatever place that may be. That’s something I’ve always been really good at: adapting to the challenges. So, if it’s a bad start it just to attack, attack, attack and get as many guys as I can and have a clean race.

“If it’s the other way around and I get a hole shot, it’s attacking the track; trying to check out and get away from the racers. There are a lot of ways a race can go, but for me, no matter what, the word that sticks out is attack.”

Dallas was a reminder of what Barcia can accomplish. While he finished no better than fourth in any of the three Mains, he passed a lot of riders. More importantly, in the three-race format he went head to head with the championship contenders and beat each of them least once.

“The goal is to get a better start. If I can put myself up at the front I know I can run the pace,” Barcia said. “This past weekend at Dallas, it was a Triple Crown race and I beat all of the top guys at least one race.

“With everything on the table I need to focus on myself and the task at hand. And that’s getting the best result I can every weekend and chipping away at the leader’s points.”

It’s about looking forward. There is less pressure from behind than the obstacles that stand before him in 2020.

The same is true of his recent career. Over the past five seasons, his average points position has been about 15th. It would be reasonable for those modest performances to haunt Barcia, and yet that is not the way a racer thinks.

“In any sport you forget the past really quickly,” Barcia said. “And when it’s brought up you’re like, ‘wow, those were difficult times.’

“But for me, I’ve kind of forgotten about the last couple of years. I feel like it’s easy to forget about that because I’ve always felt like I belong at the front since the beginning of my career. It’s nice to be back in this position where I belong and doing good things, feeling comfortable on the bike.

“I had those tough years, but going through those tough years has made me a stronger racer. I’ve been able to overcome a lot of adversity pretty easily.”

The next two rounds of the Supercross season are on hometown tracks. Residing in Tallahassee, Fla. Atlanta and Daytona Beach, Fla. are quick  trips down the highway. Barcia believes that gives him an advantage in back to back weeks and he expects to take his rightful place on the podium. And with a little luck, he could trim some of those 27 points off Tomac’s lead.

New schedule has Josef Newgarden seeing double (points) again in 2020

Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden of Team Penske believes the latest revised schedule for 2020 will change his approach to the season.

The new schedule has the defending IndyCar champion looking at ways to double the possibilities for a second consecutive championship.

“When I look at the whole schedule they released now, I look at it as double-points as a whole in all of them,” Newgarden told NBCSports.com Monday. “Iowa is double points on a short oval. There are double points at the Indy GP because there are two races and a road course. Then double points at Laguna, which is a different road course than IMS. And there is double points in the Indianapolis 500.”

IndyCar announced to team owners two weeks ago that the season finale (once scheduled for Laguna Seca and now at St. Petersburg) will no longer be a double-points event. But Monday’s schedule revision essentially adds three double points-style races to the Indy 500’s double-points format, Newgarden said.

“Those are four events where you have to be quite strong,” Newgarden said. “They are all very different from each other. Each one is critical to get right. Iowa has a chance to be the most difficult. From a physical standpoint, it’s already a physical track for one race. To double it up on one weekend will be quite the toll for the drivers.

“It will be a very big test physically to see who will get that weekend right. You can bag a lot of points because of it.”

Just 12 days after the first schedule revision, IndyCar officials announced another revised schedule Monday because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The new schedule features doubleheader weekends at Iowa Speedway in July and Laguna Seca in September. There is an additional race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course Oct. 3.

That race will be known as the IndyCar Harvest Grand Prix. It will be the second time in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history that an IndyCar race is held in the fall. The only other time was the Harvest Auto Racing Classic, a series of three races won by Johnny Aitken on Sept. 9, 1916.

The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix scheduled for May 30-31 will be dropped from the 2020 schedule. Michigan has a “Stay at Home” order that won’t be lifted in time to start construction of the Belle Isle street course.

Penske Entertainment CEO Mark Miles said the Detroit event will return in 2021.

The IMS road course essentially will have a doubleheader spaced out by nearly three months. The first race will be the GMR IndyCar Grand Prix on July 4, and the second will be Oct. 3 in the Harvest Grand Prix.

The extra doubleheaders combined with the loss of Detroit gives IndyCar a 15-race schedule for 2020. It started out as a 17-race campaign, but April’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, the Acura Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the AutoNation IndyCar Classic at Circuit of The Americas (COTA) have been canceled. The season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is being revived as the season finale on a TBA weekend in October.

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Newgarden also is excited about the chance to run at Indianapolis for three major races in one season. Of course, that all depends on how soon IndyCar can return to action because of the global pandemic.

“I’m continually excited about the thought of getting back to the race track,” Newgarden said. “We would love to be there now, but we can’t. With the current situation, everyone is trying to do the best they can to pitch in and do their part so we can get back to the track as quickly as possible.

“I’m excited to get back to racing at some point in the future. To see that is planned to start at Texas is still great. IndyCar has done a great job staying active and fluid with the ever-changing dynamics and current situation.

“We have three opportunities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There are a lot of chances to get it right at the Mecca of our sport.

“I have a lot of trust and faith in IndyCar and Roger, and they are doing their best to stay on top of the situation.”

The one downer to the revised schedule is the loss of the Detroit doubleheader, a very important weekend to Team Penske because Roger Penske also owns the Detroit race. It’s a chance to showcase the series in front of as “Motor City” crowd, which is also the home to the Penske Corp.

“It’s a shame that we miss any event this year,” Newgarden said. “As a racer, you look forward to each one of them. If any of them drop off, it’s a tough pill. Detroit is more so because it is such an important race for us at Team Penske. It’s in our backyard for Penske Corp. Also, our relationship with Chevrolet, how much they put I that event and try to get it right for everybody involved. It’s tough to not have a go at that this year.

“I think of the volunteers. The Detroit weekend is so well run and executed with such a positive momentum behind it for the last eight years that I’ve gone there. I’ve always enjoyed that weekend off the back of the Indy 500.

“It’s a shame we will miss that this year, but I look forward to getting back there in 2021 and getting it started again.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500