Travis Braden has been plenty busy during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) without even climbing behind the wheel. That will change on Thursday night as the Snowball Derby winner will compete in the Pro Late Model division.
Braden will compete in the No. 16 Pro Late Model owned by Mark Kraus and driven by three different drivers thus far in the World Series. Gio Scelzi started the week in the machine, scoring his first career Pro Late Model win on Sunday. Mark’s son, 2019 ARCA Menards Series West Champion Derek Kraus, piloted the car on Tuesday, while long-time crew member Rory Melbinger raced on Wednesday.
With the seat open once again on Thursday, Braden connected with the Kraus team to put a deal together while the younger Kraus prepares for his NASCAR Truck Series debut at Daytona International Speedway.
“A mutual friend, Freddie Kraft, had been spotting for Gio [Scelzi] and spotting for this team all week,” Braden told Speed51. “He was like, ‘Hey, these guys aren’t really planning on running the rest of the week.’ He got me in touch with Derek and his dad and we worked out a little deal.
“They’re already here, they’re already racing. They’ve already paid the entry fee and all that, so you might as well run. Derek’s got his obligations at the big track, so we worked out a deal to go out there and have some fun.”
Until now, Braden has spent plenty of time at New Smyrna Speedway working with various teams. He even picked up his first career win as his spotter, as he was atop the stand for Jett Noland’s Pro Late Model victory Wednesday night.
“I’ve worked more jobs than anyone here this week, for sure,” Braden said. “My first-ever Late Model experience was spotting last night in the Pro and Super. The Pro was my first ever race spotting, and Jett started second, took the lead early and made them look silly, honestly. That was pretty cool.”
While Braden will be able to say he won his first spotting appearance, he admitted he had very little to do with Noland’s success in the 35-lap feature.
“Obviously I didn’t have to do a whole lot, other than coach him through if he ever made any mistakes, but he was near flawless. It was ironic, to do something for the first time and get that lucky and get a win on the first try.”
So, will Braden be able to jump into the No. 16 and compete for a win right away?
“Might as well,” Braden said with a laugh.
“I’ve never driven a Lefthander [chassis] before, so it’s a totally different animal. The car is pretty good. We’ve been on old tires and had some speed and some really good consistency, so I’m feeling really good going into tonight.”
Race fans can follow Speed51’s Trackside Now coverage of Thursday at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing by clicking here.
Fans can also visit Speed51’s Speedweeks Central for videos, stories, interviews and more from around Florida Speedweeks.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo