Travis Braden has been looking for an opportunity to showcase his talents for a while. He’s proven what he can do in Late Model racing. Two ARCA/CRA Super Series championships and a Winchester 400 win are just a couple of the accolades the West Virginia native has been able to rack up throughout his racing career, but he hadn’t gotten a chance to show his stuff in a higher level of stock car racing. That is until now.
RFMS Racing announced on their Facebook page on Wednesday night that the 23-year-old Braden will pilot their No. 27 Ford throughout the full 2018 ARCA Racing Series schedule. It’s the opportunity that Braden has been looking for.
“Sometimes I look back at the careers of other drivers,” Braden began. “You look at Kevin Harvick and Brad (Keselowski) and some of those guys. Sometimes I feel like I’m way too old, but when you look at their careers and see what they were doing at the same time in their life, they were in the same phase. Then a year or two after this is when they got their breaks to go and do NASCAR stuff. But they were family-owned deals and partial schedules and finally their first full seasons. A lot of it is actually pretty similar. I feel like this is when I’ll see if I can kind of match up with those guys. It’ll be a pretty big test.”
It’s a test that Braden feels he is up for at a level that he’s already had some success. In 2015, Braden decided to build an ARCA car out of his own shop. He took it to Lucas Oil Raceway, a few minutes away from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and won in his first race with the series. He followed that up with a second-place run his next time out at Kentucky Speedway (KY). In 2016, Braden made just two starts but finished no worse than seventh.
Braden made five starts in 2017, four of those coming behind the wheel of the No. 27, with a mixed bag of results. While the results may not reflect it, the performance was there for Braden and RFMS Racing, and that’s what led to this partnership for 2018.
“That’s why we decided to do it,” Braden said. “We didn’t really have the results but there were some solid performances there. And really with how quickly everything came together we didn’t have the time to do some of the things that we wanted to do. We didn’t get to use their best car. So given all of that we feel we have a good chance to run well pretty much everywhere.”
Braden said there are three races in particular that he’s most looking forward to in 2018. He said he’s excited to race at the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway (NC), the half-mile of Berlin Raceway (MI) and the 0.686-mile Lucas Oil Raceway (IN), the site of his first ARCA win.
“I’m really looking forward to the Charlotte race and I think Berlin will be a cool race too. Those are new races to the schedule so I think those will be cool. (Indianapolis) is a home race so it would be cool to win that one, and the last time I ran there I won. The race track there is literally two minutes from the shop these guys work out of. I’ve raced there so many times there in a Late Model so I think we’ll have a good chance to win because of the experience that I have there.”
Speaking of Late Models, Braden said he doesn’t think he’ll have much time to do much Late Model racing in 2018. But that said, Braden is still hopeful he can put a deal together to run two races in particular.
“I’d love to run, even if it was just two races I’d love to run the Winchester 400 and the (Snowball) Derby. If I could only run two, those are the two that I would pick for sure.”
Braden and RFMS Racing will kick off their quest for the 2018 ARCA Racing Series championship on Saturday, February 10 at the Daytona International Speedway.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com