CONCORD, N.C. - If you look around the shop at Hendrick Motorsports, you’ll often see familiar faces from the ranks of local racing. From dirt to pavement, these employees create a cast of experienced racers that help assemble the organization’s four cars each weekend. One of those is Travis Braden, a setup mechanic for the No. 48 Ally Racing team and driver Alex Bowman.
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Braden is an accomplished racer in his own right. Hailing from Wheeling, West Virginia, he cut his teeth racing in the Legends Cars Series, winning a Young Lions National Championship by the age of 15. When he was 17, he was crowned the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series State Champion for Ohio. In 2013, he moved into the ranks of Super Late Model racing and became a two-time CRA Super Series champion.
For the 2015 season, Braden made the step up to a partial schedule in ARCA Menards Series and made a dazzling debut in the series at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Driving a self-owned car, he bested current Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 driver William Byron to take the checkered flag. Along the way, Braden earned major victories in the Super Late Model ranks, bringing home the trophies in the 2016 Winchester 400 and the 2019 Snowball Derby.
A move to Charlotte, North Carolina and a chance connection along the way with new No. 48 crew chief Blake Harris led to an opportunity at Hendrick Motorsports.
"Everything in big-time racing is down here (in North Carolina)," Braden said. "It’s kind of the ultimate destination. I don’t ever say I should have done things differently, but I think it would have been beneficial to come here sooner.
"I was considering looking for a full-time position with a team and I ran into Blake. I’d met Blake a few times and I asked him if there was anything open and he said yes. That was right before Christmas, and he followed up with me a couple days after. It just kind of just came together at that point.”
Braden still plans to pursue running some short-track races in some form. Right now, his focus is on adjusting to his new role in helping to prepare the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 each week. Cup Series mechanics are required to get the absolute most out of their race car each and every week as they face the toughest competition in stock car racing. Coming from a short-track background, the change has been a bit of adjustment.
"Everything is so systematically prepared, assembled and recorded, which I love and always tried to do," Braden said. "In the short-track world, it’s usually one or two guys. You have to cut corners at times, you know. Some things take precedent. It’s definitely been a transition for me, which I knew right of the bat. I knew I was going to have to be cautious to not make mistakes."
Braden’s attentiveness served him well in his racing career. Thanks in part to his thoroughness in preparation and competition, he was able to race on a limited budget compared to that of his competition and find success. As he transitions into working full time with the No. 48 crew, he hopes his level of detail will help contribute to race victories on his new team.
"I’ve always felt that limiting mistakes produces more consistent, good results. More so than having some little secret or speed tactic," Braden said. "A lot of races can be won just by not making mistakes. From the time the car starts to be assembled to the driver in the seat, the crew chief making the strategy calls, limiting mistakes can produce results. That’s how I’ve always tried to look at it."
The season for the No. 48 Ally Racing team kicks off next week at Daytona International Speedway. Tune in on Wednesday, Feb. 15, to see the No. 48 Ally Racing team hit the track for qualifying for the 2023 DAYTONA 500 at 8:15 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90). The Daytona Duels will then take place on Thursday, Feb. 16, starting at 7 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90). "The Great American Race" will serve as the points-paying start to the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season and take place on Sunday, Feb. 19, at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.