It’s not a million bucks but Justin Barcia was more than glad to accept the $100,000 prize for winning the second-annual Monster Energy Cup at Las Vegas’ Sam Boyd Stadium. The American Honda Muscle Milk rider won the second moto and second in the other two for the overall victory. The win was especially impressive considering the event marked Barcia’s debut in the 450 class.
The 2012 Monster Energy Cup featured the top riders from AMA Supercross and Motocross in a three-moto competition for $250,000 in payouts and an additional $1 million prize for a rider winning all three races.
This year’s competition offered new challenges including two separate starting gates, a banked corner and the Joker Lane. The split gates had two packs of 11 riders converging before a 300-foot starting straight leading to the holeshot corner. The new Talladega Turn offers a wide banking corner expected to be a good passing zone.
The third feature, and the most controversial, is the Joker Lane, a sandy detour that all racers will have to go through at least once after the opening lap. The surface of the Joker Lane consists of deep sand, forcing riders to go through slowly. When to go through the Joker Lane turned out to be the biggest strategic factors for the 2012 Monster Energy Cup.
Monster Energy Kawasaki‘s Ryan Villopoto won all three motos last year to claim the $1 million prize and appeared poised to repeat as champion by taking the first moto. Villopoto had a strong start in the first moto, going into the first corner behind JGRMX Yamaha‘s Josh Grant and Red Bull KTM‘s Ryan Dungey. Villopoto jumped into the lead on Lap 2 and held on to the end, finishing 7.971 seconds ahead of Barcia and 14.694 seconds ahead of Dungey.
Villopoto maintained his momentum in the second moto by taking the holeshot. That momentum soon ran out however with Villopoto crashing while leading. He managed to rejoin the race but lost too much ground and settled for a 12th-place finish. MotoConcepts Suzuki rider Mike Alessi moved into the lead after Villopoto’s crash but soon lost it to Barcia.
The 450-class rookie decided to go through the Joker Lane on Lap 7, giving up the lead to Alessi. Barcia was able to make up for the detour however, regaining the lead on Lap 8 and holding on for the win. Dungey finished second, passing Alessi who went through the Joker Lane late on Lap 9.
The win gave Barcia a two-point advantage over Dungey going into the final moto. The two riders were among the first into the first corner behind holeshot ace Alessi. His lead didn’t last long however before Alessi crashed on the opening lap. Dungey took over the lead but gave it up with an early detour through the Joker Lane, giving Barcia the advantage. Barcia held onto the lead until Lap 9 when it was his turn to go through the Joker Lane, giving up the lead and the win to GEICO Honda rider Eli Tomac.
Barcia still managed to finish second ahead of Dungey to clinch the overall victory. As nice as the $100,000 prize was, perhaps the biggest result of the Monster Energy Cup was Barcia establishing himself as a top competitor for the 2013 AMA Supercross and Motocross seasons. Barcia won the 2012 AMA Supercross Lites East title and finished second in the 2012 AMA 250 Motocross championship, but the Monster Energy Cup win shows the Greeneville, Fla., native is ready for the premier class.
[Source: Feld Motor Sports]