Justin, you made your way into racing Supercross a little different than most. You got your start in Arenacross and then made your way into Supercross.
“Yeah, growing up in Iowa racing just seemed too far-fetched for me. There was never a Supercross even close, and guys like McGrath were dominating at the time. So it just seemed way too far-fetched. There was an Arenacross in Des Moines every year, and some of the locals that raced it and did fairly well. That was always kind of my dream to race the Des Moines Arenacross. I got that opportunity in 2002. It was my first pro race, and I actually did really well. I almost won of Friday night. So it was kind of an under-the-radar thing; no one really knew who I was. I was on bone-stock bikes and there just to have fun. So that’s what kind of launched my career into Arenacross. So I rode that for three years, and met some really great people. Buddy Antunez and Brad Hagseth were my teammates. Buddy got me on with Factory Connection Honda, and Hagseth is just a great mentor. Those guys really taught me a lot of things. Then I got a ride with MotoWorld to race Arenacross, and then the next year Supercross. And here I am, racing for Joe Gibbs Racing.”
What is it like racing for a team that is tied into the Joe Gibbs Empire? Your team has so many resources it seems like you guys are another factory team.
“I would say it’s every bit as good as a factory team, if not better. We definitely have more resources than a factory motorcycle team with their NASCAR side of things and the just the people around you. Joe Gibbs always says that you win with people. He’s hired a bunch of great people. His son Coy is the owner of the motocross side, and he’s been great to me. He’s surrounded me with a bunch of great guys and a great motorcycle. We have a lot of fun during the week in North Carolina, and now it’s time to get some results. I’ve got some top fives, but it’s time to get on the podium.”
Justin Brayton feels that his team has given him all the tools he need to win and plans to make good on JGR’s hard work.
We talked to your team manager, J-Bone a couple of weeks ago, and he said you are a definite top five guy this year. He said that it’s just about getting you to believe you are one of the guys that can win.
“I think I’m just as fast. I prove it week after week. You just have to prove it to yourself in the race. Twenty laps is a totally different ballgame than doing one fast lap time. For me it’s just been preparation during the week, but we had some ups and downs with getting the bikes late and things like that. So now I’m on track. I had I minor setback in Daytona; I kind of injured my thumb. Now we’re going the right direction for sure. It’s my first year with Joe Gibbs Racing and my first year in the 450 class, a lot of new things. It’s a lot to get used to, and I put the most pressure on myself to be on the podium for these guys. It’s time, no excuses. I have the bike to do it; I’m in great shape. From here on out, I’ll be bummed if I’m not in the top three.”
How is your thumb doing? You injured it in Daytona, and that is the only round you haven’t finished in the top ten.
“Yeah, we had some trouble there. I went over the bars and tweaked my thumb pretty good. I didn’t get a chance to ride that week, and I was really questionable for Toronto because it actually hurt so bad. Everyone is riding in some type of pain, but to ride with a thumb injury is really tough to grip the handlebars. If you can’t grip it there is no sense of you being out there. It was just a last minute decision to race. We made some adjustments to my grip cutting some things out to able to hold on. It was just kind of survival, but this past week I got to ride. The thumb loosened up quite a bit, so I’m feeling good her in Dallas.”
What about the outdoor season coming up; are you looking forward to that?
“I’m definitely looking forward to it. I really want to finish the Supercross season strong. We’ve done a lot of hard work to get me to the top five or top three in the series, and we are just off of that. I’ve had a couple of bad races lately. We’re looking to rebound, and finish off with some good races. I really enjoy the outdoors. I won a moto at Steel City last year. I am looking forward to having my teammate Josh back, and doing well outdoors.”
So how did it feel to become King of Bercy?
“That was an amazing accomplishment. I used to read about McGrath, Emig and Jean Michelle Bayle winning it, and it was great to win it. This was my fourth year over there, and I always looked up to Reed, winning it a couple of times. It’s just a great honor, you know? If you look at the list of Bercy winners, and for my name to be on it is a great sense of accomplishment. I really enjoy the French fans over there; they go all out for us Americans. It’s a really cool atmosphere, and I really enjoy it.”
Quite a few industry insiders are saying you’re one of the few to watch, that you are on the short list of guys that can win a championship in the upcoming years. How does that make you feel?
“It’s funny to say, but I believe that myself. For me to come from where I was to get this far, why not just take it one step further. I’m just one step away from being a champion and winning races consistently. I’m never going to give up. Like I said, I’ve come along way, and to have this backing now from the best team I’ve been on. I’ve only gone forward in my career, and I don’t plan on going backwards anytime soon. I’m excited for the future.”