MXA INTERVIEW | JUSTIN BRAYTON ON HIS 2018 DAYTONA SUPERCROSS WIN
Of course by now we all know that Smartop/Bullfrog Spas/Motoconcepts Racing Honda’s Justin Brayton won this past weekend’s Daytona Supercross. But did you know it was Brayton’s first ever Supercross win, team Motoconcepts first supercross win, Tony Alessi’s first Supercross win, and Honda’s first Supercross race win of the year? In winning, Justin Brayton at age 33 became the oldest Supercross main event winner, and is now third in 2018 Supercross points. But maybe the coolest thing about Brayton’s win was that simply everyone in the Pro pits was happy for the longtime journeyman racer! We caught up with Brayton on the Wednesday after Daytona, and learned that it also was his birthday!
BY JIM KIMBALL
JUSTIN, NOW A FEW DAYS AFTER WINNING THE DAYTONA SUPERCROSS, HOW ARE YOU FEELING? I feel so excited and so happy to just get it done. There are so many different emotions that are really still going through my head. To finally win a race is a huge deal for me. It is so hard to win one that it took me 130 tries to finally get one. I cannot even describe to you how awesome it feels. It is just great to finally get my name off the list of fast guys who have never won a Supercross. So I got off that list, and got on another one, which is winning Daytona. To win a race is a huge deal, especially for me being at it so long–it is absolutely awesome.
ON TOP OF DAYTONA IS ARGUABLY THE MOST OUTDOORS, AND PHYSICALLY DEMANDING SUPERCROSSES. Yes definitely. There are 17 Supercrosses on our schedule, and it would have been 17th on my list of the ones that I thought I would have won, but it is crazy how life works sometimes. Arguably Daytona is the most prestigious race of the year, and the toughest race of the year. To win at the toughest race of the year is pretty cool and honestly it is a life changer for me. I am in the record books forever. A lot of people in 15-20 years might say, “yes Brayton was good, but he never won a race”, but you will never hear that now. The story will go more like “he was good, and he won at age 33 on the toughest track of the year”, so it’s pretty special.
Arguably Daytona is the most prestigious race of the year, and the toughest race of the year. To win at the toughest race of the year is pretty cool and honestly it is a life changer for me. I am in the record books forever.
IT IS THE FIRST WIN FOR THE MOTOCONCEPTS TEAM, WHICH IS HUGE FOR EVERYBODY INVOLVED IN THE PROGRAM. Absolutely, it is massive for MCR, Mike Genova (Team Owner), and Tony Alessi (Team Manager). Tony told me after the race, “I have been trying to get that for 20 years.” It just shows how hard Supercross wins are to come by. Race wins are not easy. Tony Alessi has been at it for years and years and has never gotten a Supercross win in the premier 450 class, and to finally get that is incredible. It has been ten years since Honda has won at Daytona, with the last being Kevin Windham in 2008. Really for everyone there it was a special night. What meant a lot to me was obviously getting the win, but with all the teams, and riders there I had so many people congratulating me on the win. It is neat to have my peers respect me with what I have done, and how I have treated others. I have always treated people with respect on every team that I have been on, and it is cool to see how many people have reached out and congratulated me.
YOU BRING UP A GOOD POINT; EVERYONE SEEMS PUMPED FOR YOUR WIN! It is neat. Even this week with doing interviews and talking to people in the industry, everyone is excited. I cannot attribute that to anything other than how I have tried to treat people. I have been in the sport for 15 years, and treat people like I want to be treated. I am so thankful for every team I have been on, and every person that has helped me because I was not expected to do what I have done. Even making a Supercross main event, I was not even expected to do that. For every chance that I ever got from anyone, I am so thankful still to this day. Mike Genova, spent a ton of money to get us to the races, and added so many sponsors including Honda. They stepped up huge to help me, and they have truly believed in me. So it is really cool to give back to all the guys who have believed in me throughout the years. I may not have done it for certain teams I have been on over the years but most all the team managers or personnel from other teams, always knew I could do it, and I’m so happy that I got it done.
Once Eli got by Cooper and into second, I was like “alright, you better go. This is your chance to win. You need to do a five lap or four lap sprint, and get this win.”
YOU MOVED INTO THE LEAD DURING THE FIRST LAP, AND HELD THE LEAD THE ENTIRE RACE, EVEN WITH LOTS OF PRSSURE NEAR THE END. I think several things contribute to that. I have won a lot of races all over the world from Australia to Europe, so I do know how to win. It is just the guys in the U.S. have been just better. I am racing the best guys in the world, so when I put myself in that position it was not something that I have never done before. Even the week before in Atlanta, it was a great race, and big confidence booster. Then with winning the heat race at Daytona, I knew I had speed. I was fast in practice, I was fast in the heat race, and I know how it goes when you are out front. You just have to focus on yourself, really ride your own race and that was really it. One time Cooper (Webb) was making a little charge, but that is a familiar spot for me to be in with Cooper. I ride with Coop quite a bit, and I actually rode with him today. We do motos all the time so it was not the first time that either I was pulling away or he was catching me. We do that all the time, so Daytona felt like “during the week riding”. Once Eli got by Cooper and into second, I was like “alright, you better go. This is your chance to win. You need to do a five lap or four lap sprint, and get this win.” That is really what I am most proud of about that whole race. When I dropped back down to 113-second lap time (Justin had been up front running 115-second lap times) that won me the race with three or two laps to go. Otherwise, Eli was going to catch me. He was coming, and he had a good flow going at a faster pace than I did. There are many racers out there who know how tough it is to go from one pace and then drop that pace that late in the race with the track being at its roughest. That was difficult but I just did it, and felt good about it. I did not really make many mistakes, so it was pretty cool.
I WAS KIND OF THINKING ABOUT AN INTERVIEW WE DID JUST BEFORE THE SEASON STARTED, AND YOU FELT THIS COULD BE A REALLY GOOD YEAR FOR YOU. I was not blowing any smoke. If anyone has read interviews probably going into 2017, I do not say the things I said going into this year. I was not as prepared as I was this year, but coming off that Australian Supercross championship, coming into the 2018 AMA Supercross season, there was just something about it. The bike was incredible, the team was really gelling, I was riding great, I was fit, and I prepared really well this off-season. I was going to the test track, riding with really fast guys, and I was right on the pace, and sometimes faster. I know the feeling that you need to have to run at the front of Supercross as I have run at the front different times for the past eight years, and I have had that feeling of leading races, or being the fastest guy. I just had not quite gotten the Main Event win, I have had that feeling, and last year I did not have that feeling. I maybe tapped into it once or twice though, and this year I have had that feeling at almost every race, and almost every time I have practiced. I have been gelling really well with the bike, and it is a good spot to be in. right away at Anaheim with leading my heat race, and then finishing second in my heat I felt good. Several times this year I had put myself in good positions, and it has been a good season. You know, it just goes back to the off-season, and preparing well.
The bike was incredible, the team was really gelling, I was riding great, I was fit, and I prepared really well this off-season.
AND NOW WITH THIS WIN, YOU ARE THIRD IN POINTS. To date fourth overall is actually my best finish in the Supercross Championships. And the cool thing now is that I am going to hit some good stadiums that I have done well at in the past. I have looked at the schedule for a long time now and I have always thought that once we hit St. Louis, I could get on a roll. I never expected to get on a roll at Daytona, but I will take it a week early. St. Louis is actually almost home for me, and I want to try to do it again.
ANY DRASTIC CHANGES FOR YOU AFTER THE WIN AT DAYTONA? Well I think on so many levels, it is a huge change. It is life changing for me personally. As far as teams and rides and all those things like that, I would have to say that it would change people’s perspective of me, and puts me in that win category. As far as making any drastic changes, I have had one of the best seasons of my career, so I don’t feel like I would really want to change that. I don’t see me going anywhere else, and I love the Honda motorcycle. But besides that, I think it is a big change. I believe a lot of teams look at guys like “can he win?” the first guy to sign are the guys that can potentially win, and I feel like I am in that category now, not potentially win, but he can win. So I think it changes a little bit, but as far as me making any big changes, I do not see that happening.
ANY BIG PLANS TO KIND OF CELEBRATE YOUR WIN? No, I am not a big celebration guy other than with my family and friends, but the cool thing is it is my birthday today, so I won on my birthday week
Thank you. We will have a lot of friends and family over tomorrow, and then St. Louis is kind of my home, so I will get to see my friends and family from Iowa, which will be cool. The timing of it could not be any better; it is really a fairytale story.