CONCORD, N.C. — Travis Braden isn’t the man many would have picked to be leading the ARCA Menards Series standings after five races.
However, that’s exactly the situation Braden finds himself in as the tour prepares for Sunday’s Sioux Chief PowerPEX 200 at Ohio’s Toledo Speedway.
Braden’s position at the top of the ARCA Menards Series standings has come thanks largely to his consistency on the race track. Though winless this year, he’s the only driver to finish inside the top-10 four times.
“It’s really important in ARCA, obviously,” Braden said.
His biggest rival at this point — Venturini Motorsports’ Michael Self — is second in the standings with two wins and three top-five finishes and top-10 results. However, Self has crashed in two races and finished near the tail of the field each time, leaving him 30 points shy of Braden early in the season.
Another of Braden’s rivals, Christian Eckes, won the most recent race at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville. However, an illness forced Eckes to miss the ARCA event at Salem (Ind.) Speedway and he crashed out early in the race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
“I think a lot of guys get a little overexcited and they cost themselves in these races,” Braden said. “That’s going to keep happening as the season goes on and we can capitalize.”
Bret Holmes and Joe Graf Jr. are also within reasonable striking distance of Braden, but none have been as consistent as the native of Wheeling, W.Va. He said that same consistency will be even more important when the series visits Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 23.
“When you go to a short track and you have a really bad day and you wreck, you’re going to finish not as bad as you do here (at Charlotte),” said the driver of the No. 27 Ford for RFMS Racing following the recent ARCA open test at Charlotte. “That points gap is huge. Last year it really killed us. We had a bad race at Daytona, like a 30th place, and honestly that killed us the whole year.
“We weren’t going to win the championship either way, but we might have been able to compete for a top five and that took us away from it.”
This year Braden avoided the same mayhem that bit him at Daytona Int’l Speedway, finishing eighth. He backed that up with a seventh-place run at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. He said runs like that are what will help him stay near the top of the ARCA Menards Series standings.
“This year we had a good run at both superspeedways and we’ve had top 10s pretty much everywhere,” said Braden, who scored his lone ARCA win in his first series start in 2015. “We’ve been able to consistently keep those points building up and that’s going to matter throughout the season.
“Honestly, we’ve been struggling every race so far, but we’ve got a lot of promise showing. When that promise finally shines through I think it’s going to be great for us because we’re in such a good position in the points.”