By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
Many drivers in motorsport are looking to move up the open wheel racing ladder. In the latest ‘wishlist,’ we’ll take a look at several drivers that we believe should be in the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires.
That brings us to Hunter Brayton.
The nephew of two time Indianapolis 500 pole winner Scott Brayton, Hunter got his start karting before moving up to SCCA Formula 600 Challenge.
In 2014, Brayton did his first full season in F600, finishing on the podium frequently. 2015 had more success for the Coldwater, Michigan native, as he picked up his first victory at National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park.
However, with his sponsor pulling their funding to focus on the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda, Brayton and his father went and formed their own team to race in F600 – 2016 did not meet the expectations they had set for themselves.
“The year was challenging to say the least. You don’t understand how important race teams are in the racing community until you try to do it on your own and unfortunately we did not have success,” Brayton told Motorsports Tribune.
“We blew three engines in the season as well as having multiple DNFs and so we never got a race finish due to mechanical difficulties and that really affected me because you go out there and have a high 2015, you think you’re going to dominate 2016 and it ends up not happening.”
“We had overheating problems. We believed it was the engine and then when the engine came back we believed it was radiators, we had endless possibilities. I’ve never seen more people throw up possibilities for overheating in my life.”
The biggest saving grace for the youngster was that he was able to get to the track to race thanks to some companies near where he lives.
“I had a lot of local sponsors and that’s awesome,” Brayton added. “It makes me feel good because they’re all from my community. I’m from a small town in lower Michigan and so it makes me feel good that they care about my success and that my family name is important to them and without them I wouldn’t have been able to even attempt to drive this year.”
Next year, however, the goal is the Mazda Road to Indy by trying to go after larger sponsors.
“For 2017, obviously local sponsorships will not go to the Mazda Road to Indy and that’s the way I’m trying to pursue [it]. I’m 17-years-old turning 18 and I feel that this is my time to show the world what I can do, but in order to do that I’m going to need a big business to back me up.”
However, there always has to be a backup plan in place.
“That’s undecided, we’re looking for 2017 if I don’t get to the MRTI we’re looking to continue the Formula 600 and make the runoffs at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which would be huge. My first time ever driving at that track and where I want to continue my dream of winning at the Indianapolis 500 – so I’m really excited for that and hopefully have a dominant Formula 600 Challenge if the MRTI does not work out.”
And no matter what happens, Brayton will not abandon his karting roots.
“I still go to my local kart track where I grew up in Michigan and I love the guys over there. They helped me and supported me at the beginning, and I feel it’s my duty to go back there and support them.”