This week’s winner is Honda Muscle Milk’s Justin Brayton. Brayton finished fifth on Saturday night at Anaheim, which doesn’t even match his fourth-place finish at Angel Stadium just a few weeks ago. But on the whole, Brayton may have logged the most complete performance of his career. It started with a blisteringly quick lap time in the final qualifying session, which set Brayton up as the fastest overall rider in the field—faster than Villopoto, faster than Stewart, Reed or Dungey.
Brayton carried that into his heat race, where he took the lead when Davi Millsaps and Mike Alessi fell. He led a few laps with Villopoto all over him, and refused to budge when the defending SX Champion tried to get past. Villopoto finally made the move, but Brayton proved he will not roll over under pressure.
In the main, he showed similar tenacity. Brayton battled Villopoto and Reed for the holeshot before emerging in third. Stewart quickly went past, but Brayton rode as hard and as fast as he could to hold off Ryan Dungey for fourth. On lap 12, the Red Bull KTM rider got around, and from there Brayton held onto fifth.
This supercross pack is dominated by the so-called big four, which makes a top-five finish for anyone outside of that group is impressive. But any rider at this level doesn’t look at it that way—Brayton works hard so he can win races, not finish fifth. But getting there takes building blocks, and certainly Brayton stacked up a bunch with a complete performance, featuring a fast practice time, two good starts, solid riding, and a clear sign that he will not be intimidated under pressure from the best in the business.
Surely Brayton won’t be truly satisfied until he actually finishes a 20-lap main event in the number-one spot. But you can’t say he didn’t give it his absolute best at Anaheim, making this, for him, an outstanding performance.
Honorable mention: Ryan Villopoto and Eli Tomac dominated the races. That’s certainly outstanding. James Stewart overcame a huge crash and a trip to the LCQ to come back for second in the main event. And Matt Moss dug deep in the Lites main to come from last to sevent on his J-Star JDR KTM. As always, there are many, many more great rides than the initial results might show.