Supercross Showdown

Rookie in dirt-bike racing’s top series ready for season finale in Vegas

In his rookie season competing in the AMA Supercross Series, Justin Brayton has found that riding with the big boys is a step up in intensity.

Thousands of excited fans pack into stadiums teeming with adrenaline, while dozens of the world’s most talented dirt-bike riders prepare to balance power and precision as they race side by side.

Racing around dirt courses filled with death-defying ramps, the daring professionals and their high-performance machines test the limits of gravity as they chase the checkered flag.

“It’s just incredible,” Brayton says. “When people come to their first race they’re never quite sure what to expect, but by the time they leave they’re hooked. It’s just such an amazing experience for the fan.”

For those looking to make their foray into Supercross spectatorship, there may be no better opportunity than the May 8 showdown at Sam Boyd Stadium.

As the final event of the year, the Las Vegas race will serve as a championship of sorts for two different divisions—Supercross, which involves 450cc motocross bikes, and Supercross Lites, which involves 250cc bikes.

For the Supercross class, the race will be the final chance of the season for riders to earn points, though Ryan Dungey of the Rockstar Makita Suzuki team already clinched the season championship on April 24 in Seattle, becoming just the second rookie to earn the title, joining Supercross legend Jeremy McGrath, who did it in 1993.

Brayton, an Iowan who competes for Joe Gibbs Racing, is in sixth place, and finished third on his Yamaha in Seattle to earn his first Supercross trip to the podium.

For the Supercross Lites grouping, the weekend will function as a coastal competition. In this class, teams are split geographically, and come together just once each year in the East-West shootout to determine which side of the country produces the best talent.

“It’s a real rivalry for these guys,” Brayton says. “They all want to prove where the best ones come from, so this is going to have some real built-in excitement for those guys.”

Brayton notes that this particular weekend boasts a level of intensity usually reserved for prison riots and the parents’ section of Little League baseball games. “It’s the last race of the season to show what you got, and for some of these guys it could mean championships or a spot on the team next year,” he says. “Things are definitely going to get crazy out there.”

The 26-year-old former Arenacross star adds that the bright lights and electric atmosphere of Las Vegas will only ramp up the excitement for an event already filled with danger and passion. “It’s the perfect town for this race,” Brayton says. “Vegas is the kind of place where anything can happen, and this is a race with crazy possibilities.”

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