Motorcross racer Justin Barcia has spent the past eight months traveling the United States competing on the pro tours against some of the nation?s best riders.
Barcia?s next race will be a little closer to home, and against some of the world?s best.
Barcia, who lives in Davidson and races for Huntersville-based Joe Gibbs Racing MX (JGRMX), is among the riders competing in this weekend?s MXGP of the Americas at the Dirt Track at Charlotte.
Saturday?s races are the first of two events in the United States that are part of the FIM Motorcross World Championship. The second event is being held Sept. 11 in San Bernardino, Calif.
Between the two divisions ? the MXGP class, with engines up to 450cc, and the MX2 class, with engines up to 250cc ? 70 riders from 19 different countries will race on a specially constructed track in the infield of the Dirt Track.
?There?s going to be a lot of great competition,? said Barcia, 24, who will race in the MXGP class. ?It is a new track and a new facility that no one has raced on yet. I?m excited to race against those guys. I?ve had a long outdoor season, and I?m ready to go.?
While not as well-known as Joe Gibbs Racing?s championship-winning NASCAR teams, JGRMX ? owned by Gibbs? younger son, Coy ? operates out of the same building as JGR?s Xfinity teams. It also has a 70-acre test facility in Catawba County.
?We?re going into it with a good shot,? said Jeremy Albrecht, who has been JGRMX?s team manager since it was formed in 2008.
?It?s going to be competitive, for sure. We love that it?s in our backyard, and Justin is definitely going to try to win.?
This will be the first MXGP event both Barcia and JGRMX have raced in this season, although the duo do have international experience. They were part of the three-rider U.S. team that finished second in the FIM Motorcross of Nations last September in France, and he?s also won SuperCross races in France and Italy.
The 2016 season didn?t start as well for Barcia, who finished 21st in the AMA SuperCross Championship points after missing several events with an injury.
But Barcia bounced back during the AMA Pro Motorcross Championship season, finishing fourth in points and posting back-to-back runner-up finishes in the final two events.
That has Barcia feeling confident that he can more than hold his own against the foreign competition.
?It?s the closest thing I have to a home race,? Barcia said. ?(But) it?s not a championship fight or anything like that for me. I?ve finished my motorcross season; now the pressure?s off. I usually perform really well when I don?t have a lot of pressure.?
Three to watch
??Tim Gajser: The Slovakian rider, last year?s MX2 champion, has made a successful jump to the MXGP class. He?s won 17 races and even after having problems at the last event holds a 65-point lead in the standings.
??Tony Cairoli: The Italian rider is Gajser?s closest competition in the MXGP class. While he?s only won five times, including at the last event in The Netherlands last week, he?s finished second eight times.
??Jeffrey Herlings: The Dutch rider is well on his way to winning a third MX2 world title. He?s won 24 of 26 races, and even after missing three events, leads Sweden?s Jeremy Seewer by 76 points (644-568).
Practice and qualifying races for the MXGP of the Americas at the Dirt Track at CMS will be held Friday, with practice beginning at 3:45 p.m. and the qualifying races at 8:40 p.m. Saturday, opening ceremonies will begin at 4:30 p.m., with the first race for the MXGP and MX2 classes at 5:05 p.m. The second race is at 8 p.m. Gates open both days at 1 p.m.
Tickets for the weekend?s events are still available. A two-day paddock pass is $69, while Friday?s tickets are $30 and Saturday?s are $49. Visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com or call 1-800-455-FANS (3267) for more information.