The All American 400 field has gotten even tighter with the addition of two-time ARCA/CRA Super Series champion and current ARCA Menards Series driver Travis Braden to the field as race weekend sits just days away. The Wheeling, WV driver’s most recent time spent in a Late Model saw him win in the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour and earn a fourth-place finish in the Winchester 400 just a few weeks ago.
Braden’s Late Model schedule has been a reduced one over the past couple years due to his full-time ARCA schedule with RFMS Racing, but has made several starts in marquee Late Model races when his schedule has allowed. With the conclusion of the ARCA season two weeks ago, he is looking forward to getting to Nashville with a shot at a big win leading into the Snowball Derby.
“It’s an honor to be able to race at this level and I consider Late Models to be just as competitive and just as high-level as anything,” Braden told Speed51.com’s The Morning Bullring. “2018 and 2019 have been a blessing for me and I’ve really enjoyed that experience. I’m just really looking forward to these next few Late Model shows, we’re hoping to go to the Derby as well, we really haven’t been able to announce that. Going to the All American is hopefully a great way to get a win leading into such a marquee event like the Snowball.”
Braden has only made one previous start in the All American 400, coming in 2014 when it was a 300-lap Pro Late Model race. Despite the inexperience at Nashville in its biggest race, he makes up for it with tons of success in a similar race at a similar track, with a win in the Winchester 400 in 2016 and three other top-fives in the event at Winchester Speedway. He says the similarities between the two will aid him in this weekend’s race.
“I guess they would be two of the more similar races just because they’re such gritty tracks and it’s such a tough 400-laps, not that 400 is ever easy,” he said. “At some point you’re bound to have some sort of adversity with all the wear and tear on our equipment, so you either have to fight through it or hopefully it doesn’t ruin your day, but it very well could. Nashville tends to be more centrally-located so I feel like you get a little more guys from out west, guys from down south, and you still get the guys from up north and the Midwest. It’s a little more diverse, not to knock the Winchester 400 but it does bring that added intensity.”
“We all kind of take for granted the banking at Nashville, it’s a monster. In all reality, Nashville is bigger in size, a little bit faster with top speed I believe,” he added. “I think monstrous is the right word, racetracks. We go to these tracks all over the country and with a good car you can be fast, but I think Nashville and Winchester bring that added factor of you really have to muster it up to get around those places. That puts on a great show when two guys are racing it out.”
While he has yet to compete in the All American 400 in a Super Late Model, he has taken part in the North/South Super Late Model Challenge twice, with sixth and fourth-place finishes to show for it. With past results in the Music City combined with what Team Platinum has done in 2019, he is ready to get to Nashville and try to put the No.26 in victory lane.
“I really probably feel better than our statistics would show. We’ve gone there a couple times for the North/South Shootout and been really competitive, but it hasn’t come together,” he said. “We’ve had very minimal experience in the 400, but I will say that we have yet to put together a full race there. We’ve always been really fast and our cars this year have been just phenomenal. We’ve always been competitive but for some reason this year it’s been elevated to a new level. You’ve seen that with the number of poles we’ve won this year. We haven’t won a lot of races but we’ve finished second so many times it’s not even funny. We’ll be a threat in that race for sure.”
With the confidence comes the elevated expectations for Braden and team. With only one Late Model win since the start of 2018, he is hungrier for a win than ever, and he expects nothing less than to be in contention come Sunday afternoon.
“I guess with the results, if you go there and do your best you’re very happy. But in all reality we don’t want to accept anything less than wins right now,” he stated. “We feel like we’ve let a few slip away, I feel like I’ve personally cost us a few this year and we just haven’t got one. We’ve only had a few chances to go run these big, marquee events besides our tradition of Winchester and Berlin. It would be nice that since we finally get to branch out and do more of these, it would be great to actually compete and I can tell you if it comes down to the end and we’re in it, we’re not going for anything less than a win. It’s that competitive but we’re not going down there expecting anything less than being a threat all weekend long. Practice, qualifying, race, for the top of the charts.”
He will be one of many drivers that will vie for the famed guitar given to the winner of the All American 400. When asked if he knew how to play one, Braden joked that an All American win would motivate him to pick up the activity in his home state of West Virginia.
“It would mean a lot to me, it would mean a ton to Team Platinum as a team to go there and get one, it would be huge. We’re ready, we’re going to try to get one,” he said. “I don’t know if it would be proper to learn on that guitar but if I get that guitar in my hands, I’m sure it’s going to motivate me to go learn how to play one. We’ll just sit in the mountains at a bonfire and play music.”
Race fans unable to make it to Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville to watch Braden chase an All American 400 victory and the guitar will be able to watch the race via a live pay-per-view broadcast on Speed51.com. Click here to purchase your PPV ticket today.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN/MI) – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51photos.com