At Sunday’s Winchester 400 in Indiana, Travis Braden, a junior dual major in mechanical and aerospace engineering at West Virginia University, secured the title with his 10th top-five finish this season to go along with two wins.
Going into the event, Braden led the ARCA/CRA Super Series standings by just 25 points. A top-10 finish would secure the Wheeling native his second-straight series points championship driving the no. 1 Flying WV Chevrolet.
“The intensity of the Winchester 400 makes the points championship so elusive,” said Braden. “Four hundred laps around the toughest track in the Midwest is a true test of a team and driver.”
But for Braden, who has spent time on both the president’s and dean’s lists at WVU, passing tests has become something he is all too familiar with. He finished second, which got him the title.
He credits his success and consistency to two things: new crew chief Gary St. Amant and the support of the Mountaineer nation.
“Gary was a big addition,” said Braden. “He made the right decisions throughout all the races and was always thinking ahead. I also received a lot of support from WVU and my growing Mountaineer fan base. That gave me a lot of confidence this year.”
Braden did not finish the first three races of the season due to a recurring electrical glitch. After resolving the issue, the team remarkably never finished out of the top five.
“After race three, we started hitting on all cylinders the rest of the year and put up some extremely impressive numbers,” said Braden. “Looking back, I am extremely proud of the motivation I was given by so many people.”
On Friday, Oct. 10, Braden won the JEGS/CRA All-Star Tour race at Winchester, giving him a good understanding of the track heading into Sunday’s Super Series race.
Braden began racing on the ARCA/CRA Super Series in 2012 and finished fourth, with four top-five finishes and six finishes in the top 10. In 2013, he won the championship with four victories, eight top-five finishes and 10 top-10 finishes. All of those were series-best numbers for Braden, who credits what he is learning in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources for his continued success.
“A race car is basically a big ball of physics and engineering—mainly mechanical and aerospace, conveniently,” said Braden. “I can, without a doubt, say that I have been able to apply the knowledge from my coursework at WVU to our race cars.”
Not only did Braden’s performance on the track improve, he believes he’s grown most off the track.
“I reached a new platform as a public figure, so to speak, and that’s something Gary helped me with,” Braden said. “There is more to becoming a professional athlete than just performing on the track; you have to build a proper image and mindset to be taken seriously and appeal to your fans.
“I was reminded of just how valuable my opportunity to represent the great state of West Virginia and the University is,” he said.
Though the season has ended, Braden and his team are already looking ahead to 2015, which includes trying to open doors for a NASCAR appearance. While his goal is to race at Daytona International Speedway, he has two more goals left to accomplish in 2014.
He will race in the Snowball Derby, an all-star race, at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida, on Dec. 3. He also hopes to successfully complete his fall semester at WVU.
CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.