We continue to investigate perspectives on the return of Monster Energy AMA Supercross. Honda HRC’s Justin Brayton lucked out with the timing, because he broke his hand in a last-lap crash with Vince Friese at Daytona. During the COVID-19 shutdown, he healed up, so now he’s ready to race again. Plus, a different scenario and schedule might work to the advantage of a man well-versed in different types of races all over the world.
Racer X: Have you figured out all the logistics yet, or do you not even know exactly how you’re going to manage all this?
Justin Brayton: Come on, man. You know that I’m the logistics man. House is booked. Flights are booked. I actually go to California tomorrow, so I’ll ride a few days there and then head up to Salt Lake next week. Then the family will fly in. If you need help, let me know. I’ll book all your stuff for you.
Yeah I’m trying to figure it out all right now. I got shady ideas and I got safe ideas. I’m trying to explain to the fans here how this is all going to work. We all have to be tested more than 48 hours before the race. So you got to be there early.
Yeah. I’m planning on getting there Wednesday before the race. You can’t leave. I guess you can, but then you’d have to come back super early. So we’re just going to rent a house and really just stay for the month, which is actually pretty exciting. I have to do that on a yearly basis especially the last four years with racing in Australia, then I’ve got to fly to Europe, then back to New Zealand, and then back over to Geneva to race, and back to Australia. Then you got to fit in all the testing here in America. So I actually love it. We’ve talked about this before. I love the logistics and trying to get it all right, trying to be the most comfortable you can be.
Do you think you’re going to ride between these events?
I’m not too concerned on it. I don’t really think I need to. Between Sunday and Wednesday, I doubt we’ll ride, but potentially ride on the Friday or something. I really try and keep the crew in mind as well. It’s a lot on everybody. So what makes the most sense to keep everybody’s stress level down. It’s a stressful deal anyway trying to get bikes ready to race Sunday, and then to turn around and race Wednesday. I think the biggest thing is just to have a lot of mental space on race day and to be fired up and ready to go when the gate drops.
That is what I’ve heard from most riders. They’re not too stressed about if they don’t get to ride during the week while they’re there. But before Anaheim 1 everybody says that they’re best shape of their life, bike’s never been better, and then as soon as they race one time it’s a complete disaster for half the guys! Is there a chance everyone’s like, “Whoa. Hold on. I need to check something?”
I think it’ll be probably split. I think guys will think they need to find something. You’ve already raced your setup. This is round 11. But you’re right. We could ride all off-season and think our bike is amazing and then Anaheim 1 is totally different. But for me anyway, I have belief knowing that we’ve raced on several different tracks so far. I know what my bike does. Whether it’s perfect on a certain track or not, I know exactly what it’s going to do. I’m totally fine with leaving my bike, which I’m kind of that way anyway. The biggest thing is the engine setup and your gearing and stuff being at altitude. I think that’s going to be the biggest separation, who’s prepared in that sense.
We talked to your teammate Ken Roczen, and he said as far as the riding between races, everyone has to figure out what three weeks living at altitude going to be like from a physical recovery standpoint. So maybe less is more. Have you thought about all that?
For sure. That was one of the first things. Ken and I have been talking quite a bit and that was one thing we’ve talked about a lot. Do we stay at a higher elevation or lower elevation? Do we ride before the races to try and get the gearing right? Do we not? There’s so many variables. I think everybody is in the same boat. You just got to be confident when the gate drops and be ready to go. Also, I think the biggest thing is not burying yourself a hole at the beginning of the weeks. The first two weeks I think it’s so important to stay fresh and maybe under-train a little bit, because you can’t do the same program. Maybe there’s a couple guys that can go up there and do the same program as they did at sea level, but it’s going to be tough especially like I said rounds five, six, and seven. If your workload has stayed the same as what you were training at sea level, I think you’re going to dig yourself a hole.
If you prefer to watch the video of this interview with Justin Brayton, watch the archive of the Instagram Live video below:
It’s going to be hard to resist. I know you like mountain bikes. This is like going to the haven, dude.
[Laughs] I know! After the national that used to be out there, we would always stay a week after and ride in Park City. Some amazing trails. I’m just like chomping at the bit. Maybe we’ll just get an e-bike or something and go up there and have some fun.
You’re a racer It’s your job to race, so I’m sure you wanted to. But was there any worry behind the scenes of like, we don’t have staff, or we can’t get parts, or maybe we’re not allowed or ready?
For me, I broke my hand in Daytona so I wasn’t really riding several weeks after that race anyway. It gave me and the team time to sort enough stuff, where I was off the bike for four weeks or whatever. When I started back riding, they were totally fine with me getting back on the bike. I did a couple days outdoors. There were rumors floating around of possibly going back to racing May 17th. So I jumped right back on supercross and have been riding ever since. But Honda has been awesome. We haven’t been saving parts or anything, just full steam ahead. I feel like the timing of it was just right. If they were to push it back any further it was like, I’m going to have to pull back a little bit and maybe take a week off, or just back off the training. So I’m excited to be going racing. I think everyone’s really excited to do it. It’s been cool to see all the teams and riders. This isn’t ideal for anybody, but it’s so awesome that Feld [Entertainment] has been able to pull this off. Everyone has kind of grown closer through it all and I think worked together more than ever.
It’s something that I’ve been trying to explain. I was surprised. When the news came out there were obviously some fans that thought it was awesome. But I did hear from some fans who didn’t like the riders having to race twice a week, or the reduced purse. I don’t think everyone realizes that paychecks either have stopped or will stop if these races don’t get in, plus there are bonuses, sponsorship, a lot of things don’t happen if the races don’t go.
Yeah, exactly. I think for even a lot of people to keep their sanity, to just get back to something. I’ve woke up with a certain purpose for 20 plus years now, and that purpose is to go racing. Of course it was kind of fun the first few weeks, hanging out with the family and got to spend a lot more time with them. Then after four weeks it’s like, alright. I want to wake up, I want to do a warmup. I want to go to the track. There were several times where I just took my kids to the track and we just hung out. It was before I started riding. It’s all we’ve known. Even for the crews, that’s what we love. That’s one thing about this sport is it’s a choice to be in it, I believe, and those who have chosen to be in it absolutely love it. I’ve told people before. I’m 36 and if somebody asked, what’s your ideal day? Set aside being with family, I want to go ride my motorcycle and hang around with my friends that ride. So we’re all just excited to get back to it.
We don’t have to cry for the riders having to race twice in a week?
No. Actually I was even okay with the back-to-back races. You do it all the time in Europe. Some days I actually feel better on the second day than I do on the first day. But I get it for the crews. If you have some sort of mechanical, it’s a quick turnaround. I like this Sunday/Wednesday thing. It brings a whole different vibe. It sounds like we’re going to be racing during the day at least on several of them. I haven’t quite researched the TV schedule but I would think we’ll reach a whole new audience.
Yeah for TV this is awesome. The weird thing is there aren’t going to be fans. Have you even been able to think about how different this might be?
There is a lot of weird stuff. I think maybe the weirdest is no track walk. That’s pretty crazy. I have some friends in NASCAR, so we were talking about it this weekend. They didn’t have practice. They just went straight to it. Somebody asked me, what if you guys did that? I feel like that’s next to impossible. There’s no way we could just go straight into racing. It’s just going to be pretty wild to not walk the track. Once again, just another thing thrown at us that I’m going to kind of embrace.
When you guys hit the track the very first lap of free practice you’re doing the majority of the jumps. Maybe the biggest rhythm isn’t there yet. But it appears that you guys can immediately roll out there and do most of the stuff. How much of that comes from track walk?
I think for me probably 90 percent of it comes from track walk.
You just know you’re going to three right there, three there. Then I would say the final 10 percent is I love to watch the 250 practice before us. Then you almost immediately know. We’re so accustomed to this face being a little bit lower or that face being higher. We’ve all jumped so many different jumps in our lives that we know exactly how much drive it will take to go three out of a corner or hit a triple or hit the finish line. So we’re typically racing by lap two or three in practice, where now I believe we’re rolling for three minutes or something, wheels on the ground. I don’t think we’re going to get to watch the practice before us. If we were able to watch the practice before us, we’d do everything first lap again and not even have to truly walk it. Actually, a couple years ago in Minneapolis I had an issue first practice so I didn’t get to ride. So I just went up in the stands and watched the 250 practices. The next practice I took off first and did everything first lap and went straight to it. So it doesn’t take long as long as you can kind of watch somebody else do it.
You’ve done so many international races, so much off-season stuff with weird formats, so you’ve got to be looking at this as maybe an advantage for you.
Yeah. I would say six or seven years ago I’d kind of be stressed, because I liked every detail in order and everything just perfect. I had a schedule. Where now, I don’t wing it, but if I get thrown a curveball, it’s totally fine. I just kind of let it slide and what’s the next best thing? Or what’s the best situation we can make out of this? Okay, let’s do that. Don’t even think about the bad. That’s kind of where I’m at now. All these other races I do around the world, it’s not like they’re perfect. There’s things getting changed all the time. I’m kind of immune to it.
So you are really lucking out timing-wise because you mentioned you got hurt on the last lap of Daytona. How did you actually finish the Daytona race?
Well, we only had about three-quarters of a lap. I knew my hand was broke right when it happened. I actually thought there was a bone maybe coming out, but I kind of just rode more towards the inside of my hand. It was just three-quarters of a lap and I was like, I could still get a top ten. Let’s try and finish this deal. There was a wall jump right before the finish and I still sent it the last lap, which that hurt pretty bad. I couldn’t have went another few laps, no way, but just three-quarters of a lap I was fine. It was alright.
So much talk is about Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen battling for the points lead. I think a lot of people are wondering, how motivated are the other guys who maybe don’t have a million-dollar title bonus on the line going to be?
I think there’s a ton to gain for everybody. I really feel like it’s a seven-race series. There’s massive incentive. There’s obviously still a lot of money on the line. For me, I don’t know how much longer I’ll be racing so if these are my last seven races I’m going to give it everything I have. There’s still a ton on the line. Of course I’d love to go out with potentially another win or a podium. The points are pretty tight basically from sixth place back to 11th or 12th and I’m right in that fight. I’d love to try and get top six, or who knows what happens to the guys in the top five? Maybe get a top five overall. We’re racers. What motivates us is our results. I enjoy the process more than ever. There’s a ton of incentive. Also with Honda, we want to get this championship. I could be a small part of that with maybe my results on the track or helping where I can off the track and just trying to be a good teammate, a good team player. I think if I can get really good results and we can bring home this championship with Ken, that would be a perfect season.
At the beginning of the year we always say there’s 12 guys that could win or 15 guys that could win, and there is. The first couple races are nuts. Then it starts to whittle down. Is there a chance for almost back to that a little bit because we had nine weeks off?
I believe 100 percent we are. Like I said, I think this is a seven-race series. Typically about round six or seven everyone kind of has their place. You might get an odd winner here or there, but you kind of slot into your spot. It’s not me thinking I’m a seventh-place guy. I’m going to just try and get seventh tonight. I still want to win, but it’s just the way it goes. I do think these seven races everyone believes they can win again. We all have confidence. We’ve all been riding the tracks and think our bike is perfect. So I think it’s going to be awesome for the fans and as a rider. Here we go. It’s round one. I came out round one this year and won the first heat race and probably surprised a lot of people and ran third in the main for a long time until me and [Jason] Anderson got together. That could happen again. We’ll see.
Kind of on the sly, you do have a shop that you run in North Carolina. I’ve talked to you and anybody else in any motorcycle shop anywhere in the country, and it’s like a weirdo boom time. I guess people have time on their hands. I don’t know how much money they’re going to have, because obviously this is an economic hardship for us, but it’s so odd that more people are riding and buying stuff than ever right now.
It’s awesome. Great for us, great for the motocross community. I don’t know what’s going to happen several months down the road, but hey, guys are getting out on their bikes. Guys are restoring old bikes. Guys are buying new bikes. It’s been really cool to see. I’ve had more people reach out to me, like old friends. “What bike should I get? Hey, I’ve got this old bike. Do you have any parts for this? What pipe should I get?” Just random things. People are wanting to ride. Kids, too. Kids especially. Even bicycle shops. I’ve heard the local bicycle shops can’t keep kids bikes in stock. So all that is great. I think it’s cool. Maybe it will respark some interest in our sport for guys to get out there at the local level and really start racing again.