Justin Barcia had a new team, a new bike, a new level of competition and no expectations heading into last year's Monster Energy Cup.
He left with a victory, loads of confidence and a $100,000 check in his back pocket.
Barcia returns to the site of the biggest victory in his young career on Saturday when he again will try to hold off some of the best motocross riders in the world at the $1 million Monster Energy Cup in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
"We kind of went into it thinking we'd kind of go in to get our feet wet before the season and we ended up coming out with the overall win," Barcia said. "That was really awesome for us because we were just trying to have a little fun to get warmed up."
The 21-year-old from Cairo, Ga., was considered one of motocross' up-and-coming stars after a stellar amateur career and a solid run through the 250cc series. He signed with Honda before making the jump to 450s last season and got his first real taste of the bigger bikes -- other than a handful of races a few years before -- at the Monster Energy Cup.
Barcia made the most of his opportunity, winning the second moto while finishing second in the other two to earn the $100,000 prize. The surprise victory jump-started his rookie season in 450s, helping him win three Supercross races while finishing fourth overall and with a third-place finish in the outdoor motocross season.
"It's awesome for your confidence," Barcia said. "For one, you're going in with low expectations and to come out with a win, it definitely boosts confidence. You go into your offseason training and know you have the speed and when you get to the season you just feel good about yourself. It's pretty exciting if you can get the win, you can do some good stuff."
Next on Barcia's list -- and everyone else's -- is the $1 million available to any rider who can win all three motos.
Ryan Villopoto did it in the inaugural race in 2011 and will be back this year after sweeping the Supercross and outdoor motocross titles this past season. The strong field also will include former AMA Motocross and Supercross champions Ryan Dungey and James Stewart and some of the best young riders in the business.
They'll be chasing the big prize on a unique track that winds in and out of UNLV's Sam Boyd Stadium and features elements of both Supercross and outdoor racing.
The hybrid track was again designed by Ricky Carmichael, widely considered the best motocross rider of all time, and will include a split start, a 33-degree turn that banks into the stands and a joker lane, a gnarled, sand-filled stretch that riders will have to go through at least once in each of the three main events.
Adding to the intrigue, the course has been reversed from last year, adding an element of uncertainty for the riders.
"They're trying to do something cool, which is nice," Barcia said. "The joker lane is kind of strange and should add a little to the race, a little weird, but all in all it's a good race."
One that could be worth a lot of money.