How a Motorcyclist Won an Anaheim Race That Never Happened

How a Motorcyclist Won an Anaheim Race That Never Happened
Portrait of Justin Barcia prior to practice for the 2015 Monster Energy AMA Supercross at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., on Jan. 3, 2015. (Harry How/Getty Images)
Chris Karr

A video that circulated on social media in early January left fans of Supercross—a style of motorcycle racing that involves sharp turns and high jumps—both excited and perplexed.

In the video, acclaimed rider Justin “Bam Bam” Barcia claimed his third consecutive Monster Energy American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) Supercross Series victory at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California—the circuit’s premier, season-opening event. There was only one problem, and some fans pointed it out immediately: the Anaheim race had been canceled.
The video was actually a publicity stunt concocted by Barcia’s sponsors, and has already logged over 100,000 views on Instagram.

“Three-peat, it was sick! It felt like nobody else was out there,” Barcia says in the video, which shows him holding up his victory trophy and spraying champagne everywhere.

When the event was canceled, Barcia’s sponsors turned disappointment into inspiration. Though the team may not have actually finished first in a race that never took place, they won something else: thousands of new fans.

Supercross rider Justin Barcia #51 races during a qualifying practice run at the Monster Energy Cup at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nev., on Oct. 18, 2014. (David Becker/Getty Images)
Supercross rider Justin Barcia #51 races during a qualifying practice run at the Monster Energy Cup at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nev., on Oct. 18, 2014. (David Becker/Getty Images)

Inspired by Fake News

“It’s hard to race in California right now,” Troy Lee told The Epoch Times.
Lee is the founder of the action sports apparel company Troy Lee Designs, which is headquartered in Corona. He is one of Barcia’s sponsors, along with Red Bull and motorcycle manufacturer Gas Gas.

He remembers the moment the idea was born.

“I hired Justin Barcia because he won the last [two] opening rounds at Anaheim,” Lee said. “And I’m like, ‘Cool, we’re gonna win Anaheim this year. We got the best rider in the world.’”

But over breakfast one morning, Jeremy Malott, a marketing manager for Red Bull, told Lee that the Anaheim race had been canceled for 2021.

“I kind of just went off the handle for a minute—screaming, yelling,” Lee said, recalling a few choice words he used at the time.

The extreme disappointment gave Malott a peculiar idea.

“Why not film it and say we won it anyway?” Malott suggested. “There’s so much fake news in this world right now, no one knows what to believe. You got to look at like three different TV stations before you figure out what’s going on.”

After Malott offered a budget for the stunt, the two learned a mutual acquaintance had a contact at Angel Stadium who could get them inside to film some crucial shots.

“I’m like, ‘Dude, this was meant to be. Let’s do it,’” Lee said.

Barcia on Board

Malott sent Barcia a text, asking the 28-year-old rider from New York if he still had his Anaheim trophy from 2020. Barcia said he’d ask his parents in Florida to send it to him.

Two days later, Tyler Keefe, the team manager at Troy Lee Designs, told Barcia they had rented Angel Stadium—and needed the rider to hit a freestyle jump for the video to mimic part of the race.

“I’ve never hit a freestyle jump in my life,” Barcia told Racer X Magazine. “I said, ‘There’s no chance.’ Then they explained everything to me and I was like, ‘Oh, I guess I kind of got to.’”

On Dec. 17, a small crew set up a metal ramp in Anaheim Stadium. Barcia was required to land on the ramp for the video; he said he was more nervous for the freestyle jump than for the Supercross track.

During the shoot, Barcia pulled off the difficult jump successfully—although he was so “tensed up” that he “got the worst whiplash ever.”

“It was quite phenomenal,” he said. “When you watch it, it looks like the real thing. If you saw it and didn’t know any better, you would say we went and raced. ... It a hundred percent looks like I won Anaheim 1 three times in a row.”

Winning the Internet

Reactions from fans online ranged from confusion to hearty applause, especially from those who were savvy enough to get the joke.

“Fake news, now fake Supercross?” asked one user.

“This is not a great way to start your 2021 season off,” another user quipped. “Tell the marketing team to quit.”

Other users said the publicity stunt showed how Barcia is “winning the internet” and called the video “a new, unique way to promote Supercross.”

Lee said he knows a couple of people who thought they were late to the show, so they rushed to Angel Stadium in an attempt to buy some scalped tickets. They were shocked when they arrived to find it empty.

Tom Moen, a marketing manager involved with the project, said he wanted Lee and Malott to have fun with racing and branding.

“Some people take things too seriously, but it was about having fun,” Moen told The Epoch Times via email. “[The] response was good overall.”

In a twist, Barcia did win first place on Jan. 16 at the actual season-opening Supercross race in Houston.

“That was pretty amazing,” Lee said. “It’s like a dream come true for me, man. It couldn’t have been any more scripted.”

Chris Karr is a California-based reporter for the The Epoch Times. He has been writing for 20 years. His articles, features, reviews, interviews, and essays have been published in a variety of online periodicals.
Related Topics