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Brayton hopes Gibbs can be contender

June 27th, 2014 9:36 pm by Jeff Birchfield

Brayton hopes Gibbs can be contender

BLOUNTVILLE — When Justin Brayton signed on to ride for Joe Gibbs Racing, he didn’t know how closely the namesake followed his motocross team. He soon found out the three-time Super Bowl winning coach was interested in every aspect of the business.

“When I first signed with the team, I didn’t know how involved Coach Gibbs would be or if I would even get to meet him,” said Brayton, rider of the No. 10 Yamaha in the 450 class at today’s Tennessee National. “You never know with how busy he is. But, he’s very hands-on and he shows up to a lot of races. It’s really cool to sit down and talk with him. I’ve been able to pick his brain. Everything he’s been involved with, he’s won championships so he knows how to win and that’s obviously our goal in motocross.”

After winning three NFL championships with the Washington Redskins, Gibbs added three Sprint Cup Series championships as a NASCAR team owner. 

His organization has been the only one to truly challenge Hendrick Motorsports dominance over the past decade and overall his teams have captured 114 Sprint Cup wins over his 23 years as a car owner. However, the success hasn’t translated fully to the AMA Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Series although Brayton is confident under Gibbs’ leadership the team can challenge the powerful KTM Factory team at some point. 

“That’s what is cool, how he came from football where he won three Super Bowls and then had the success in racing,” he said. “Like I said, pretty much everything he’s been in, he’s been the best at it. That’s something to be said. There aren’t many people who could go to a totally different sport and win at it, let alone three or four sports.”

A major change with the motocross team came in 2012 when the team parted ways with superstar rider James “Bubba” Stewart. However, the JGR team still showed speed with Josh Grant the fastest qualifier at last year’s inaugural Muddy Creek race.

Brayton finished a disappointing 16th overall after winding up 40th in the second moto. Still the track only three hours from his home proved to be a favorite of the 30-year-old rider.

“The track looks awesome,” he said. “Last year being the first year, it’s always tough. You never know what to expect, but I thought last year was awesome. It’s kind of funny the few sections that I struggled with last year, they’ve changed them. I’m pretty excited about it and being close to home where I live in Charlotte, I have some friends and family coming in. I’m looking forward to it.”

For Brayton, the Tennessee National will be his first race of the season. He missed the first four races with a torn MCL, and also suffered a broken hand and fractured foot during the Supercross season.

Another challenge will be the weather with the forecast calling for hot weather for a second straight year. That’s fine with Brayton who relishes the challenge.

“Weather-wise, it’s hot and humid, but that’s what our sport is all about, being tough, hot and sweaty during the long motos,” he said. “A lot of guys who live in California aren’t used to the humidity, so that’s an advantage for me living here. We haven’t had any hot races this year so even though the weather looks to be mid-80’s, the humidity is going to be a factor. It’s going to be a tough race, regardless.”

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