All season long Travis Braden has come close. Having fast car after fast car, it seemed that the Wheeling, West Virginia, driver could finish every position but first.
On a picture-perfect autumn afternoon, Braden would finally break through by winning a hectic JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour finale Saturday at Winchester Speedway.
In qualifying, it would be an unlikely face setting the fastest lap. Smashing the track record, Colby Howard would rocket his No. 81 Anthony Campi Racing Toyota to the pole award in his first career start at Winchester. Following the inversion, two-time series champion Jack Dossey III would lead the field to the green.
The high banks of Winchester can prove treacherous for the drivers, and this year’s race was no exception. A caution-filled race saw the bad luck bug strike three of the four championship contenders, as well as countless other competitors.
When Lap 100 finally came and the dust settled, Braden would dominate and pick up his first win of the season.
“We've had so many chances to win races over the last two years,” Braden said. “Just everything that could go wrong, went wrong
“On this day here it just all went right,” Braden added. “So thankful to Team Platinum, everyone at Speed 51, CRA, and all the people that help put the show on.”
Showing consistent speed all race long, 2016 JEGS CRA All-Star Tour Champion Cody Coughlin would come up one position short. The Delaware, Ohio, driver was one of the few who brought home a relatively clean race car.
“We definitely were working up to the last hour to come here,” Coughlin said. “So we don't have as many people working on the car anymore.
“So definitely took more effort to achieve the same results so to speak,” he added. “Just overall we didn't have enough side grip to compete with the winner and we'll keep that in mind for tomorrow.”
Canadian Brandon Watson, who made the trek from Stayner, Ontario, finished third.
“We definitely had a good car,” Watson said. “We had to come in early in the race, make some adjustments and loosen the car up a little bit. I almost had enough for the front seat. Just hold on for a third today, made the long haul worth it.”
Major championship implications unfolded on Lap 17 when then-championship leader Mason Keller made hard contact with the outside wall after contact with Wes Griffith. Keller, visibly upset with Griffith, exchanged passionate words with the driver of the No.33 while under red.
“We just flat out got wrecked, that's what happened,” Keller said post wreck.
A full interview with Keller will be available soon on the Speed51 Network.
Former JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour champion Jack Dossey III led the opening stages of the race before being forced to visit pit road under the red flag with mechanical issues. His team was able to get him back on track and the Indianapolis, IN driver drove back through the field for a fifth-place finish.
In addition to Keller, two other championship contenders also faced attrition. Trever McCoy retired after a mechanical failure, while Mandy Chick overcame countless pit stops and a first lap crash to finish second in the standings.
In the end, Dan Leeck would go on to claim his second JEGS CRA All-Star Tour Championship following a sixth-place finish.
Speed51 will have more on the championship in the coming days.
Race fans unable to make it to Winchester Speedway will be able to watch a live pay-per-view broadcast Sunday on Speed51. Visit www.speed51.com/winchester400 for more information.
JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour - Winchester 100 Finish:
|5||20||Jack Dossey III|
|12||33||Wes Griffith Jr|
-Story by: Alex Gallacher, Speed51 Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51Photos.com / Evan Canfield