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Chili Bowl Introduces Travis Braden to Dirt Practice Culture

There are roughly 10 laps between Monday practice and qualifying hot laps


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For the briefest of moments, Travis Braden allowed himself to relish his first official laps at the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals, but only for a second.

It came when the 2019 Snowball Derby winner was rolling down the ramp to enter the Tulsa Expo Center Raceway for his three allotted laps of practice. This shakedown session was all he was going to get this week before the laps that count, and he intended to make the most of it.

The quickest thought of 'how cool is this' immediately transitioned to thoughts of learning a new discipline, new track and new car all within a span of a single minute.

It wasn’t enough, but there was never going to be enough.

"Three laps, but it felt like one and a half," Braden said. "I wasn't all that nervous. I know the difference between the Micro (Sprint) and the Midget and what's going to mess me up. I was really jerky with the throttle, so I need to slow myself down, but learn to stay in the gas. But I was really pleased. I didn't get scared of the horsepower or get too nervous or twitchy."

Braden turned almost a hundred laps on Friday night in a Micro Sprint at Millbridge -- his first real laps in an open-wheel dirt car -- but conceded there wasn’t a lot of carry over between the two cars.

"I wish there was more because Millbridge has banking and those cars sit right on the floor," Braden said. "These cars are really high so it’s a way different perception, how your body is moving is all different.

"You’re on the bottom instead of the top, so it wasn’t as similar ideally as I wanted, but I’m happy that I got that part out of the way."

Additionally, Braden’s vision was partially obstructed by his name plate and may need to modify it before hot laps and his qualifier on Tuesday afternoon. All told, Braden is excited to be able to go from his Micro test on Friday to practice on Monday to his qualifying races on Tuesday.

That’s the consistent seat time, even in short doses, that he needs to make improvement.

"I’m happy that I’m not having to wait until like Friday," Braden said. "I can sleep on it but I’m not going to get too much time to overthink it."

All told, Braden doesn’t have ambitions to win a heat or advance into the feature on Tuesday, but he wants to go faster every time out. That’s the goal for the 2022 race with the hopes he can put this together in 2023 too.

"Maybe I’ll be halfway decent come championship Saturday," Braden said.