Race car drivers love a challenge, and they want to beat the best head-to-head, not because there was a crash or someone had a mechanical problem and failed to finish.
Bragging rights are just as important as the trophy.
So it should come as no surprise that drivers want to excel at the most demanding and challenging tracks they race at.
For the ARCA Menards Series, its diverse schedule includes 20 races at 18 different venues, and none of those is more challenging for drivers and teams than Pocono Raceway.
The triangular 2.5-mile layout nestled in the Pocono Mountains has three completely different corners. Turn one is a high-banked, high-speed hairpin, modeled after turns one and two at the long-defunct Trenton Speedway.
Turn two is a nearly-flat ninety degree bend that is modeled after the corners at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Turn three is a flat sweeping corner that seems to go on forever and is patterned after the corners of the Milwaukee Mile.
The different radii and the different banking in each corner, not to mention the different lengths of the three straightaways that connect them all, offer drivers and teams one of their biggest challenges of the season.
For the series’ championship contenders, Pocono presents both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge, of course, is beating the other contenders and the track itself.
The opportunity comes from taking finding the right combination and strengthening your position in the points championship.
For Travis Braden, the driver of the No. 27 MatrixCare/Consonus Health Care/Liberty Village Ford, the General Tire #AnywhereIsPossible 200 presents a challenge for him as a driver and as an engineer.
The 25-year-old West Virginia University graduate has two degrees in aerospace and mechanical engineering, and he will be putting that knowledge to use as he helps crew chief Dan Glauz find the right setup on their RFMS Racing entry at Pocono.
“As a driver, you need to hit all three corners just right,” Braden said. “If you miss one corner it messes up all three of them. Everyone looks at the long straightaways and you think you want to reduce drag, but the corners are where the speed is at.”
Braden’s team has just three full-time employees. Despite some ups and downs in the first half of the season, they’ve found themselves in the midst of the series championship battle.
However, Braden knows his team needs to find some consistency if they are going to stay in the hunt through the heat of the summer stretch and into the fall.
“We want to win races,” Braden said. “If you win the points will come with it. Everyone has issues at some point. We had ours at Toledo. We need to avoid any more problems and that should keep us near the front.”
While other teams have more employees and more access to resources, Braden and his small band of warriors enjoy the challenge and the camaraderie of taking on the big teams.
“It’s hard,” Braden said. “We’re going to work hard and do our best. When we have a bad day it sticks out. We don’t want to say us not being a bigger team is an excuse. Not at all. We want to come out and beat them.”