It wasn’t pretty, but it was certainly satisfying for Justin Barcia as he won his first Monster Energy Supercross race in two years on a muddy track in front of his hometown crowd in New Jersey. While the rain was expected, it was a curveball nonetheless because all of the preliminary events were in dry conditions. A lightning strike moments before the 250 East/West Showdown was ready for the gate drop created a two-hour delay as rain soaked the track.
Barcia was determined during the race. One of the best riders in muddy conditions, he got a strong start but was second to Ken Roczen for the first six laps. As the conditions deteriorated, Barcia came alive. His aggressive racing style worked in his favor as the easiest way to complete passes was to slide in front of the competition.
Earlier in the race, he mistimed the move slightly on Chase Sexton as the two raced for second, which sent Sexton to the ground. Barcia perfected the move on Lap 6 when he caught and passed Roczen.
“Once I got up to a 16-second lead it was quite emotional because I knew that was it,” Barcia told NBC Sports’ Will Christien. “I laid off my clutch. The bike’s strong. The team did a great job. The track conditions got worse and worse every lap. Man, it was awesome.”
Barcia has been the hottest rider in the series with results of fourth or better in his last six race and podium finishes in the last three that landed him atop the NBC Power Rankings last week. The only missing was a win.
Nothing beats that winning feeling 🙌@JustinBarcia #SupercrossLIVE #SuperMotocross pic.twitter.com/PXuzScowtE
— Supercross LIVE! (@SupercrossLIVE) April 23, 2023
Barcia’s torrid pace allowed him to lap all but four riders.
Tomac had a scare at the start of the evening. He crashed hard in the first qualification session and limped off course. What appeared to be a significant enough incident to slow his effort for the entire night was only a charley horse, but questions persisted when he finished fourth in his heat with Sexton winning that race. Webb finished second in Heat 1. As the field prepared to lineup for the main, there was the potential for Tomac to lose some of his ground in the points.
And then the rains came.
“[The rain] is the great equalizer as everyone says,” Tomac told Daniel Blair. “You just have to have the flow here. This is a real mud race. One of the gnarliest we’ve had in a long time. It was fun. … Just happy to get up here on the podium. You never know what’s going to happen in these conditions.”
RESULTS: How they finished in the 450 Overall in New Jersey
As Tomac was riding through the field, he pressured Roczen, who was riding at a disadvantage. Early in the race, he cased the finish line jump and when he landed hard, the sweat from his face flooded his eyes. Roczen had no option except to lose his goggles so he could clear his eyes. At that moment, Dean Wilson crashed in front of him and sprayed mud in his face. Roczen had 20 seconds on the next rider and scored his second consecutive podium and fourth of the season.
Sexton was the last rider on the lead lap in fourth. His strong start put him ahead of both main rivals in the points standings until his run-in with Barcia dropped him behind them. Sexton got around Webb, but Tomac continued moving forward and now has a 16-point lead over Sexton.
Eli Tomac had a hard crash in qualifying.
Tomac is the points leader. Watch on @peacock. #SupercrossLive pic.twitter.com/S4ptyqvrpf
— Motorsports on NBC (@MotorsportsNBC) April 22, 2023
Webb rounded out the top five and lost five points to Tomac. He trails by 11 now with three races remaining, which means he no longer controls his fate. If Webb wins out and Tomac finishes second each round, Webb can gain only nine points.
Qualification was tough on several riders in addition to Tomac.
Aaron Plessinger (seventh in the points standings entering Round 14) and Adam Cianciarulo (eighth) crashed and failed to start their heats. There is a little less pressure than there might have been with Christian Craig entering the race ninth after he suffered a hard crash in Glendale two weeks ago.
Cianciarulo’s crash was into the back of Barcia, which might have kept that rider from contending.
The 250 riders were the first to hit the sodden track in New Jersey. With deep puddles everywhere on the course, this race took on a wildly different personality than the heats. But if anyone was prepared for the rainy conditions, it was the British rider Max Anstie, who jumped out to an early lead. Getting up front early is always important, but in situations like this Anstie was able to get ahead of the muddy rooster tails.
Trailing proved to be a critical difference for Jett Lawrence. He tracked Anstie down in the closing laps but had vision issues that cost him a couple of seconds on the final lap and kept Jett from putting consistent pressure on the leader. Jett was able to catch Anstie in the whoops on that final lap, but Anstie got a much better charge out of the corner and stretched his lead into the final turn.
“All I have to say is that was incredible,” Anstie told NBC Sports’ Daniel Blair. “That was insane. I remember watching Anaheim 1 back in like 2000 when Ricky Carmichael went backwards on the track because it was so wet. My whole time I’ve been in America I’ve been like, ‘I want to do a mud race’ and we got it done.”
The final turn was not kind to Jett. RJ Hampshire was riding third at the time and saw a perfect opportunity to catch Jett. He blew into the corner much too fast. He laid his bike down before even attempting to rotate and slid into Jett, sending both to the ground. Fortunately for Jett, they had a large enough lead over the field that he managed to get his bike upright and get over the finish line second.
Click here for 250 overall results
“I was so close,” Jett said of his last lap effort. “That second to last turn, I cut down to see if I could get close to him and close him out, but I ended up spinning a lot more. And then we had, I think it was RJ because he’s the one who’s kind of close to me in the points, he came full in. Watching it now, he crashed before he even hit me. I decided to ride over him, saying ‘I got to go in this direction’.”
Hampshire was buried in the mud and credited with 13th-place as the first rider to finish one lap off the pace.
Just a kid playing in the mud 😄#SupercrossLIVE #SuperMotocross pic.twitter.com/aWWzlk9lQz
— Supercross LIVE! (@SupercrossLIVE) April 23, 2023
The rainy conditions spoiled what was billed as a brother versus brother showdown. With both Jett and Hunter Lawrence getting modest starts, they were not able to race head-to-head, although they ultimately finished within one position.
As Jett remounted his bike, he cut off Maximus Vohland, allowing Hunter Lawrence to slip into third.
Hunter entered the race with a chance to clinch the championship, but came up just a couple of points shy.
“No one wants to celebrate a championship after a mudder anyways so we’ll push it to next weekend,” Hunter said. “Happy to just be coming out of here alive and not pushing the bike off the track.”
With the muddy conditions of the race, the heats took on added significance.
Heat 1 featured the 250 West riders. After signing a two-year contract extension with the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Racing team earlier this week, RJ Hampshire grabbed the holeshot and led flag-to-flag. He didn’t have the fastest bike on the track, however.
Jett got a bad start coming out of the gate and he was in the middle of a lot of traffic. Choosing to be conservative, he finished Lap 1 in seventh and then quickly started to make his way through the field but once he got to third-place Pierce Brown, it was difficult to get around. Lawrence showed patience in the middle stages of the race, then surged past Brown and Vohland. Lawrence closed to within a half second of Hampshire but had to settle for the runner-up spot.
Hunter Lawrence led the 250 East riders into the Shootout and got a better start to Heat 2 than his brother. Completing Lap 1 in third, he didn’t have as far to go to get to the front.
Hunter’s biggest obstacle was Jo Shimoda, who missed the first part of the season to injury. Shimoda’s first race of 2023 was at Atlanta and he barely missed the podium there with a fourth-place finish.
Shimoda and the rest of the field cannot be fond of the focus on the Lawrence brothers. He was determined to be the best in class and the Japanese rider raced determinedly in the final laps. He won the East heat, which is the first heat race win of his career, and held Hunter to second. That matched the finishing position of his brother in the West heat.
2023 Race Recaps
Atlanta: Chase Sexton is back in the championship picture
Glendale: Eli Tomac wins 51st, breaks tie with James Stewart
Seattle: Tomac wins and ties Cooper Webb for first
Detroit: Chase Sexton inherits win after Aaron Plessinger falls
Indianapolis: Ken Roczen gets first win in more than a year
Daytona: Tomac extends Daytona record with seventh win
Arlington: Webb wins for second time, closes to two of Tomac
Oakland: Tomac ties Ricky Carmichael with 48 wins
Tampa: Webb gets first 2023 win
Houston: Tomac bounces back from A2 crash to win third race of 2023
Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Tomac wins opener for the first time
More SuperMotocross coverage
New Jersey Supercross by the numbers
Justin Barcia on becoming an avatar
Nate Thrasher injured at Atlanta
Return uncertain for Christian Craig, Stilez Robertson
Power Rankings after Atlanta
Results and points after Atlanta
Chase Sexton wins Atlanta, back in the hunt
Enzo Lopes, Phil Nicoletti are Club MX’s dynamic duo