GEICO Honda rider Justin Barcia rocketed off to a great start to his 2011 campaign by winning the first event of the AMA Supercross Lites East series Feb. 12 in Houston. The red-hot racer from Ochlocknee, Ga., will now look to build on his early success at his hometown event when the Monster Energy tour hits the Georgia Dome this Saturday for the eighth stop of the year.

“I can’t wait to ride again,” Barcia said. “I didn’t want to take last week off after winning in Houston. I wanted to ride again the next day.

“You have the whole off-season to think about that first race. I knew I needed to be strong and I wanted to get off to a good start. I know a lot of people are pointing to me as one of the favorites in the (Lites) East so I wanted to show everyone I was worthy of all the attention. Now that race is done and it’s time for Atlanta.”

Barcia will be joined in the Peach State by teammates Kevin Windham, who rides a 450cc Honda in Supercross, and Blake Wharton, who competes alongside Barcia on a 250cc Honda in Supercross Lites East. Following back-to-back DNFs, one due to an accident and the other to mechanical issues, Windham has slipped to 11th in the points. After one race in Lites East, Wharton is sixth overall.

Echoing a common theme in the sport, the 18-year-old Barcia said being quick out of the gate was key in Houston and should be a huge factor once again in Georgia.

“The start is everything,” Barcia said. “I was able to sneak inside on the first turn in Houston and then I had clear track in front of me. I had a good, fast bike and was able to hold off a few challenges. I felt great and rode pretty much like I wanted to. I was happy. I just want to do even better here at home with all my friends and family around.”

Windham, one the most popular riders in the sport and at 32 the oldest full-time competitor in the elite Supercross class, says staying in the saddle is his top goal.

“I’m tired of hitting the ground every weekend,” Windham said. “I’ve taken some really hard hits the last two weeks and I feel pretty lucky I haven’t broken anything.

“My longevity in the sport is a direct result of avoiding these kinds of problems. This is not typical of the way I ride at all. It’s been a very trying time for me. I can’t even practice like normal during the week because I need to rest my body. Trying to push the limits to stay up front this year puts you on the edge.”

Prior to his spill in Houston, Windham was running away with the Main Event, proving he still has what it takes to win and dominate the Supercross class. “I want to get that feeling back as soon as possible,” he said. “I just have to tough it out and push through this.”

For his part, Wharton had a strong opening race and stayed in Barcia’s shadow for a good portion of the Houston race before finishing sixth. Like Barcia, Wharton should contend for the Atlanta trophy and the Lites East points championship.

The Atlanta race will air live on SPEED beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, with a repeat showing at 10:30 p.m.


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