For the first time in his ARCA Menards Series career, Travis Braden (No. 27 MatrixCare/Consonus Health Care/Liberty Village Ford) leads the series championship standings. Braden, a two-time champion in the ARCA/CRA Super Series for late models, assumed the series lead after a 12th-place finish at Salem Speedway.
Although driver and team both have ARCA Menards Series wins, Braden and the Don Fike-owned RFMS Racing team have been knocking on the door of victory lane for their first win together for almost two seasons. Braden won in his series debut in 2015 driving for his family-owned operation, while RFMS Racing won on the dirt with A.J. Fike driving later on that summer. Braden debuted with Fike’s Indianapolis-based team at Winchester Speedway in July 2017 and finished fourth. Since then, Braden has racked up four more top-five finishes and thirteen more top-ten runs.
The accomplishments seem all the more impressive when you take into account that Braden, the driver, is also one of just three full-time employees and works on the cars in the shop every day alongside crew chief Dan Glauz and jack of all trades Casey Swift. Braden brings a level of expertise most drivers cannot; he has dual degrees in aerospace and mechanical engineering from West Virginia University.
“A lot of people like to talk about us being a smaller team than most,” Braden said. “It’s an interesting conversation. We are indeed smaller, obviously, but we also have a lot of great support, great tools, and we’re growing. Things look drastically different than they did just eighteen months ago at RFMS Racing, and you’re going to see that show up on-track this season. The bigger teams actually have some challenges that we don’t, whether it be employee turnaround, or secretism or other things like that. We’re isolated in Brownsburg, Indiana, but once we establish ourselves as a front-runner, that will be of huge benefit to us.”
The team received additional support from long-time partner MatrixCare over the off-season, which allowed some upgrades in the shop and at the track. Most noticeable are the team uniforms, which might not make a lot of difference to the speed of the cars on the track but are a source of pride for Braden and his little team that could.
“MatrixCare, Consonus Health Care, and Liberty Village have all been phenomenal to me, and to RFMS Racing,” he said. “They’ve expanded their program with us in 2019, and I’m just really eager to match that on the track. Our sponsors are filled with brilliant, and very kind people. I’ve literally met probably twenty to thirty of their employees that I now know on a personal basis. They get them to a lot of our races, and we have an awesome time. Our team, and myself, could not be growing the way we are without their support and it means a lot. It’s a great group and everyone does everything they can to do their part in helping us succeed.”
While leading the points for the first time may be a huge accomplishment for Braden, a return trip to victory lane for the first time in 32 starts is a major priority. He sees Friday’s General Tire 200 at Talladega Superspeedway as a major opportunity. The style of racing at the mammoth 2.66-mile high banked tri-oval, in which cars stay tucked into the slipstream of the car in front of them, means that just about anyone has a chance to win should circumstances work in their favor.
Braden had circumstances work in his favor almost all of the way at Talladega’s sister track, Daytona International Speedway, in 2018. He stayed out of trouble until the third of four overtime attempts to finish the race. Braden was running fourth coming to what should have been the checkered flag when contact between the drivers running first and third sent the entire top four hard into the outside wall. Braden’s run to an underdog win ended with a severely damaged racecar and left his small team deep in a hole they struggled to emerge from all season.
“Restrictor plate racing is a lot of fun, but a lot of stress,” he said. “I think we have a good strategy to get us to the end of the races safely, but from there, there’s really nothing you can do besides go for it. Obviously I try to be careful to not create a wreck myself, and I try to get hooked up with one or two other cars that I think are fast enough to get the run and understand that we need to stick together until the tri-oval. It’s such a hard game to master, though!”
Practice for the General Tire 200 is scheduled for 9:30 am ET/8:30 am CT on Friday, April 26, followed by General Tire Pole Qualifying at 3:35 pm ET/2:35 pm CT. The green flag will drop on the General Tire 200 at 6 pm ET/5 pm CT. The race will be shown live on FS1. ARCA for Me members will be able to follow live timing & scoring, live track updates, and live chat throughout all on-track activity for free at ARCARacing.com. New members can join for free by registering at ARCARacing.com/login.
-ARCA Menards Series Press Release and Photo