450 Words: Frozen Season

450 Words Frozen Season

April 22, 2014 11:45am

Justin Brayton started the 2014 Monster Energy Supercross season better than any other, living up to his new motto of “battling against the guys I’m supposed to be battling with.” Then it all ended in St. Louis with a pair of incidents out of his control—landing on downed bikes in the heat race and main event. He tried riding Houston but crashed more, and now he’s taking his time before a comeback.

So this supercross season is over for him. Did he do enough before it ended to lock himself into a new level?

Racer X: You had a really good season going. Is it done?
Justin Brayton: I think I’m done for supercross, unfortunately. I thought, the week after Houston, that I could come back for New Jersey and potentially still get top five in points, but unfortunately my injuries are taking a little bit longer to heal. At this point I’m just going to keep injuring them more and more. I don’t want to keep going into the summer and having the injuries keep compounding themselves more and more. At this point, I want to come back to the races ready to battle instead of limping around in 10th.

In Houston, you crashed twice and didn’t even make it out of practice. It didn’t seem like it was easy to just soldier on and ride through this stuff.
Yeah and what was such a bummer was I had such a good season going, and I’d just come off a solid fourth in Toronto, and I was feeling great in St. Louis. Then I broke my foot in the heat race, it got red flagged, and I came back and still won the heat. I had a pretty good main event going, I was up there battling for third, but the longer I rode the more my foot started to set in. Then I ended up crashing on the last lap landing on [Ryan] Dungey’s bike, but we even took some positives from that weekend. It was a bummer that I broke my foot, but I knew I could ride on it, so that week I basically just iced it and elevated it. I thought it would be better for Houston so the first practice I went out there being aggressive. I didn’t want to limp around and use the broken foot as an excuse. I wanted to attack and battle for a podium. It was just hard to ride like normal, I couldn’t put any pressure on the ball of my foot, I had to ride on my heel, and I believe that caused my two crashes. It was a bummer, but that’s how racing goes. I was having a good season, I was basically top five, all year long, and like I said at the beginning of the year, I wanted to battle with the lead guys, and I feel like that’s what I was doing. I could be bummed, I could say it wasn’t my fault that I landed on [Justin] Barcia’s bike, but then again, it is my fault because I was behind him. So there’s two ways to look at it.

Brayton will miss the last two rounds of Monster Energy Supercross. 
Brayton will miss the last two rounds of Monster Energy Supercross.  Photo: Simon Cudby

You started the year off well, but the results are often mixed up at the beginning of the year, guys miss their setup and things like that. The impressive thing is that you pretty much managed to stay at that level all year. Do you feel like you were riding even better as the season went on? I’d imagine everyone else picked it up so you have to improve just to stay where you were.
Yeah, for sure. I think everyone comes in with a setup and fitness level that they think will allow them to win races, but then reality sets in, “Oh man, I’m not where I thought I was going to be.” But we felt like we were right on it. The first round was good, second round we finished second, third round we won a heat, and honestly I felt like I was getting better and better and better all season. In Toronto I felt good, I got a fourth but I felt like I had a little bit more in me, and in St. Louis I felt great. I felt like I was ready to make a surge, and any one can say that but I really felt like I was going to. My practice times were really good, I did that quad over the table that not many people did. Little things that show you have the confidence to race toward the front and keep racing toward the front.

You said you would have liked to have gotten fifth in the series—does that matter?
For me there’s no money, no bonuses for top five in the series, but that was a goal, and I’m real goal oriented. And we achieved so many this year. I think I had fifth pretty good, I had a lot of points on sixth, and at times even fourth was close. For me, it’s just that was my goal coming into the series—be top five every weekend and top five in the series. I think the worst I can do now is seventh, which doesn’t sound like anything special but in my mind I had a successful year.

Well, here’s the key. You wanted to take a step this year and you did. You wanted to ride with that front group of guys and you did. So is that thought frozen in your mind? “Hey, I’m not riding right now but that’s the new level of where I fit in.”
Yeah I definitely feel that way. In year’s past I would do it here and there. We see guys do that, maybe three weeks out of the 17 races they do that. I feel like this year I was a threat every weekend to be on the podium and potentially win the race. I felt that way and I still feel that way. Hopefully I can carry that into outdoors and into next year.

So do you know for sure that you’ll be back for Glen Helen?
I don’t 100 percent know that. Like I said, I thought I would be back for New Jersey for sure, but I’ve been doing everything I can and it’s not progressing like I thought I would. So I’m just going to let it heal—really my whole body. My pinkie finger had a crack in it, and my knee doesn’t feel great. Nothing is major, they’ll heal up in time, but I just don’t want to come back until they’re all 100 percent.

The tough thing is, the Nationals always seem to start out rough for you, and then you pick it up around halfway. I remember one year you almost got lapped at Freestone, and then a few races later you were on the podium at RedBud!
Yeah, for me, I go all-in on supercross. I go all in for outdoors, too, but for supercross you have so much pre-season testing. Throughout supercross I feel like I’m always battling for podiums and top fives and potentially race wins. There’s really not much time to test and prepare for outdoors. So for me personally, I feel like outdoors really gets overlooked until we cross the checkered flag in Vegas. Then I’m like, “Okay, now I’m ready to get ready for outdoors.” I get my confidence from training and riding, and you basically only get a week or two to do that, so sometimes I feel like it’s a confidence thing, a bike setup thing, a comfort thing. It takes a few weeks before I really hit my stride.

This year I didn’t want that to happen. I’ve realized that. I want to be an all-around guy. Some people say I’m not as good outdoors, well, I’ve won a moto outdoors and I’ve gotten just as many podiums there in supercross. I think I’m an outdoors guy, also, I just  have started slow every year. I’m actually really excited for Glen Helen, my first race on 450s was there and I was running really good, I just had some bike issues. I really like that track on national day, so that’s the goal. Be there and be 100 percent ready, not just limp around.

Brayton hopes to return for the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season opener at Glen Helen on May 24. 
Brayton hopes to return for the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season opener at Glen Helen on May 24.  Photo: Simon Cudby

Last thing, just talk about this 2014 Yamaha. Lots of people were wondering how it would compare to the previous bike. Obviously, you improved this year. Is that the bike?
I think it’s a combination of things. I think my program this year was better. I hired Nathan Ramsey and he’s been a huge help, because fitness was never an issue for me, it’s just the details, and I needed to focus on the details more. Nathan really helped with that. I really worked on my mindset, and that’s a huge part of it. Because those top five or seven or eighth guys, you see they run the same speed every weekend. So it comes down to mental—we’re all in good shape, we all have good bikes.

But the bike definitely is better. So I think a combination of those things has definitely helped me get to that next level, but I still believe there’s just one notch more for me, and I’m ready to reach that this year outdoors or next year in supercross. Get to that next level, winning and being a threat to win every weekend. That’s the goal and I feel like I’m getting closer and closer, I just need to keep learning every year and doing my best and I think it’ll happen.