Consistency the Key for Travis Braden's 2019 ARCA Menards Series Season

Consistency the Key for Travis Braden's 2019 ARCA Menards Series Season

Travis Braden-"Today Was A Huge Step For Us"

In some respects, it’s been a season of firsts for Travis Braden (No. 27 MatrixCare/Consonus Health Care/Liberty Village Ford) and the RFMS Racing team. But what they hope to accomplish is finding their seconds, that is their second career ARCA Menards Series victories.

The notable first they accomplished this year is indeed impressive. Despite having only three full-time employees – including Braden – they combined to lead the series’ championship standings twice so far in 2019. And despite some ups and downs, Braden is still just sixty points out of the lead with eight races remaining in the season.

Braden, a two-time ARCA/CRA Super Series champion, made waves when he won at Lucas Oil Raceway in his ARCA Menards Series debut in 2015. RFMS racing had won at Springfield with driver A.J. Fike at the wheel, also in 2015. Braden joined the team on a part-time basis in 2017 and then for a full-season run in 2018. His first season was solid in his debut season as he scored four top-five finishes, including a season-best third at Berlin, and eleven top-ten finishes on his way to fifth in the final series standings.

Although he led the standings early in the season, Braden isn’t satisfied. He’s scored ten top-ten finishes in the first twelve races of the season, and he’s been in the top five in two of the last three races at Madison and Chicagoland. But the outright speed to go compete for victories hasn’t been there just yet. In order to take that next step, Braden and RFMS Racing made a change, adding Jim Long to the team as crew chief.

“We have been alright,” Braden said of his 2019 season to this point. “We’ve been consistent. It’s been up and down but we’ve been more consistent than 2018. We are still looking for the speed to go compete with the top six or eight cars.”

That consistency has been the biggest strength of the team’s season so far.

“The consistency is definitely our strong point right now,” he said. “We don’t have failures. We don’t have things falling off the cars. We don’t have the speed but we are consistently right there. Last year there were times we would be right there, but there would also be some times we were pretty far off. We haven’t been that far off at any time this year, but we’re still looking for that speed.”

If he’s going to go out and knock Michael Self off the top of the series championship standings, Braden knows he and the team will need to make some strides in performance. It’s not just one little thing, or even one big thing, the team needs to improve upon, but rather an accumulation of several very small things that add up to that missing tenth of a second on the speedway.

“Honestly we need a little bit of everything,” he said. “If you compare where we would struggle the most with in 2018 to this year, we would be really tight or really loose or very insecure at all times. Now we are secure, we’re just looking for little things that pick you up. Like rotation in the corner. Mechanical grip. Aero. They all add up to the tenths you are looking for. We don’t have any glaring issues, but it’s all just the little things.”

RFMS Racing, owned by long-time ARCA owner Don Fike, doesn’t have a technical alliance with a major NASCAR team so access to data can often be hard to come by. But Braden, a college grad with degrees in aerospace and mechanical engineering, is as hands-on as any driver can possibly be. He knows what the car is doing because he’s involved in building them and setting them up. But he also knows that, being an independent team, there are places they will struggle. But, at the same time, he also knows there are places where his ability behind the wheel and his small team’s work ethic and desire can make up for that lack of access to technology and data.

“The mile and a halfs are the toughest for sure,” he said. “Even when we are at our best it’s the little things when you factor in the aero part on top of it. We are learning about it all the time. There’s always an aero part to it, but on the short tracks it always a chassis and tires deal. Places like Elko, Lucas Oil Raceway, and Salem. And if we can’t win one of those dirt races we are going to be pretty mad.”

Braden started his racing career in a go-kart on dirt but had never raced a full-sized car on dirt until last year. He took to it like a duck takes to water.

“I started on a dirt go-kart track but it was like racing on pavement,” he said. “There wasn’t any sliding. I always said I would be a lot better dirt driver than asphalt but I couldn’t ever tell anyone why. It worked out that we were pretty good at Springfield last year. We got like ten laps of practice but the track is totally different than that in the race. It changes all day long. We would have been in contention for that one if we had a little more experience. Then we went to DuQuoin and felt like we had a chance to win. We were leading on a restart at DuQuoin and got taken out. But we’re really excited to get back to the dirt this season.”

Braden and the rest of the ARCA Menards Series returns to action on Saturday July 13 in the Menards 250 at Elko Speedway. Practice is set for 2:15 pm ET/1:15 pm CT, General Tire Pole Qualifying is scheduled for 6:15 pm ET/5:15 pm CT, and the 250-lap feature event will go green shortly after 10 pm ET/9 pm CT. The race will be televised live on MAVTV, and ARCA for Me members can follow every lap made my every car entered throughout every on-track session with free live timing & scoring at ARCARacing.com. Discounted tickets to the Menards 250 are available at nearly 40 Minneapolis-St. Paul Menards locations for just $20. For more information, please visit ElkoSpeedway.com or call (952) 461-7223.

Comments
RobbyG83

Good Luck the rest of the year and go get'em and finish the season strong .