No, a past Champion didn't line up at the gate nor did an old friend make a surprise appearance, and it wasn't Bibendum or even Eli Tomac (though he came close) that melted the Supercross internet.
Justin Brayton accomplished a personal best and set a record which sent fans into a frenzy and just more than halfway into the 2018 Monster Energy Supercross season the #1 storyline for the year arrived mere minutes after Brayton crossed the checkers last week in Daytona. He even won his Heat race! Now if he can just repeat on Saturday in St. Louis...
Brayton, a veteran rider in the states and two-time defending Australian Supercross Champion, who turns 34 this week led all but one lap of Round 10 for his first career Supercross win stateside and became the oldest rider ever to win in the 450 class. He was nearly star struck in his podium interview finally concluding with "I knew if I could put in some laps at the beginning I was fast enough to get away, get a cushion. It worked. This is awesome. This is awesome."
Justin Brayton proves you're never too late nor too old to win a Supercross race.
But it is often said in this sport "you're only as good as your last race" thus the series moves on to Missouri and thanks to Brayton a bit of excitement now fuel-injected into a season that has lost so many contenders to injury forcing some out for good while others make a desperate charge to salvage a season gone awry and try to catch points leader Jason Anderson with just seven rounds remaining.
Anderson showed some kinks in his armor last week but still rides into St. Louis with a 40 point lead. He finished seventh after crashing, ending a season long Top 4 streak. He got lucky too because for a minute there Marvin Musquin looked headed for the win, passing Brayton then nearly looped out and instead crashed into the pits with 15 minutes on the clock. That left clear sailing for Brayton but prevented Musquin from capitalizing on Anderson's misfortunes. Musquin settled for fifth and subtracted two points off Anderson's lead.
Meanwhile, Tomac raced from last to second in an effort reminiscent of Ryan Dungey's charge last year at Daytona from near the back, reaching fourth-place just a few turns from the finish. Tomac has little chance of turning that performance into a Championship saver however, because he's 63 points from first or put another way, five rounds away from elimination.
Cooper Webb #2 and Eli Tomac #3 finished 3-2, respectively, last week.
Tomac brings solid success to St. Louis winning last year by nearly seven seconds over Dungey and taking second in 2015. Musquin finished third last year with Anderson in fourth. Anderson took third in 2016 and 2015. Brayton first raced St. Louis in 2008 finishing seventh for the premier class and took third in 2012 his best finish at the Edward Jones Dome (now called The Dome at America's Center). He rides mid-pack consistency since 2013 finishing ninth or 10th place except for 2015 when he finished 18th.
Every round raced this season features Anderson, Musquin or Tomac on the podium with six of 10 rounds including at least two of them in the third through first spot. Confidence indeed proves a curious thing with a Triple Crown race win followed by the victory at Daytona for Brayton but healthy and crash free rides by the aforementioned trio certainly narrows the available options on the box.
Elsewhere, Cooper Webb rounded out the Daytona podium in third his best finish of the year which continues a career best stretch with 6-4-6-3 finishes the last four weeks. Webb finished 14th in St. Louis last year his only career trip to the Show Me State. Tomac, Musquin and Webb posted the Top 3 best lap times last week.
Can Jordon Smith repeat in St. Louis on Saturday?
The 250SX East class race continues to tighten as Jordon Smith got his first win of the season and points leader Zach Osborne took fourth ending three straight podium rounds. Jeremy Martin took second while Austin Forkner followed up his two straight wins with a third and tied Osborne for first. Martin and Forkner posted faster best laps times than Smith who won by less than a second over Martin.
Smith won St. Louis last year with Osborne taking third and Martin won in 2016 while taking second in 2015. Forkner gets his first crack in St. Louis. Just eight points separate Osborne and Forkner, who both ride the Red Plate on Saturday, from Smith who has 81 points. Martin trails in fourth with 70 points but he needs a win to close the 19 point gap from first and make a case to contend for the Championship.
Jeremy Martin and St. Louis get along quite well.
The injury bug moved on from the 450s and hit the 250s last week as James Decotis, who took a career best third-place to open the season, and RJ Hampshire, who strung together three straight fourth-place finishes for third in the standings after three rounds, now look forward to the Outdoors. Decotis broke some ribs and fractured his back and Hampshire broke a rib and also fractured his back. This comes after Colt Nichols who opened the season in second suffered a broken arm in practice prior to Daytona. All three held spots in the Top 10 for points.
Our Podium Picks for St. Louis:
- Eli Tomac
- Marvin Musquin
- Jason Anderson
250SX East Class
- Jeremy Martin
- Jordon Smith
- Zach Osborne
Check out the track map for Round 11. A quasi-split start with the starting gates stretching underneath the over/under bridge, the second and final one of the season. And no sand.
Practice for St. Louis starts at 12 p.m. (CST) with the Main at 7 p.m. (CST) on Saturday at The Dome. FOX Sports 1 provides television coverage. Cool and rainy weather this weekend expected for the St. Louis area.
2018 Supercross Season Standings
- Jason Anderson (223)
- Marvin Musquin (183)
- Justin Brayton (170)
- Blake Baggett (164)
- Eli Tomac (160)
- Weston Peick (153)
- Cooper Webb (146)
- Broc Tickle (131)
- Cole Seely (124)
- Justin Barcia (113)
250SX East Class
- Zach Osborne (89)
- Austin Forkner (89)
- Jordon Smith (81)
- Jeremy Martin (70)
- RJ Hampshire (57)
- Luke Renzland (55)
- Colt Nichols (54)
- Martin Davalos (52)
- Kyle Peters (51)
- James Decotis (49)