Travis Braden picked up the biggest win of his career one month ago when he was crowned the Snowball Derby champion at Five Flags Speedway. Now with the 2020 racing season underway, Braden and Team Platinum turn their attention to the first major Super Late Model race of the year, CRA SpeedFest in Georgia.
The two-time ARCA/CRA Super Series champion has made two previous starts at SpeedFest, but they came in 2012 and 2013, the first two years the race was held at Crisp Motorsports Park. Seven years later, Braden is looking forward to getting back to the 3/8ths mile after taking the Tom Dawson Trophy on a victory tour during the short offseason.
"I came to this show at least twice years ago but I haven’t been there in a few years. It’s cool to be back and I’m pretty excited to be getting back on the track with Team Platinum after the Snowball Derby win,” Braden told Speed51.com. “It’s been a really enjoyable offseason even though it’s been short, and we’ve just been having a lot of fun with it. It’s one of those deals where it’s no pressure, go down there and have some fun and hopefully compete, maybe even win the race, and get our season started.”
The 2013 edition of SpeedFest saw eight different leaders in the race while numerous cautions set up a dash for the finish that saw Chase Elliott and David Ragan collide late and Jeff Choquette take the win. Having started on the pole for that race, Braden is no stranger to what the race can provide on-track, citing SpeedFest as a can’t-miss event.
“It’s always been a very competitive race and I know there’s been a couple caution-filled races there, so it can kind of be a wildcard. For some reason it seems to be unique to that show,” he said. “Beginning of a new year and everyone’s excited and everyone’s going at it pretty hard. It’s usually a pretty tough one and should be action-packed and fun to watch.”
With the ARCA Menards Series not on his radar for 2020, SpeedFest kicks off a season focused on the Super Late Model side for Braden and Team Platinum. With the recent success of the pairing, they hope to thrust themselves onto the scene as one of the top dogs in America.
“What we’d like to do is race more often and race in as many of the big shows as we can, which would include some new shows that we’ve never been to before,” he said. “We’ve got some really great new sponsors and partners to come on board recently and if we can grow some more of that, we’d be able to do just that and go race some more of these shows and be more of a part of the short track racing national landscape. You look at a guy like Bubba Pollard or someone like that, they race quite a bit more. It would be a long-term goal for us to try and reach that level of racing and getting to race that much. It’s been going that direction, things are going really well, and so that’s exciting.”
Braden has received support from new sponsors throughout the year leading to the Snowball Derby, while showing they are a force to be reckoned with even if the final results didn’t show it.
“Last year was a weird year because we were extremely competitive, borderline dominant all season, but no results, no luck to ever get a good result at the end of one of those races. Those that support us and those we were trying to get some new support from recognized the potential, so there were a lot of good things happening to us before the Snowball Derby, and the Snowball Derby made it that much better.”
“One of the coolest was we went to the Snowball Derby with a brand new sponsor, RelaxontheBeach.com, which is a vacation rental company in the Gulf Shores very near to Pensacola,” he added. “That was just cool to have a local sponsor being a northern team, and their first time ever sponsoring a race car they win the biggest race there is to win. It’s an example of how cool 2019 really was for us.”
With a Winchester 400 and now a Snowball Derby win under their belts, 2020 is looking to be the strongest season yet for Braden. He hopes to kick it off the same way he ended the 2019 season.
“I think it would just prove a point that we’ve already been making. We’ve been serious and we’ve been stressed right up to the Snowball Derby with how little luck we had finishing a race,” he said. “It felt like things finally cleared up for us and we had a little bit of luck on our side. We’re hoping that 2020 is an a lot easier year for us and a lot less struggle and all those things. It would be cool to get us one at SpeedFest. Be strong, be fast, and in our own minds and in everyone else’s minds, really set the tone for what our 2020 season should be like.”
Race fans unable to make the trip to Cordele, Georgia for SpeedFest will still be able to witness the action, as Speed51 will stream the event for the sixth straight year. More information about the live broadcast for the event will be announced soon.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN/MI) – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com