WHEELING, W.Va. — Travis Braden and his Platinum Motorsports team have been quite busy in recent weeks, debuting a new ARCA Racing Series challenger as he starts to wind down his racing season.
But despite a swath of recent positive momentum, the 22-year-old is gunning higher, and he may have started the push strong thanks to a new body aboard his No. 01 West Virginia University Chevrolet.
Braden and his Platinum Motorsports team brought a new composite-body car to last Thursday’s SCOTT 150 at Chicagoland Speedway, registering a seventh-place showing in his first race since Michigan, three months ago.
“It was pretty interesting to go to Chicago,” Braden said. “Never been there before to watch or anything and to go there with a brand new car that’s actually a completely different chassis than we’ve even run before. New chassis, new body, new track, new everything. All in all, we finished seventh, wasn’t too bad considering we’re a really small team and a lack of experience but I think we knew we left a little bit on the table when we were loading up and going home. Hopefully, we get a chance to do it again sometime.”
The West Virginia University student talked about going to Pocono in July, but bagged the event in preparation for the Chicagoland race in order to bring the new piece to the track.
Braden contested his first four ARCA Racing Series events in a steel-bodied car, until last week’s composite debut. He circled a slight handling difference as his main battle during the race.
“I could tell the body definitely had a lot more rear-grip, downforce-wise,” Braden said. “I think it was something we can work with because our car was tight. We never had any problem with being loose on entry so we could stand to free our car up and lengthen out our straightaway a little bit and carry more speed into the corner and not get loose. We learned from that and we can do that going forward because of the extra grip this body has. That’s a good thing as far as speed goes.”
“I will say it also creates a little bit of a problem, though. It really seemed like when you were following somebody, even if you weren’t directly in their line, just being in their air really upset the car, really made it tight. A couple of times I swore I could visually see the nose of the car lifting up as I came off the corner — which it wouldn’t do when you were by yourself. It’s something I’ll probably work on. I feel like with the way NASCAR has gone with the smaller spoiler, I think ARCA will eventually want to do the same thing and I think I would fix a little bit of that problem and it’s something they could look into down the road.”
Braden also admits that while racing against teams and drivers that have the backing of top NASCAR teams behind their efforts is tough at times, it makes him a better and more marketable driver in his own right.
“Sometimes it’s frustrating because you wish you had that luxury. When you really look at it, I think it’s better for us to race against those cars. Cindric’s car is prepared right next to Brad K’s cars as far as I’ve heard … so you’re basically racing against a Sprint Cup Series car in the ARCA Racing Series. Even though it may not be fair, it may not be what you like or what you want, it actually helps us excel. It pushes us to be better, it pushes me to drive harder and it also kind of shows you where you stack up against those cars and drivers.”
“I think to run with them and even if you don’t always beat them, to be right there with them, that’s something that you can put on a resume. They don’t have that to say. It’s easy to say that I had the best car and I ran well, but if you have a little bit of lack of funding or whatever it is or experience like we have all of the above, to do that is a resume builder. We look at it as a positive.”
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