From Absent to Front Runner: Jody Barry Talks About His Return to MotoAmerica Competition

After a three year absence from the MotoAmerica paddock, I wasn’t sure if I’d see Jody Barry take part in a pro road race again. 

The last time I’d seen Lake in the Hills, Ill., resident in a MotoAmerica paddock was the New Jersey Motorsports Park round in 2017, and it was hard to see a rider who’d really impressed me with his performance the previous year in the MotoAmerica KTM RC 390 Cup have bleak outlook on his pro racing career. 

Though his comeback season aboard the Righteous Racing Aprilia RS 660 this year has been marked by both victory and near-tragedy, just seeing a talented young rider like Barry find a way to restart his pro road racing career is refreshing — especially for fans who remember pro road racing’s darkest days about a decade ago.

What’s also impressive is how quickly Barry knocked the rust off his racing skill set. He was on the podium his first race of the season — while racing a newly-homologated for 2021 motorcycle — and won a race at the second round of the season. To date, Barry has amassed four podiums in 11 races this season — despite suffering severe injuries in a crash at the Road America round in June.

Barry made his pro road racing debut in 2015 — the series’ inaugural season under the MotoAmerica brand — in the then-new KTM RC 390 Cup. Barry scored a second-place finish in the class’ first-ever race and a third place in his second race.

I met Barry at Road America in 2016, my first year as a motojournalist. Barry came up just short of the victory in the second RC 390 Cup race of the weekend, finishing 0.049 seconds behind Ashton Yates. When Barry came into the media center for the post-race press conference, I noticed he didn’t have the lightweight physique of most of his competition.

After the press conference, I walked up to him and told him, “Dude, you look like you could play linebacker.”

He responded, “I do play linebacker.”

After watching him take a victory in the last RC 390 Cup race of that season, I figured Barry was on his way to stardom in MotoAmerica’s middleweight and literbike classes. However, Barry raced just one season in the Supersport Class before beginning his three-year hiatus from the MotoAmerica paddock. 

Jody Barry (No. 717) leads Jackson Blackmon (No. 18) during the Sunday Twins Cup race on May 23 at VIRginia International Raceway. Photo by Brian J. Nelson, courtesy of MotoAmerica.

I caught up with Barry after racing had wrapped up at this year’s MotoAmerica Superbikes at Pittsburgh round at Pittsburgh International Race Complex to chat about his absence from — and return to — pro road racing.

The Asphalt Life: Tell us about the last season you raced in MotoAmerica before this year.

Jody Barry: It was supposed to go a lot better than it went. I don’t really know what happened: we had a lot of issues with suspension and engines and myself. I had a couple preseason tests that did not go well, and my confidence went down the drain. I was pretty much a basketcase through that whole season. At the end of the season I was qualifying better, but, in my mind, couldn’t produce the race finishes I wanted. It’s a year I’d like to forget.

TAL: What was your mindset about pro road racing when the 2017 season ended?

JB: I honestly thought I was done racing. I didn’t have any more money or resources to keep going with it. The opportunities I had at the beginning of that season versus what I had at the end of the season were pretty much night and day. So, my confidence in myself was ruined, and I just figured I was done racing. I did club racing for a couple years after that and chased [Kawasaki] contingency money — which was kind of nice — but never did I think I’d be in the MotoAmerica paddock again. 

TAL: How much club racing did you do during those years?

JB: I raced in the Daytona 200 a few times, and did a fair amount of club racing in 2018 and 2019. Last year, I didn’t do any. I did some endurance racing with D.J. Birch. He deserves my thank you because I was done racing and he hit me up, asking, “Hey, you want to ride?” I told him no, but got to thinking about how much I wanted to be back on a bike. So I asked him the night before the race if the offer to ride was still good while I was already driving to the track — so I was going to be at the track regardless. He said yes, and I think he’s the reason I got back into racing. 

TAL: How did the Righteous Racing deal come together for this year?

JB: I’ve known Ray Hofman for the better part of my racing career. He’s been super good to me over the years, and this year he showed up with this Aprilia [RS 660]. I asked him, “Who’s going to ride that, Ray?” He responded, “Well, not me.” And he and my dad looked at me, so I said, “Alright, I’ll ride it then.” We didn’t have any expectations coming into this season. We wanted to come out, have fun and just finish races. And we’ve done that for the most part this year.

TAL: What was your first impression of the Aprilia RS 660?

JB: I’ve ridden SV650s for a long time, and that’s been the lightweight bike of the Midwest. I thought those were cool, but then I got on the Aprilia. It’s a very different machine. It’s a super fast twins motor in a chassis that handles way better than the SV. I knew the Aprilia was prestigious and a winning bike, and when I hopped on it, it was just like that. We’ve ridden with mostly stock everything — gearing, chain, brake pads, wheels and even rearsets. We actually got our first win with all of those stock parts. It’s pretty wild, because the bike was about as stock as you can get other than suspension and bodywork. And we won on it. It proves it’s a winning bike.

TAL: Where does your win at VIR this year rank among your racing accomplishments?

JB: At the top, I think. VIR was one of the weekends, like Brainerd, where I felt really good on the bike. The first race that weekend didn’t go as planned, and we’d had a crash in qualifying earlier in the weekend. I was pissed with my eighth-place finish in the first race, but in the second race, I just made it happen. The team put a great bike underneath me and I rode like hell. 

TAL: Tell me about the crash at Road America.

JB: Honestly, I can’t tell you a single thing about it. We were trying some different velocity stacks in for that session, and I remember coming down the front straight, looking over at my dad [as I went by the pits], and thinking to myself, “I wonder if it looks like I’m going fast?” That’s the last thing I remember. I woke up in the hospital and had no idea what time it was. I was handcuffed to the bed, so my first inclination was, “What did I do?” [Laughter] I tore something out of my throat, because I wasn’t supposed to wake up but did.

TAL: What was the recovery process like from the time you woke up in the hospital?

JB: Very long. My whole body hurt when I woke up, especially my head. I smelled awful, and wondered how long I’d been there. I saw 9:00 on the clock in the room and thought it was 9:00 pm that night. It was actually 9:00 a.m. the next morning. I called my dad, told him I was up, then went back to sleep until noontime. I don’t remember being at the track the next day, even though I was, and that week was rough at work. I’m a mechanic, and I’d call customers to tell them their cars are ready. They’d tell me I’d just called them about 10 minutes before to say the same thing. I saw the doctor the following Friday and — after a lot of tests — I was cleared to race. The Ridge round [two weeks later] was rough, but I felt like I was back at it at Laguna Seca.

TAL: How has this season changed your outlook on your pro racing career?

JB: It’s changed it a lot. In my opinion, I’ve skated by [for years] without doing much training. This is the first time I’ve realized that needs to happen for me to be fully competitive all the time. Especially with the opportunities I’ve been given, it’s been an eye-opener. I don’t know what next year holds, but, if I’m in the paddock, I’m a happy guy. I do beat myself up a lot, but, at the end of the day, I’m really happy I’m here. I love the environment and the people. 

Header photo: Jody Barry (middle) on the top step of the podium after winning a Twins Cup race at VIRginia International Raceway in Alton, Va., in May. Photo by Brian J. Nelson, courtesy of MotoAmerica.

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