Insight: Justin Brayton

Insight: Justin Brayton

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In a season jammed full of past race and title winners, young kids out of the 250SX ranks and experienced veterans, a rider has to do something special to shove himself into the conversation. JGR/Toyota Yamaha’s Justin Brayton did so with a great race on Saturday night, leading more the half of the race and then keeping race winner Ryan Villopoto in sight all the way to the checkered flag. Is this a sign of big things to come from Brayton? We asked him about his race.

Racer X Online: Did you go to the line feeling like this was going to be this good or close to this good? Did you have a special feeling tonight that you were going to be up there?
Justin Brayton: Yeah, honestly I did. Going back a year, last year was frustrating. It was frustrating for me, frustrating for the team. And then Yamaha comes out with a new bike and it’s awesome. What can we say? We just put in our work. They gave us a great machine to start with and I believe it. But it all starts in November. I’ve believed it since then. I believe in the team. This is our fourth year working together. I think there’s something special about that and being able to gel together. It takes a long time to get to know one another. I think we’re starting to click. We’ve got a bike that’s capable of winning races. I think it’s awesome… and I want to win one of these things so bad. But it’s only the second round. I feel like I could have possibly ran it in on RV after the whoops, but who knows what would have happened there? It’s early in the year and just racing with the guy is good. It’s where I feel like I belong, and whether it’s first or fourth I’m racing with the guys that I should be racing with.

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Justin Brayton led early in Phoenix before finishing second overall.
Simon Cudby photo

It wasn’t just like you got a good start and took off. Even in practice, that triple, triple, triple rhythm, you looked strong in all these difficult sections on this track all day.
Dirt Wurx, I’ve got to tip my hat to them, they’re building the tracks tougher this year and I think it’s awesome. We’re professional racers for a reason. We work so hard to set up our bikes and build tough tracks and practice, practice, practice on them, and now we’re going to tracks that are tough and you see the guys that are top five both weekends are the cream of the crop, the best guys. I think it’s good to show up and be challenged with sections like that, and big whoops and rhythms that you’ve got to think about rather than just show up and you jump everything on the first lap. And those guys have done awesome with all the 180 bowl turns. They’re building great tracks. Hopefully they can keep it up and get the best guys to the front. And you’ve got to get good starts for sure no matter what, no matter how the track is built.

Last week you said you felt pretty relaxed considering it was the opener. You were leading 12 or 13 laps here. Were you able to not have that mess you up? A lot of times that screws with riders. It gets in their head: “Oh, man I’m leading! I’m counting the laps!” Were you able to block that out or did you start thinking about it?
Once RV caught me I thought about it a little bit, but once he got by me and then I pulled him back in, I was hoping it was a 25 lap main! So it goes back and forth. I’ve put myself in those positions, not really last year but the year before, I led a lot of laps and was up front. I just think it all stems from during the week. I’ve hired Nathan Ramsey to work with me this year and I’m riding with Cole Seely during the week and guys like that. It pays off. To have pressure the whole time during the week and to have guys helping me out and guiding me in the right direction, it takes a lot of people. But nights like tonight are why we do it and why we work so hard. It’s special, but I want to win one of these things badly.

On the last lap you were actually getting closer, the last couple laps. Were you ever starting to think of where you could make the pass and get the lead back?
Yeah, the last lap I felt like I could have ran it in after the whoops but I would have had to run it in pretty deep. He made a little mistake through them and I had a pretty good drive. But like I said earlier, it’s early in the season and I don’t want to start that. I just want to be there racing with those guys every single weekend and be a player and just be racing with the guys. Whether it’s first or fourth, I need to be in that lead group.

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"Even with this second, it’s not like now I’m saying, “I need to win.” - Brayton
Simon Cudby photo

What’s some of the stuff that Nate Dog [Nathan Ramsey] and you have worked on?
It’s just the way he comes across. And it’s not even just on the track, it’s a lot off the track. We talk about different things. It’s so mental. It’s crazy; our stories are so similar from growing up. He got a late start, I got a late start, to not being the best guy and then all of a sudden he wins a championship. And me kind of always off the radar. He was kind of always off the radar, stuff like that. So we can really relate. And he pushes me. He knows how good I can be and you need guys like that in your corner that you truly trust and that can watch you every day and then show up on the weekend with you and know you could do this or you should do that—and you have built up so much trust that you actually believe him.

What’s impressive about it is it wasn’t like you just got a start. The whole time you looked relaxed and comfortable up there. You looked completely in control the whole time. It looks repeatable.
Yeah, and that all stems from starting in November with the team. It all starts with that you’ve got to believe it then, and you’ve got to come into the season prepared. Look how deep the field is. You can’t just get a start and magically get a first or a second. You’ve got to be prepared, you’ve got to have the bike working awesome, you’ve got to be comfortable and you’ve got to be fit. I knew that. I set a plan starting in the middle of October and I feel like we’ve executed that plan. And even with this second, it’s not like now I’m saying, “I need to win.” I’m not going to have that attitude. I’m just thinking I need to put myself in a good position again. That’s all. And that’s where Ramsey comes into play. He kind of holds me back, where normally if I was in this position I would say now everything’s a failure except for a win. Well, it’s not really. And that kind of relieves the pressure. I just need to get another good start and then let’s race with the guys that I should be racing with. I think I proved tonight that I have the speed they have, I have the fitness they have, and now we just need to execute in these mains.

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