Supercross: Justin Barcia set to attack the final nine rounds

Feld Entertainment Inc.

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.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws

More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”