Justin Barcia wins muddy New Jersey Supercross race; Max Anstie scores first 250 win


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.

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.

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.

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

‘It’s gnarly, bro’: IndyCar drivers face new challenge on streets of downtown Detroit

IndyCar Detroit downtown
James Black/Penske Entertainment
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DETROIT – It was the 1968 motion picture, “Winning” when actress Joanne Woodward asked Paul Newman if he were going to Milwaukee in the days after he won the Indianapolis 500 as driver Frank Capua.

“Everybody goes to Milwaukee after Indianapolis,” Newman responded near the end of the film.

Milwaukee was a mainstay as the race on the weekend after the Indianapolis 500 for decades, but since 2012, the first race after the Indy 500 has been Detroit at Belle Isle Park.

This year, there is a twist.

Instead of IndyCar racing at the Belle Isle State Park, it’s the streets of downtown Detroit on a race course that is quite reminiscent of the old Formula One and CART race course that was used from 1982 to 1991.

Formula One competed in the United States Grand Prix from 1982 to 1988. Beginning in 1989, CART took over the famed street race through 1991. In 1992, the race was moved to Belle Isle, where it was held through last year (with a 2009-2011 hiatus after the Great Recession).

The Penske Corp. is the promoter of this race, and they did a lot of good at Belle Isle, including saving the Scott Fountain, modernizing the Belle Isle Casino, and basically cleaning up the park for Detroit citizens to enjoy.

The race, however, had outgrown the venue. Roger Penske had big ideas to create an even bigger event and moving it back to downtown Detroit benefitted race sponsor Chevrolet. The footprint of the race course goes around General Motors world headquarters in the GM Renaissance Center – the centerpiece building of Detroit’s modernized skyline.

INDYCAR IN DETROITEntry list, schedule, TV info for this weekend

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Motor City is about to roar with the sound of Chevrolet and Honda engines this weekend as the NTT IndyCar Series is the featured race on the nine-turn, 1.7-mile temporary street course.

It’s perhaps the most unique street course on the IndyCar schedule because of the bumps on the streets and the only split pit lane in the series.

The pit lanes has stalls on opposing sides and four lanes across an unusual rectangular pit area (but still only one entry and exit).

Combine that, with the bumps and the NTT IndyCar Series drivers look forward to a wild ride in Motor City.

“It’s gnarly, bro,” Arrow McLaren driver Pato O’Ward said before posting the fastest time in Friday’s first practice. “It will be very interesting because the closest thing that I can see it being like is Toronto-like surfaces with more of a Long Beach-esque layout.

“There’s less room for error than Long Beach. There’s no curbs. You’ve got walls. I think very unique to this place.

PRACTICE RESULTS: Speeds from the first session

“Then it’s a bit of Nashville built into it. The braking zones look really very bumpy. Certain pavements don’t look bumpy but with how the asphalt and concrete is laid out, there’s undulation with it. So, you can imagine the cars are going to be smashing on every single undulation because we’re going to go through those sections fairly fast, and obviously the cars are pretty low. I don’t know.

“It looks fun, man. It’s definitely going to be a challenge. It’s going to be learning through every single session, not just for drivers and teams but for race control. For everyone.

“Everybody has to go into it knowing not every call is going to be smooth. It’s a tall task to ask from such a demanding racetrack. I think it’ll ask a lot from the race cars as well.”

The track is bumpy, but O’Ward indicated he would be surprised if it is bumper than Nashville. By comparison to Toronto, driving at slow speed is quite smooth, but fast speed is very bumpy.

“This is a mix of Nashville high-speed characteristics and Toronto slow speed in significant areas,” O’Ward said. “I think it’ll be a mix of a lot of street courses we go to, and the layout looks like more space than Nashville, which is really tight from Turn 4 to 8. It looks to be a bit more spacious as a whole track, but it’ll get tight in multiple areas.”

The concept of having four-wide pit stops is something that excites the 24-year-old driver from Monterey, Mexico.

“I think it’s innovation, bro,” O’Ward said. “If it works out, we’ll look like heroes.

“If it doesn’t, we tried.”

Because of the four lanes on pit road, there is a blend line the drivers will have to adhere to. Otherwise, it would be chaos leaving the pits compared to a normal two-lane pit road.

“If it wasn’t there, there’d be guys fighting for real estate where there’s one car that fits, and there’d be cars crashing in pit lane,” O’Ward said. “I get why they did that. It’s the same for everybody. I don’t think there’s a lot of room to play with. That’s the problem.

“But it looks freaking gnarly for sure. Oh my God, that’s going to be crazy.”

Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing believes the best passing areas will be on the long straights because of the bumps in the turns. That is where much of the action will be in terms of gaining or losing a position in the race.

“It will also be really easy to defend in my opinion,” Palou said. “Being a 180-degree corner, you just have to go on the inside and that’s it. There’s going to be passes for sure but its’ going to be risky.

“Turn 1, if someone dives in, you end up in the wall. They’re not going to be able to pass you on the exit, so maybe with the straight being so long you can actually pass before you end up on the braking zone.”

Palou’s teammate, Marcus Ericsson, was at the Honda simulator in Brownsburg, Indiana, before coming to Detroit and said he was shocked by the amount of bumps on the simulator.

Race promoter Bud Denker, the President of Penske Corporation, and Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix President Michael Montri, sent the track crews onto the streets with grinders to smooth out the bumps on the race course several weeks ago.

“They’ve done a decent amount of work, and even doing the track walk, it looked a lot better than what we expected,” Ericsson said. “I don’t think it’ll be too bad. I hope not. That’ll be something to take into account.

“I think the track layout doesn’t look like the most fun. Maybe not the most challenging. But I love these types of tracks with rules everywhere. It’s a big challenge, and you have to build up to it. That’s the types of tracks that I love to drive. It’s a very much Marcus Ericsson type of track. I like it.”

Scott Dixon, who was second fastest in the opening session, has competed on many new street circuits throughout his legendary racing career. The six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion for Chip Ganassi Racing likes the track layout, even with the unusual pit lane.

I don’t think that’s going to be something that catches on where every track becomes a double barrel,” Dixon said. “It’s new and interesting.

“As far as pit exit, I think Toronto exit is worse with how the wall sticks out. I think in both lanes, you’ve got enough lead time to make it and most guys will make a good decision.”

It wasn’t until shortly after 3 p.m. ET on Friday that the IndyCar drivers began the extended 90-minute practice session to try out the race course for the first time in real life.

As expected, there were several sketchy moments, but no major crashes during the first session despite 19 local yellow flags for incidents and six red flags.

Rookie Agustin Canapino had to cut his practice short after some damage to his No. 78 Dallara-Chevrolet, but he was among many who emerged mostly unscathed from scrapes with the wall.

“It was honestly less carnage than I expected,” said Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood, who was third fastest in the practice after coming off his first career IndyCar victory in the most recent street race at Long Beach in April. “I think a lot of people went off in the runoffs, but no one actually hit the wall (too hard), which actually surprised me. Hats off to them for keeping it clean, including myself.

“It was quite a bit less grip than I think everyone expected. Maybe a little bit more bumpy down into Turn 3 than everyone expected. But overall they did a good job between the two manufacturers. I’m sure everyone had pretty much the same we were able to base everything off of. We felt pretty close to maximum right away.”

Most of the preparation for this event was done either on the General Motors Simulator in Huntersville, North Carolina, or the Honda Performance Development simulator in Brownsburg, Indiana.

“Now, we have simulators that can scan the track, so we have done plenty of laps already,” Power told NBC Sports. “They have ground and resurfaced a lot of the track, so it should be smoother.

“But nothing beats real-world experience. It’s going to be a learning experience in the first session.”

As a Team Penske driver, Power and his teammates were consulted about the progress and layout of the Detroit street course. They were shown what was possible with the streets that were available.

“We gave some input back after we were on the similar what might be ground and things like that,” Power said.

Racing on the streets of Belle Isle was a fairly pleasant experience for the fans and corporate sponsor that compete in the race.

But the vibe at the new location gives this a “big event” feel.

“The atmosphere is a lot better,” Power said. “The location, the accessibility for the fans, the crowd that will be here, it’s much easier. I think it will be a much better event.

“It feels like a Long Beach, only in a much bigger city. That is what street course racing is all about.”

Because the track promoter is also the team owner, Power and teammates Scott McLaughlin and Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden will have a very busy weekend on the track, and with sponsor and personal appearances.

“That’s what pays the bills and allows us to do this,” Power said.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500