It was an emotional Bud St. Amant Memorial 174 victory for Wheeling, West Virginia driver Travis Braden on Saturday night at Columbus Motor Speedway. Braden’s crew chief, Gary St. Amant, is the son of the legendary Bud St. Amant and was on hand to witness, and eventually win, the race that honored his dad.
Full of excitement and joy in victory lane, St. Amant said, “It is a dream come true to be able to have a race in my dad’s honor, and to win it, wow.”
Braden, who brought a bus load of cheerful fans from the West Virginia area, qualified in the fifth position and started on the pole for the 174-lap feature event after a five-car invert to set the field.
Chad Finley, who initially was the second fast qualifier, had to drop to starting in the 11th spot after missing his spot in the qualifying order. Finley made a mad dash to the front of the field and was soon battling Braden for the top spot.
The two drivers would slingshot back and forth for the lead position several times before the competition caution break at lap 100. All drivers were permitted to change two tires while on pit road; however the more tires they changed the farther back they had to start in the field.
The top-five drivers would keep original race tires on their Super Late Model machines and kept their positions when the green flag was waved for the final 74 laps.
Finley went to the front of the field after the competition caution period and was able to hold off a hard charging Travis Braden for many laps until he had a right front tire starting to go down.
Braden was able to take over the lead and gain significant ground on the cars trailing behind him and never looked back. Hometown driver Cody Coughlin put up a battle against Chad Finley and came home in the second position.
“I couldn’t be more excited to win this one; I don’t know what to say really, it sure means a lot to us,” Braden said in Victory Lane with a very excited crew by his side.
Saturday night’s win at Columbus Motor Speedway was the first victory of the year for the defending CRA Super Series champion. Not only was Braden excited to win for his Crew Chief Gary St. Amant, but Columbus Speedway is one of the closest tracks to Branden’s hometown of Wheeling, WV.
A bus load of fans made the trek up to the Buckeye State to watch their driver pull his machine into victory lane. With all of his fans cheering excitedly near the frontstretch fence after his win, Braden said, “I am so thankful for all the people who came up here to support me and to watch this race tonight.”
Cody Coughlin, who is the JEGS All-Star Tour defending point’s champion, brought his car home in the second position after making a late race pass around Chad Finley. Coughlin has been running a part-time ARCA Racing Series schedule with Venturini Motorsports in 2014 and made just his second ARCA/CRA Super Series start of the season on Saturday.
A strong finish for Coughlin was extras special because the race was a home game for the Delaware, Ohio native.
“I was really happy with our run tonight; it meant so much to be able to run this well in the St. Amant Memorial,” said Coughlin. “All of those guys are like family to me. I love them all and to do this in Bud’s honor was awesome. I told Travis before the race it would be cool if we could finish 1-2 for him, didn’t matter what order, and that’s exactly what we did.”
Early leader Chad Finley would finish third with Wes Griffith, Jr. and Nick Gullatta rounding out the top-five.
Brian Campbell who came into the event as the CRA Super Series point’s leader was involved in an early caution that took him out of the race. As a result of his win, Travis Braden takes over the CRA Super Series point’s leader going into the next race at Flat Rock Speedway, in Michigan.
ARCA/CRA Super Series Bud St. Amant Memorial 174 Unofficial Results:
|4||33||Wes Griffith Jr||174|
|18||29||Tommy St John||12|
-By Mikayla Kugler, Speed51.com Correspondent. Photo Credit: Speed51.com