If you ask around the pits at an AMA Supercross
where to find the trickest bikes, you might be surprised that many fans and insiders will point to rig that is not run by the big factories. Instead, you may be sent over to the Muscle Milk/Toyota/JGRMX transporter. The JGR team is part of the Joe Gibbs Racing Empire. You might have heard of Joe Gibbs; he owns a few teams in a little racing series called NASCAR, and had a group of guys that worked for him who are called the Washington Redskins. The Muscle Milk/Toyota/JGRMX race team is now in its third year of competition in the AMA Supercross Series and has put up impressive results in such a short time. MotoUSA had a chance to sit down with the team manager, Jeremy Albrecht, and find out his thoughts on the season so far, Justin Brayton’s performance and Josh Grant’s return to racing.
How’s the season been going for the team this year? Even though Josh Grant is sidelined, it looks like Justin Brayton and Michael Byrne have been doing well for you.
Jeremy Albrecht has turned wrenches fo Jeff Emig and James Stewart. He now manages the Muscle Milk/Toyota/JGRMX Team.
Yeah, the only bummer is Josh getting hurt. As far as how Brayton has been doing, he’s improving every week in the way he rides, and the results have been good. We’re hoping to be on the podium. You know, trading him out for the guy we had last year put us ahead of the game. The only thing we are missing is Grant. Every year we feel like we’re improving. Byrne filling in has been good. He makes the main every week, and he’s improving as well. Yeah, we’re happy.
What are your plans for Burner after Grant returns to racing?
We haven't worked that out yet. All we did was guarantee him to race through Atlanta no matter what. So he knew he would be on the bike for a certain amount of time. From here on out, it’s until Grant comes back, and then we’ll decide depending on how many races are left. We’ll figure out if it’s affordable to do, and if it makes sense. We can haul is bike around in the worst case, but we really haven’t really decided. We’re kind of playing it by ear.
What is Josh’s status right now?
He just started riding at some local tracks; he just rode yesterday. So he’s going to play around on some tracks, riding light for the next week or so. If he’s feeling okay then he will start riding some Supercross. He doesn’t seem to be in too big of a rush, which is good. He basically just got a release last week to do full workouts from the doctor. We don’t really know. He doesn’t need to come back until he feels he’s 100%. We got it handled with Burner and Justin.
Justin was ripping this weekend in Atlanta. He seems to be getting better every week. Is he just getting more comfortable on the bike?
Justin Brayton has finished in the top-five three times this season. He now sits in fifth place in the points standings.
Mainly it’s just him getting used to riding against all those guys in the 450 class and getting confidence. He rides really well in practice, and he’s done well in Europe. It’s just getting a good start and riding with all these guys. The only thing he needs to work on is the first five laps. He’s really strong at the end of the race. He just maybe needs to take some chances in the early part of the race. It’s just building confidence, knowing he’s going fast and believing he is one of the guys.
Let’s talk about how you got hooked up with Joe Gibbs Racing
David Evans and I had been friends for a long time, and he was doing all sponsorship stuff to JGR. I knew they were doing this team, but I never planned for myself to come here. I was really happy where I was at. I thought I was a Kawi lifer. Then things kind of started to change a little bit at Kawasaki, and I felt like I needed to move on. I was just walking the track at Anaheim 2, and saw David and Coy (Gibbs) there, and I just walked up. I had been thinking about what I was going to do down the road. I just said, “Hey you guys still doing a team?” They said, “Yeah.” So I said, “Still for next year?” Then they said, “Yup, we need everybody. We don’t have anybody, so if you know someone...”
So that Monday I called David to ask about their plans. I didn’t even know where it was located; I didn’t know anything about it. They seemed to be excited I was interested, and we just started talking. I wasn’t able to fly back and check it out until after the Supercross season. Pretty much by then I knew I was going to do it unless there was something I really didn’t like. I just had to make sure it was okay with my wife to move that far away, but she was really good with it. So we went for it.
It seemed when you went to JGR you surrounded yourself with some really talented people who just happened to be your friends as well. It’s like you moved a whole support system to North Carolina.
In racing, you always end up hanging out with the people you work with, and they become your friends. So when I was coming here I just tried to think about everybody I liked, and who would work well together. Then I just went after all those people. It’s good because everyone gets along, we all help each other, and it’s fun to come to work when it’s like that. I wouldn’t say all of them were my friends, but I definitely checked them all out. I just wanted all the personalities to get along, because that seemed like what had changed where I worked before. Once there are a few people that rock the boat it takes the fun out of it. Overall it’s worked out well. I just want it to stay the best it can and keep everyone getting along. That’s what helps.
Your bikes are always some of the trickest in the pits. How was being part of the Joe Gibbs Empire help you achieve what you envision for your bikes?
It’s funny; I worked with Spencer (Bloomer) for 14 years at Kawasaki and never knew he could draw parts. He’s really good at taking ideas everyone has and making a piece out of it. We’re always working on stuff and always thinking. We can take an idea to the NASCAR shop and have them make it right then. They can do anything we dream up. It’s pretty cool to be able to take an idea and watch it go onto the bike. It’s good to have people around that can make things happen.
How did working for Jeff Emig and James Stewart prepare to take on the role as the manager of JGR?
The JGR bikes are always some of the best looking machines at the races. Being part od the Joe Gibbs Racing family allows for some very trick parts to be made in-house.
There’s been a bunch of different managers I’ve worked with over the years, and Bruce Stjernstrom was one I really respected. I just watched how he did things and worked with people. With Stewart, I was always kind of managing anyways. I was the one that talked to him pretty much every day so I kind of felt like I was managing a little bit already. I definitely didn’t know what the job was when I took it. There’s way more involved than what I thought, and I give those guys a lot of credit. I really didn’t know how I would do until I did it. Hopefully I’m doing good.
I remember going out on the town with you, and you would always seemed to get stopped by people asking for pictures or autographs. Does that still happen as much now that you are the manager?
Yeah, there are still a lot of people who want autographs, and it feels kind of weird. I just try to make time and talk to people and not blow them off. Even to this day if someone asks for something I try to do as much as I can. Not only does it help me; it helps the sponsors I’m working for. It’s part of the deal. I just try to do the best I can for the fans.