Travis Braden heads into Saturday’s Lucas Oil Show Me State Showdown powered by Speed51 as one of just two drivers to have pulled an CRA Super Series/All-Stars Tour event sweep, having done so during Winchester 400 weekend in 2016. His quest to repeat that performance got off to a strong start on Friday, setting the fastest time of the day for both the Super and Pro Late Model.
With last year’s Snowball Derby win comes increased expectations for Braden and Team Platinum. Their second race together in 2020 sees them competing in both the ARCA/CRA Super Series and JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour events, with nothing less than two wins expected Saturday night.
“It’s been a long down time, we’ve only raced once since the Snowball in December. It feels really good to be back at the track. We came here looking for nothing less than to be the best,” Braden told Speed51. “You’ve got some of the best people in the world coming here this weekend for a really great show.
“We wanted to bring a high level after the year we had last year and it’s pretty cool to be on top with both cars. It’s hectic to do two cars in one day when you only have a 20-minute break between one of them.”
Another former ARCA/CRA Super Series champion ended the day second fastest overall in the Super Late Models. Logan Runyon turned heads in the final session when he ran a 14.510, which stood as the fastest time of the day for much of the final session.
With a new car on hand for Saturday, he finds himself in a new position heading into race day.
“I’ve never ran here before and this is our first time out in this new Fury. There’s a lot of new learning curves compared to what we were used to with the Port City car,” Runyon said. “We’re a little worried about long run speed but overall I feel like we’ve got a good place to start tomorrow.
“It’s exciting to come and be top-five, especially with as strong as the field is here this week. It’s nice to not be struggling and looking for two to three tenths versus being in the ballpark and being able to fine tune.”
Defending Winchester 400 winner Stephen Nasse found himself in the top five overall in both cars at the end of practice on Friday. He was on hand for the most recent JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour race at the Missouri facility in 2017. With speed in both cars once again this weekend, he is confident he can pull off the sweep once again, just like he did at Winchester last September.
“It’s been a couple years since I’ve competed at this track, I was able to come out here and run the Masters of the Pro race, the last one they had here with Rick Turner. We were running second and had a right front go out on us, I still think we could’ve won that race. After letting that one slip away we haven’t been able to come back here.
“I feel pretty good about it, this is my kind of racetrack. It’s got a good amount of banking. Going into one and two is a little tricky, it’s just flat out and then unloads and it makes the car unstable,” Nasse added. “I could see a lot of people struggling with that and I feel like we’re maintaining it the best. I think we have a pretty good hot rod, I’m just looking forward to tomorrow. Both cars are fast and I think we have a pretty good shot to win them both tomorrow.”
Following Braden in Pro Late Model practice was former Lebanon I-44 Speedway track champion Cole Williams. With more laps around Lebanon than perhaps anyone else in the field, the 2017 Masters of the Pro’s winner feels like he can go back-to-back in JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour races at the facility.
“I think we have a pretty good car. We did a few different things than what we usually do here and it seems to be liking it,” Williams said. “Tomorrow’s a new day, we’ll see what happens tomorrow but I feel like we’re going to have a good start for tomorrow.”
“I definitely always think that helps. We know what this thing does in 100 laps and we got plenty of practice with that last year so that’s definitely going to help.”
Another driver that impressed during Pro Late Model practice was Chase Burda. The inaugural CRA Junior Late Model champion from one year ago is making the move to the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour for 2020, and hadn’t even been behind the wheel of a Pro Late Model until Thursday afternoon.
The 15-year-old found himself in the top ten in two of the three sessions on Friday. Even with showing speed, he is admittedly unsure of what to expect Saturday evening.
“I don’t know for sure what we have. Yesterday was the first time I got into the car and we unloaded really well. Our goal is to just finish all 100 laps and keep all four fenders on.
“I’m full of different stuff, I’ve got butterflies and I’m also excited,” Burda said of his Pro Late Model debut. “I don’t really know what to expect but I’m excited.”
Fans who can’t make it to Missouri can watch Saturday night’s Show Me State Showdown live on Speed51. Click here to order your PPV ticket.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51/Melissa Strahley