Justin Barcia wins Supercross Round 1 for the third consecutive time

Supercross Round 1
Feld Entertainment, Inc.

Justin Barcia is the Supercross Round 1 hero for the third straight year after holding off a determined charge by Ken Roczen through the final five minutes. Barcia is happy to have won the season opener in the last two seasons, but he hopes to break another cycle. Two years ago he won the season opener, but failed to stand on the podium again in 2019.

Barcia won the season opener at Anaheim last year, only this time he kept his momentum for a while. He finished second in Saint Louis to get off to a great start for the season, but fell to fifth in the overall standings at the end of the year.

Barcia has a solid reason to believe this year will be different because his circumstances have changed. Making the debut for the GasGas Factory Racing team, Barcia gave them a sweep for the night, winning his heat before taking the Feature race.

POINTS, RESULTS: All the postrace statistics from Saturday in Supercross

“I got a great start and rode my own race,” Barcia said following the race. “Kenny (Roczen) pressured me so hard the whole race, but I held it together.

“I just want to be in the fight all year, not just a one-hit wonder.”

Starting the year with a new team meant Barcia had to navigate a set of unknowns.

“The offseason training went extremely smooth, the transition to the team went really well,” Barcia said in the post-race press conference. “But you just don’t know where you are. I know I can win, but there’s more to it than that.”

Roczen’s second-place finish was also notable. Battling a physical condition that was eventually diagnosed as shingles, he experienced fatigue in several races. Still, he managed to win races near the end of the season, including Round 15 at Salt Lake City, and finished third in the points behind Eli Tomac and Cooper Webb.

Roczen skipped the outdoor season in order to fully heal.

“It was clean; it was awesome,” Roczen. “The track got rough. It was tacky. It’s good to get the first one out of the way, safe and sound. Second-place, I’m totally fine with it. We did some good racing out there and it’s a long season.”

In fact, the entire night might be characterized as a win for underdogs and drivers battling back from adversity. Marvin Musquin missed the entire 2020 Supercross season with a knee injury. He returned to finish fourth in the overall standings in the outdoor Lucas Oil Motocross season.

It has been 25 years since the Supercross season started some place other than California. Notably, the last time that happened was in 1996 when Jeremy McGrath also won his third consecutive season opener in Orlando, Fla.

Everyone was not happy with their start to the season. After falling twice in the feature, defending champion Eli Tomac finished 13th.

And, in fact it was not a particularly strong night for the last three Supercross champions. The 2019 title-holder Cooper Webb managed only a ninth-place finish. The top rider from 2018, Jason Anderson finished 15th.

This year’s rookie class has been highly anticipated. Winning the last two 250 championships in the West and East divisions respectively, Dylan Ferrandis and Chase Sexton got the opportunity to race head to head in the second heat.

Sexton won the first battle, finishing fourth in his heat to Ferrandis’ ninth.

Ferrandis prevailed in the Supercross Round 1 feature with his first career top-10 in seventh. Sexton finished 14th.

The 250 East got underway first and it set the tone for dark horses.

After Christian Craig scored his second career win and first in five years, he leaned his head on his forearms and absorbed the emotions.

Like Barcia, Craig also got off to a solid start in 2020. He stood on the podium in the first race of the season behind winner Justin Cooper and second-place Dylan Ferrandis.

“If only people knew what I’ve been through in the past two years,” Craig said from the top of the podium. “This is the most weight I’ve lifted off my shoulders I’ve ever had. I never gave up. I’ve been down to the lowest of lows – to the bottom – and I still kept going.”

Austin Forkner kept the theme of overcoming adversity alive.

“I’m the happiest I’ve been for second place,” Forkner said. “The start wasn’t exactly what I wanted. I haven’t had to come through the pack like that for a while, so I was really happy. First race back from my big crash in Salt Lake City. I wanted a podium.”

Colt Nichols rounded out the top three.

“I need to get out of the gate a little better,” Nichols said. “I struggled with that all night.”

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
Align Media

ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.