Craig Murto

Craig Murto

Justin “Bam Bam” Barcia grabbed the win in a soggy Monster Energy Supercross season opener at Anaheim, California.

The Yamaha factory rider scored the third Supercross win of his career as other riders struggled on an increasingly difficult and sloppy circuit as rain fell over Angel Stadium. And although the 26 year-old won the race and leads the points as the tour heads to Phoenix for round two, he wasn’t the biggest story.

Privateer Husqvarna rider Dean Wilson got a great jump at the start of the race and led the first 15 minutes of the timed 20-minute feature. He struggled with his goggles toward the end of the race, eventually tossing them into the mud as he slid back from the top of the running order. Earlier in the week he sold T-shirts and other apparel just to make enough money to get to the race.

Ken Roczen rode his Honda to second, and should be a threat for the title if he remains healthy. Eli Tomac rode his Kawasaki to third, and Wilson finished fourth. Cooper Webb brought his KTM home in fifth.

It had been six years since Barcia last won a Supercross race. Now he heads to Phoenix with the red number plate, indicating he leads the points.

Originally from Monroe, New York, Barcia currently lives in Florida. Like a lot of racers, he first got on a motor bike at the age of 5. As an amateur he won a lot of titles before first training as a pro in 2009 at the age of 17.

The nickname “Bam Bam” came from his aggressive riding style, something he’s definitely tempered in recent years. And as his riding gained more finesse, his results have improved.

In the first year of a multi-year deal with Yamaha, this isn’t Barcia’s first go-round with a factory team. At one point he rode for Joe Gibbs Racing, but did not have the results necessary to keep that ride.

And he’s been plagued by injury. In 2014 it was his ankle, then in 2015 he broke his pelvis. Then he had to race as a privateer. Now, as a Yamaha factory rider, it appears he’s on top of his game.

Pre-season conversation included Roczen, Tomac, Marvin Musquin and defending champion Jason Anderson as title contenders. Time will tell if this strong start puts Justin Barcia in the mix.

One of the worst kept secrets in racing has finally been made official, as Daniel Suarez has been named the driver of the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Ford on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup circuit.

The 27-year-old Mexican driver could be looking at a make it or break it season in 2019. He certainly has a lot to prove, especially after disclosing that he never felt at home at Joe Gibbs Racing.

It’ll also be the first time Suarez competes in a Ford. Most of his stock car career in Mexico and in the United States has been in a Toyota.

I predict Suarez will be the next Joey Logano, meaning he’s going to be another driver that Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota regret letting go. In recent years the personnel shifts at the Gibbs camp have been interesting, to say the least, from the sudden departure of Carl Edwards to the ousting of former champion Matt Kenseth. I don’t see how any driver on the Gibbs roster can feel secure.

Meanwhile, Suarez has another shot at making something happen.

In 2002 he began racing Go-Karts and won the Mexican national championship in 2007. He moved up the ladder and won 10 races in NASCAR’s Peak Mexico Series before coming to the United States to compete in the K&N Pro Series, all while learning a new language and culture.

In 2016 he became the first Mexican-born racer to win a NASCAR race in the U.S. when he scored a victory in the Xfinity Series at Michigan. That same year he won the Xfinity Series championship, before being thrust into the Cup Series with the sudden retirement of Edwards.

Haas Automation and Arris will share the sponsorship on the 41 car. Crew Chief Billy Scott will again be atop the pit box.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.