By Brian Eberly, Contributing Writer
SPRINGFIELD, Ill.— The diversity of the ARCA Racing Series schedule can often frustrate drivers, especially those with little to no dirt experience, this time of the season when they head to the one-mile dirt tracks in Springfield and DuQuoin. That wasn’t the case for Travis Braden in Sunday afternoon’s Allen Crowe 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. The 24-year-old driver brought his No. 27 RFMS Racing Ford home with a fourth-place finish, tying his best finish of the 2018 season.
It wasn’t so much where the Wheeling, West Virginia native finished, but the pedigree of the drivers that finished immediately in front of and behind him.
“I feel pretty good about it, Branden told Motorsports Tribune of the fourth-place result. Obviously these two in front of us (Sheldon Creed and Logan Seavey) are dirt ringers and we had a couple of pretty good dirt guys behind us so I mean for one of the smaller teams that runs full-time I feel like that’s a pretty good run.”
Braden qualified in the 11th position but was able to gain valuable track position due to the timing of the caution flags. Braden would come to pit road under the second yellow flag of the afternoon at lap 50 as his car began to overheat. The third yellow just 10 laps later resulted in the rest of the lead lap cars pitting for tires and fuel and when the field returned to green at Lap 64, Braden was running in the second position. He would continue to battle around the top-five for the remainder of the 100-lap race.
“We got hot and we were forced to come in and take some grill tape off and we took tires and then we stayed out when everyone else pitted that gave us track position. Obviously we had a good enough car on some long runs to maintain it. It’s pretty interesting for me for the first time but a lot of fun.”
Braden essentially has no dirt experience, as his only time on dirt came during his first year of racing in a go-kart on a smooth, clay track that is hardly comparable to the full-bodied stock car on the one-mile Springfield dirt.
A couple of late-race cautions and a green-white-checkered finish surrounded by drivers with far more dirt experience didn’t shake Braden.
“I was actually looking forward to the restarts except for when I was on the outside. But even on the outside I was getting such good restarts. I didn’t always get down and a couple times I got freight-trained and then the caution came back out and we were lucky enough to get an inside restart and gain a couple of the spots back. It was a great race really.
“It was a lot of fun. I learned a lot. It was a blast.”
Braden will get another shot at the dirt in a few weeks when the ARCA Racing Series heads to the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds on Labor Day.