It was a remarkable night for Team Honda Muscle Milk’s newest rider Justin Barcia who not only made his debut aboard the factory Honda CRF450R but proved himself a contender by winning the second annual Monster Energy Cup in Las Vegas, NV. Race fans filled Sam Boyd Stadium to see the fastest riders in the world battle it out for the infamous million dollar pay out; although nobody was able to sweep all three motos, fans did see Barcia go 2-1-2 for the overall win. Muscle Milk-sponsored GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac finished third overall with 4-4-1 scores.
Though newly signed to Team Honda Muscle Milk, Barcia is anything but new to the Honda family. He spent the bulk of a very successful amateur career as a mini racer on Hondas before transitioning to the CRF250R and then turning professional with a spot on the GEICO Honda team, where he won two Supercross Lites championships. Now, 20, Barcia had already established himself as one of the fastest Supercross riders on the planet before winning this year’s Monster Energy Cup.
The track in Vegas featured a Joker Lane—a special obstacle section that slowed a rider’s lap times. Each rider was required to run through the Joker Lane one time in each main event, but it was up to the rider to determine the most strategic time during the race to tackle the Joker Lane. After qualifying fourth quickest in practice, Barcia launched off the line in moto one to a fourth place start, but quickly began his charge to the front. After making his way into the second-place position, late in the race Barcia followed the leader on a mandatory run through the slower Joker Lane section of the track. He was able to maintain his position while TwoTwo Motorsports’ Chad Reed opted out of the lane that lap, allowing him to close the gap on the leaders. GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac, who had already taken the lane earlier in the race, was able to capitalize and take over fourth place when Reed decided to go through the lane. Barcia made a noteworthy charge for the lead but was forced to settle for second.
In the second main event, Barcia grabbed another top-five start and began working his way up to the front. He moved into second and on lap five made several attempts to take over the lead before finally winning over the top spot. On lap seven, Barcia decided to take the Joker Lane ultimately moving him back into second. He continued to put pressure on the leader until the last lap when the leader headed through the lane, allowing Barcia to capitalize and regain the lead. Reed strategically took the Joker Lane early in the moto in hopes of battling with the leaders, but on lap seven he went down, forcing him to finish the race in sixth. Barcia triumphed, taking the moto win while Tomac, who had grabbed a less-than-desirable start, put together a noteworthy charge to finish fourth.
In moto three, Barcia and Tomac jumped off the line to a good start and were side-by-side, battling their way to the front. Tomac decided to use the Joker Lane early in the race, allowing the leaders to begin to pull away. Barcia who had yet to take the lane, moved into the lead followed by Tomac in tow. When Barcia finally decided to make his way through the Joker Lane late in the race, Tomac was right there ready to capitalize. Tomac came out on top to take the moto win, followed by Barcia in second.
“All the guys in this class are really fast, and I am happy to turn in the performance I did tonight,” said Barcia. “I tried to hold off going into the Joker Lane until late in the race, and that gave Eli the chance to move into the lead.”
“The split start and the Joker Lane were different, for sure,” Tomac said. “It was cool though and I think I played it well by taking it earlier in the race. I’m already excited to come back next year and do this race again.”
Barcia impressed with his overall win and although the $1 million went unclaimed, he did go home with $100,000. Despite a slow start to the night, Tomac rounded out the podium in third overall.
“This definitely exceeded my expectations,” Barcia said. “The track was gnarly and we needed lots of throttle control. I’ll have a lot of momentum after this race; I have been working hard and will continue to work hard. I had a blast and I’m looking forward to Anaheim.”