WORTHAM, Texas – The most brutal stop on the Lucas Oil AMA Motocross Championship tour lived up to its billing Saturday as the top riders in the world fought to survive 95 degree temperatures that scorched Freestone County Raceway.
GEICO Honda rider Justin Barcia, just a few weeks removed from his Supercross Lites championship, led his team with a runner-up result in the second moto of the day to fashion a fourth-place overall finish. Stablemate Eli Tomac also showed well, going 5-6 on the day, while new team member Lance Vincent and veteran 450cc rider Kevin Windham did their best on the severely rutted and sun-baked course.
Barcia was razor-sharp out of the starting gate in both motos, earning a pair of holeshot awards. But racing with 39 other riders proved costly in the first turn of Moto 1 as a rider clipped him from behind and knocked him off his bike, moving him all the way back to 39th place. He had to ride hard the rest of the way but somehow made it back to ninth.
Wishing to separate from the pack immediately in Moto 2, Barcia had an even better start and rode away from the field until getting passed with just two minutes left in his ride, which dropped him to second place. The points he earned on the day lifted him to sixth in the season standings.
“I just got tired at the end there,” Barcia said. “This is the hardest race of the year and you really just want to survive it. The track is so rutted and hard. The whole day I was just squeezing my bike as hard as I could to hang on.
“The first moto took a lot of effort because I got knocked way back at the start so I was charging the whole race. That caught up to me later in Moto 2. Considering this was easily the toughest ride I’ve had all year, to end the day on the podium feels good.
“I’m really happy with my bike and me and my dad have been working on my starts every day at home, just doing dozens and dozens of them. All that hard work paid off.”
Tomac was solid in both races, riding to fifth and sixth in his two motos for an overall finish of fifth place, which lifts him to third in the championship points.
“Just another okay round for me,” Tomac said. “A fifth and a sixth, fifth overall, not exactly what I was looking for but it wasn’t bad either. I need to get up on the podium next round. That’s the main thing for me right now.
“I’ve trained a lot for the heat, especially thinking back to what happened last year here when it just crushed me, and although it’s still unbelievably hot, I feel like I handled it much better this time around. There’s still another level I need to reach but I’ll get there.”
New team rider Vincent, sporting No. 245 on his GEICO Honda, took 16th in Moto 1 before improving to 10th in Moto 2 to finish 13th in the overall Lites standings. Although this was his first race of the outdoors series, he’s already in 19th place in the championship rankings.
“The track was so gnarly and the heat was just ridiculous but I managed to make it through the day and I’m not laid out right now,” Vincent said. “The team and the support they gave me is unreal. I couldn’t ask for more. They motivate me so much.
“First moto I got a good start, maybe fifth or so, and then settled into about eighth place and was there for a good 20 minutes until I clipped a hay bale and went over the handlebars. By the time I got up I as 16th and just rode it out. My start wasn’t as good in the second moto and I tipped over early so I was playing catch-up the rest of the way. I still ended up in the top 10, which is what I wanted, so it was a solid day.”
Windham was frustrated by his visit to Texas, despite two fairly decent rides. He started strong in Moto 1 but his Factory Honda 450cc machine encountered some mechanical issues late in the race and he was unable to finish. He was credited with a 28th-place result. In Moto 2, he outlasted several riders that wilted in the heat and finished ninth. His 28-9 finish earned him the 17th slot in the overall standings.
“We had a little mishap in the first moto and I wasn’t able to finish,” said Windham, who slipped a few spots to eighth in the 2011 rankings. “The bad part was it happened pretty late in the race so I had spent a lot of energy. We got into the second moto and I just hit the wall. Somewhere around the 15-minute mark this Texas heat just got me.
“It’s frustrating and I’m a little embarrassed. I was late getting ready for the outdoors. It was an unexpected move and I entered Round 1 after just a few days of preparation. It was crazy to think I could catch-up right away, especially coming to heat like this in week two. We’ve got an off weekend now so hopefully we can use the extra time to get better and have a good showing in Mt. Morris.”
The AMA Lucas Oil Motocross Series next races on June 11 in Mt. Morris, Pa.