Selling the sport: The importance of personality in Supercross

Racing is many things: A massive business undertaking pumping millions of dollars into local economies whenever the Monster Energy Supercross series comes to town, a conveyance for athletes to push themselves to their physical limits and a way to teach children life lessons. But at its core, motorsports needs to be entertaining.

All 22 riders in a Supercross A-Main have distinct personalities, but there are three who regularly set themselves apart and it is their happy and positive attitude toward life that makes them easy to pick out of the crowd.

“It’s important to have a good personality, but it’s important in this sport to be a little bit different and break out of your comfort zone," Aaron Plessinger told the media during a preseason press conference. "I think the fans really resonate with that and if you are different, they look to that guy.”

Monster Energy Supercross does not have a "Most Popular Rider" contest, but it's safe to say that if they did, Plessinger would regularly be at the top of that list. In his sixth season riding in the premiere 450 class, Plessinger has garnered a fan base that can often be heard over the roar of the crowd.

His affable attitude makes him one of the most accessible riders in the pits and that has paid huge dividends for the rider and the Red Bull KTM team.

Justin Barcia brings an entirely different personality to the track. With a bow to Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Barcia's friendly nature takes a back seat to fierceness the moment he straps on his helmet. That riding style has paid off to the tune of 10 top-five showings in 450 competition since he advanced to the top level in 2013, finishing third in Pro Motocross points that year. His most recent top-five effort came last year in the 2023 Supercross season.

“You need some good personality in this sport," Barcia said. "All of us have different personalities, different vibes. It’s awesome. It makes this sport exciting.

"When we put on those helmets, people can’t always see those personalities, so when we do stuff like (the preseason press conference) it’s cool to see the different guys and how we act."

Malcolm Stewart agrees.

Stewart missed most of last year's SuperMotocross competition with a knee injury, but in the 2023 season opener at Anaheim, the roar of the bikes was diminished by that of the crowd whenever he made a pass for any position on the track.

"We all have personalities up here," Stewart said. "It’s what makes this game fun. It’s not always only about racing motorcycles. That’s what Instagram and social media is for: To see what we do in the offseason – like Kenny [Roczen] likes to surf, Chase [Sexton] lies to surf. We all have our own cool personalities and (things) we like to do. That’s what makes us fan favorites."

And while Barcia is correct that the fans cannot see riders faces once they put on the helmet, one of the things making each of these three riders distinctive is the flow of hair streaming down their backs as they rocket down a straight.

"The only reason I grew my hair out was because I was always a big St. Louis Rams fan with Steven Jackson, so I always thought dreads were really cool," Stewart said. "The downfall of it is when it gets all muddy and dirty, you’re sitting in the shower for about two hours. Personality is always key."

For his part, Plessinger grew his hair out because he wanted to resemble "Joe Dirt".

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