Wheeling’s Travis Braden Makes Big Statement
BROWNSBURG, Ind. – This race was months in the making for Travis Braden and his team.
With a limited budget and hard labor since April, Braden was finally able to get an opportunity to race in the ARCA Racing Series.
He took full advantage of the opportunity as Braden came from a lap down at one point in the race to win the Sioux Chief PowerPEX 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway on Friday night as a nation watched on FOX Sports 1.
“I had a couple tears in my eyes as I crossed the finish line,” Braden said. “But I stopped that and I started laughing. I was just laughing because I could not believe what had happened. Even now after the race, I can’t believe that happened. So many things had to go our way.”
Things went exactly Braden’s way down the stretch. Crew Chief Matt Weber called for Braden to get four tires with 90 laps to go on a caution. Most of the other cars went with two tires thinking there would be another caution later in the race. Weber’s gamble paid off as the race stayed green until the Wheeling native took the checkered flag in the No. 01 West Virginia University Chevrolet Impala.
“That just does not happen very often,” Braden said. “To do a tire strategy to win a race hardly ever happens now. That is the old style of racing that you just do not see anymore. I was questioning the decision at first and I was frustrated. I was getting ready to call Matt an idiot. I have a lot of respect for him and obviously I have a lot more now. I really did not think we would be green the rest of the way. I thought we were screwed. Even with 40 and 30 laps to go, I am thinking there is going to be a caution. At 20 laps to go, I was thinking we made it this long without a caution and this should be possible. Every lap I was asking them what lap is it? I did not blink for the last 30 minutes of the race. It was unbelievable.”
The two-time ARCA/CRA Super Series champion started reeling in cars with 50 laps to go. Braden was more than four seconds from the leader with 50 lapsremaining and charged to the front to pass William Byron for the lead with 20 to go. The WVU senior won the race by 3.142 seconds over Byron in stunning fashion.
“At the beginning of that green-flag run I was about a half of a lap down or better,” Braden said. “That is a lot of ground to make up on a green flag. It was not until about 45 laps to go before I could even see the leader, the 55 car. At that time I was not sure if 45 laps was enough. It played out just right, the lapped traffic held him up and I was able to shoot through there and go.”
Team owner Don Braden and the crew will aim to race in another ARCA race later in the season. Until then the Wheeling Park graduate plans to drive in the JEGS/CRA All Stars Tour for Platinum Motorsports and in selected Super Late Model races.
“We have to build on something and this is definitely as much as we could have asked for,” Braden said. “I hate to say this, but it takes just enough sponsorship to race at high levels and we just do not have enough. We have some great supporters starting with West Virginia University and a number of local sponsors. It takes so much and those guys do everything they can, but we just need a little bit more help to make this a full-time deal. All you can is win these races.
“We will take next week off, look at the schedule and think like this race, what will make the most sense for us to do? Our next one will be the one that makes the most sense and we will try to win again.
Racing great Ken Schrader was a help in getting Braden to race this weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway. The ARCA Racing Series driver encouraged Braden to race in the series and had his racing team help in whatever way possible. Schrader has been a big fan of Braden’s and the two finally met at the PRI Trade Show in December.
“He told me he loved to see me race and I am a real racer,” Braden said. “He said he would let his guys help me do it. Since that day, Schrader and his team have helped us find some good cars and we found two great cars in April and May. Our budget limited us but we bought a motor and some parts and hard labor to get ready. It took us three or four months to get ready but we were ready when we got here. I knew we would have a chance when we got here and never would dreamed if we were going to win it would have played out like it did.”
The race will re-air on FOX Sports 1 this week at a time to be announced. Sudsy’s Auto Spas, Braden’s A-1 Towing, Stoney Hollow Tire, Matheson Gases and Remember the Miners were all local sponsors on board with the No. 01 car. While Braden and all other drivers used a hired crew for pit stops, he had his regular crew that has been there all season by his side, such as spotter Justin Withers, mentor Gary St. Amant, James Kirby and Alex Peers.
Braden started the race in the No. 8 position right in front of Schrader, but fell behind early due to a shifting problem and found himself a lap down in the early stages of the race. But like Braden has always done, he fought, battled and raced all the way to the front to take the checkered flag home.
“This is the type of thing that has to happen in your career. Every driver has to have a day like this, where hopefully you can really build off of it. We have to do everything we can to build off of this right now and take advantage of it.”