Career-Best Finish for Craig at Daytona Supercross, Brayton Takes the Win2018-03-13 10:14
Honda enjoyed a dream night at the prestigious Daytona Supercross, where Smartop/Bullfrog Spa MotoConcepts rider Justin Brayton scored the dramatic victory, while Team Honda HRC fill-in rider Christian Craig notched a career-best 450SX result of fourth. The two CRF450R racers also each won a heat race.
Craig and Brayton started the main event in first and second, respectively, and Brayton soon took over the lead. He briefly lost the top spot on lap four but was able to return to the front and ride unchallenged for the rest of the race, earning the first AMA Supercross win of his career. Brayton, who turns 34 on Wednesday, is the oldest rider to win a main event. With his victory, he moves into third in the series standings. Craig continued to ride impressively after being passed by Brayton, alternating between second and third for most of the 20-minute-plus-one-lap race before slipping to fourth with just a few minutes left.
Following last week’s Atlanta Supercross, Team Honda HRC and the GEICO Honda squad traveled directly to Claremont, Florida, to do some testing on a Daytona-style course at the Moto Sandbox (formerly known as The Nest). On Tuesday evening, the team went to Ken Roczen’s home for a barbecue and birthday celebration for teammate Cole Seely. “It was a good week in Florida,” said team manager Erik Kehoe. “We had several things in our plan. One was to do some testing with Christian [Craig] and give him more time on the bike to get ready for Daytona. But we also got to spend some time with Kenny and Cole for some team camaraderie. It’s been a tough month for us, so to get everyone together and hang out was great.”
On Friday, Craig and the 250 squad participated in Daytona’s pre-event press day, where they spoke with media and had an opportunity to preview the course. Unlike in previous years, riders were allowed to ride the entire track except for the whoop section, and Craig felt the experience was very beneficial. “Normally we only get to ride a tiny section of the track, so it’s not that big of a deal, but this time we got to ride pretty much everything,” he said. “I got the layout down quick and felt comfortable, so then I could just focus on putting in good laps during qualifying.”
During the daytime qualifying sessions, Craig struggled to dial in his CRF450R for the challenging Daytona course, landing 11th with a 1’11.859” time.
It was another busy day for the recuperating Roczen, who attended his third consecutive race. After signing autographs alongside Craig for over 30 minutes, the German helped a fan propose to his girlfriend by writing “Will you marry me?” on one of his posters. She said yes! Later that evening, Roczen did two interviews on the PA system for the audience and then talked with Jenny Taft on Fox Sports 1 before the main events.
Team Honda HRC provided special access to a group of promotion winners for Daytona International Speedway, organizing a rig tour and opportunity to meet Roczen prior to the race. The German signed autographs and took photos with the fans.
Red Riders scoring the wins in both 450SX heat races was an exciting turn of events for Honda workers and fans. When the gate dropped in the first heat, Brayton snuck to the inside to grab the early lead. He fended off several advances by Marvin Musquin throughout the entire race to take his second heat-race win of the season. In the second heat, Craig launched to a second-place start and engaged in a heated battle before falling to third. In the closing laps, he capitalized on the leaders going down to take over the lead and score his first-ever 450SX heat race win.
In the 250 class, GEICO Honda’s Jeremy Martin returned to form, grabbing a great start and riding in second for the entire 14-lap race. In the closing laps, Martin closed the gap on the leader but ran out of time before he was able to challenge for the top spot. RJ Hampshire and Cameron McAdoo both missed the main event with injuries.
On Sunday following the race, Honda’s racing endeavors continued 55 miles northwest of Daytona Beach in Palatka, where JCR Honda’s Trevor Bollinger competed in the Wild Boar GNCC. Bollinger battled hard throughout the three-hour race before taking the checkered flag in fourth place in the XC1 class aboard his CRF450RX.
On Saturday, March 17, Team Honda HRC will be in St. Louis for round 11 of the AMA Supercross series. Prior to all the action, Craig, Martin, and RJ Hampshire will attend a Friday night autograph session at Big St. Charles Motorsports starting at 6 p.m.
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Christian Craig 32
“I had a great week testing with the team. They came down to Florida right after last weekend and I feel like we really improved. Just getting more time on the bike and getting more comfortable was huge. I started off race day feeling really good. My qualifying position didn’t really show it, but overall I was happy with my riding. It’s all about having fun out there, and man, that’s what I did tonight. I was up front in the heat race, fell to third, but then the two guys in front took each other out so I ended up winning. You can call it luck or whatever, but I just put myself in a good position to capitalize on people’s mistakes. I had a good gate pick and some confidence going into the main. I grabbed the holeshot and led for almost the first lap, but [Justin] Brayton got by me pretty quick. I stayed second for quite a while. I just rode my hardest and did my best. Unfortunately, a couple guys got by me in the end so I ended up fourth. The track was so tough. This is only my second time racing Daytona and last year didn’t go well, so I really wanted to get some revenge this year. It’s better than the week before, but man, I was so close to a podium. I just need to keep putting myself in good positions and work on getting better each weekend.”
“Christian is doing exactly what we had hoped. He’s consistent, his starts are really good, and he’s improving and getting more comfortable with the bike each week. He rode really well tonight. To get a heat-race win and ride to fourth in the main is awesome. I know he wanted a podium, but he should be really proud of that result. Congratulations as well to Justin Brayton and the entire MotoConcepts team. It was great to see a Honda on the top step of the podium, and they definitely earned it.”
Mechanic (Ken Roczen)
“I think Christian did great tonight. It was a crazy day with top contenders crashing and getting bad starts, but Christian got another great start and put himself in a good position from the beginning. I think he slowed down a few laps before those other guys, so he lost some time there. He kind of woke up again toward the end and got back up to speed. We tested this week and made the bike a little stiffer for him. Even coming here his fork was still too soft, so we made it stiffer for the last practice, which really helped. We also made a gearing charge because he was revving out the bike. Kenny saw it while watching practice too, so he kind of helped Christian throughout the day. He’s bummed he’s not racing, but since he was here he wanted to help out as much as he can.”
450SX Main Event Results
Pos. Rider Num Nation Points Team Time/Gap
Justin 10 USA 26 Smartop MotoConcepts Racing
Eli 3 USA 23 Monster Energy Kawasaki
Source: Honda Racing Corporation
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