Travis Braden is no stranger to success at Winchester Speedway, winning the JEGS CRA All-Stars Tour portion of past Winchester 400 weekends twice. But on 2016’s kickoff event on Friday night, the Wheeling, West Virginia native had to earn it in a different way.
“This clutch has been getting worn out in this car and on that first restart it just didn’t go,” Braden told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I just kept spinning the tires is what it felt like, so I dropped back there unintentionally.”
Braden was the fastest qualifier, but a nine car invert placed Brandon Oakley on the pole. Braden rode around in 12th for several laps in the first half of the event, which featured series points leader Cody Coughlin taking the top spot early on.
The driver of the Platinum Motorsports No. 26 began to make his moves after a multi-car wreck just prior to halfway. After that point, Braden worked his way under Austin Kunert and then Coughlin on the same lap to take the lead.
Braden would lead the rest of the way en route to the win at a facility that has meant a good amount to him since his initial appearance at the high banked ½-mile.
“The first time I ever came here was only my second time in one of these cars and we won,” Braden indicated. “I had never heard of the place until a week before that, and I get here and see the size of the event and see how crazy this race track is. Since then, we’ve always had success here, especially in the crates. I always love coming here.”
Kunert followed in Braden’s footsteps throughout the remainder of the event, turning in a best effort of second place at lap 100.
“We’ve always had really good runs here in the past,” Kunert mentioned. “I came in here feeling really strong, and I could have passed (Braden) right when it started going green again but the car just started getting loose. If it would have been a little tighter I think I could have challenged him for the win.”
Kunert has momentum riding on his side going into 2017, in which he indicated their intention to move up and run some Super Late Model events in addition to a full season on the JEGS Tour.
Dan Leeck came out of seemingly nowhere after multiple pit stops at the start to finish third. Veteran racer Scott Hantz and Dakota Stroup rounded out the top five.
For Cody Coughlin, losing the lead ended up being the least of his problems.
“We had a car that could have won tonight but unfortunately a power steering issue kept that from happening,” Coughlin said.
Fortunate for Coughlin, there was enough of a buffer in the points race to claim the 2016 JEGS CRA All-Stars Tour title.
“It would have been awesome to win the race and the championship in the same night but I’m still thrilled we got the championship and our hard work all year long paid off,” Coughlin continued. “Now we just have to get the other one on Sunday.”
Along with Coughlin, Braden now sets his sights on Sunday’s 45th Annual Winchester 400 after coming close to the victory a couple years back.
“We’ve really struggled with our Super car all year,” Braden admitted. “It’s really similar to this car, but it just doesn’t ever have the speed. We’re working on it. I think we’re close, but just looking for that little bit of a feel. Hopefully tomorrow we can turn it around.”
Saturday, October 8 will showcase Super Late Model (ARCA / CRA Super Series) qualifying for the Winchester 400 and its Last Chance race. The Top Speed Modifieds will compete in the “Run for the Gun 50” and the CRA Late Model Sportsman and Street Stocks will complete their weekend double-header. Fans will be able to witness the racing on Saturday for $14.99.
The Winchester 400 on the high-banked legendary race track will take center-stage on Sunday, October 9th. Fans who tune-in will be able to see all the pomp & circumstance of pre-race ceremonies plus the demanding Winchester 400 for the ARCA / CRA Super Series. $24.99 will be the price to catch all the action.
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Central NY & PA Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
JEGS CRA All-Stars Tour Winchester 100 Unofficial Results
1 9 26 Travis Braden 100
2 2 29 Austin Kunert 100
3 16 12 Dan Leeck 100
4 13 72 Scott Hantz 100
5 12 47 Dakota Stroup 100
6 7 22 Trevor Noles 100
7 11 20 Jack Dossey III 100
8 15 83 Andy Bozell 98
9 19 5 Michael Clancy Jr. 87
10 18 7x David Carter 86
11 3 49 Colin Nickolai 76
12 22 67 Ben Welch 66
13 23 01 James Krueger 64
14 17 04 Phil Bozell 64
15 24 14 Cody Gallogly 60
16 8 1 Cody Coughlin 55
17 21 7 Travis Eddy 55
18 10 8 Scott Tomasik 42
19 5 81 Tristan Van Wieringen 33
20 6 20R Cole Rouse 33
21 4 51N Stephen Nasse 33
22 1 51 Brandon Oakley 27
23 14 1S Jon Beach 23
24 26 17 Keith Sterkowitz 19
25 20 30 Joshua James 5
26 25 28 Austin Coe 5