Wheeling’s Braden Enjoying Solid Season

BROWNSBURG, Ind. — Good things come in small packages.

RFMS Racing is one of the smallest — if not the smallest — team on the ARCA Series presented by Menards. It has one driver — Wheeling native Travis Braden.

Braden drives the No. 27 MatrixCare/Consonus Healthcare-Liberty Village-sponsored Ford Fusion. The 24-year-old currently sits in fifth place in the point standings with 2,995 which is 545 behind leader Sheldon Creer and 145 ahead of sixth-place Natalie Decker. His point total is good enough for third among rookies and includes one Top 5 and eight Top 10 finishes, including a ninth at last weekend’s rain-shortened ModSpace 150 at Pocono Racetrack, in 14 starts. There are five races remaining.

“It’s been a lot of fun even though we haven’t achieved 100 percent of the results we wanted to,” Braden explained during a telephone call last week from his new hometown in the Hoosier State. “For being the smallest team, we’ve been competitive, but we also had some big goals.

“I feel like we should have more Top 5s and Top 10s, but we look at it as a good thing because of our size and we know we can do better. That’s not bad. It’s good optimism and serves as a lot of motivation.”

Braden has competed in the ARCA series part-time in family-owned cars since 2015. He won in his first career start at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, and posted top 10 finishes in his four other starts between 2015 and 2016, at Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan, and Chicago. He is well-known in the asphalt super late model community as a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Rookie of the Year and state champion, ARCA/CRA Super Series Rookie of the Year and two-time champion of the series. Braden, who holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from West Virginia University, subbed for RFMS Racing in the back half of 2017, coming away with a fourth-place finish at Winchester Speedway, eighth at Kentucky Speedway and 11th at Chicagoland Speedway.

“In my first year of driving part-time, I met some people and was very lucky to be in the right place at the right time to meet the right person,” he said of team founder, Don Fike who started RFMS Racing in 1996. “They were looking for someone young like me. I filled in some at the end of last season and they liked what they saw in me. They asked me to come aboard full-time this season.

“Driving full-time takes up a lot more of my time, but I’ve always committed all my time to racing.”

He said he made the commitment to RFMS Racing in December and started the next month.

“From Jan. 1 to this past weekend at Pocono, the team has had a total of six or seven days off,” he said.

Speaking of Pocono, the 60-lap race was shut down by rain after 33 laps with Braden just inside the Top 10.

“I thought we had a 7-10th place car,” Braden said. “It’s hard to pass on that track, but I’ve been really good on re-starts this year. I was hoping we could pickup a couple of spots and get into the Top 5 and then get a late restart. There’s no telling what could’ve happened.”

As for the remainder of the season, he said his team is committed to bringing the best package possible to each race.

“We want to finish as strong as we can,” he noted. “We want to improve our cars and, in general, compete for wins. As for myself, I just want to drive to the best of my ability, make no mistakes and finish races.

“There’s a lot that goes into a race. It’s not just driver vs. driver. It’s team versus team. Crew chief against crew chief. Engineers versus engineers and setups against setups,” he stressed. “A lot of that goes back to the pride factor. Even the best drivers can’t win all the time. It takes an entire team to win.

“There are a lot of inexperienced drivers in these cars,” he continued. “We’ve got two dirt track races left and they are kind of unknowns. I’ve been pretty good on dirt in the past and I think my short track experience will definitely help.

“Even though I’m from West Virginia, I started my racing career throughout the state of Ohio,” Braden acknowledged. “I’ve raced in Columbus, Dayton, Xenia, Mansfield and Toledo. Thus, I consider both states my home.”

Braden and his fellow ARCA drivers next compete on Saturday, Aug. 18 in the Allen Crowe 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.