Justin Brayton got out in front and surprised many by basically staying there at the Phoenix Supercross. Photography by Shan Moore.
Justin Brayton turned in one of the rides of his life at the Phoenix Supercross, leading the first 14 laps of the 20-lap final. Even after he was passed by three-time Supercross champ Ryan Villopoto, Brayton kept the pressure on until the finish. At the same time, the Toyota/Yamaha/N-Fab/JGRMX Team rider held a tentative Ryan Dungey at bay for the distance of the race. For sure, it was a breakout performance for the Yamaha rider, and it carries with it a bit of momentum that Brayton wants to maintain.
“Last year wasn’t a very good year for me, I think my best finish was fifth,” said Brayton. “Yamaha came out with a new bike this year and it’s a good motorcycle and they gave us a great package to work with, and we work really closely with them. I think all the guys at JGR, we all worked as a team this year, and I know how hard you have to work to be up here on the podium, and I’m willing to do it, and I was willing to do it this year. It’s really motivating to see it pay off, but I tell you what, I’m far from done. I feel like I have a new lease on life with this bike and with the team now gelling. There’s a lot going on, I got married, I’ve got a kid coming and a lot of things that are positive; not just in racing, but in life.”
One of the keys to Brayton’s performance was a good start, which seemed to be crucial on the slippery Phoenix course.
“I got a great jump out of the gate, the start was so slick and I knew lining up I needed to get a good start, and that’s what I did,” said Brayton. “Sometime it’s hard to execute, but I did tonight, and I put myself in a good position. I need to keep putting myself in those positions and I think I’ll win one of these.
“We worked on tons of starts during the off-season and tons of starts before Anaheim. It’s just you got to go to the gate confident. I went to the gate confident at Anaheim and it just didn’t work out. I started seventh, I think, at Anaheim and I ended up sixth. Tonight I started third and I ended up second. There’s a lot of fast guys and you’ve got to start up front to finish with them.”
Brayton excelled particularly well in the whoops, which were especially treacherous.
“The whoops were nasty tonight, and I felt I had a drive on Villopoto on that last lap, but it’s early in the season and I respect Ryan, he’s got a number one on his bike for a reason. But for sure, this is a confidence builder.”
Another deciding factor for Brayton this year has been his new trainer, Nathan Ramsey, who joins Buddy Antunez as a confidante and advisor.
“Nathan is a great fit for me, we relate so well together, in both racing and off the track,” said Brayton. “That’s refreshing to have someone like that in my corner, someone I trust. Every word that comes out of his mouth I believe. I’ve got to give it up to Buddy Antunez too, ‘Bud Man’ has been with me a long time, too.”
When asked what the biggest difference from the Brayton of last year, and the 2014 Brayton, he admits that there is plenty of credit to go around.
“For one, the bike,” said Brayton. “I think Yamaha has done a huge leap forward with their motorcycle, and also just gelling with the team. Also, I think you’ve got to want it and I do this year. It takes a lot of hard work.”