How the Chili Bowl Could be Decided before the Start
Jan 15, 2022
At a minimum, Travis Braden really wanted to advance one main during Championship Saturday for the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals, and it was mission accomplished.
Under the right circumstances, it could have been mission accomplished and a little bit more.
The 2015 ARCA IRP and 2019 Snowball Derby winner began his morning fifth in the first M-Main and needed only to maintain that position to advance to the corresponding L-Main. He raced as high as third and ultimately finished fourth to make it.
Braden ran a conservative in race in the L, allowing several cars to crash in front of him and was as high as sixth and needing a top-five to advance. He drove into the back of Sean Quinn while racing for the transfer spot with two laps to go and was sent to the rear for rough driving.
That was the end of his debut Chili Bowl effort.
The incident with Quinn wasn’t intentional or malicious, but Braden says he was just trying extra hard knowing he was running out of time, after being conservative got him to that point.
"I wasn't going to make it anyway," Braden said. "But they were all trying to pin the bottom and they all got kind of checked-up on each other, trying to squeeze-in on the bottom.
"I had a head of steam and couldn't stop. I feel bad that I came in and spun someone out and it was my fault. I don't think I was quite K-Main quality, but I had fun, and was happy that we transferred once, and got more laps."
Braden received high marks from Team Ripper co-owner Flea Ruzic and earned one after his elimination from World of Outlaws race director Mike Hess -- also an accomplished Sprint Car and Midget competitor.
All told, the experience was a rewarding one for Braden, who says turning his first real laps on dirt reminded him so much of what he enjoyed about his formative years racing as kid when everything was new and challenging.
"It was kind of the first time in, gosh, at least 10 to 15 years since I felt like I was doing something out of control," Braden said. "I feel like I've kind of mastered the cars I've driven so far on the pavement side.
"So, this took me back to why I wanted to race quarter-midgets, the first time I went fast on a track and got that sensation of speed. So, it was fun to have that thrill again."
While Braden hopes to have more starts in a Midget or a comparable car, this is probably the last time he will do something this novel and challenging for the first time.
And make no mistake, he does want to be back in Tulsa next January, hopefully with a little more experience.
"I'm going to make sure I find a way to plan it a little bit more in advance and get some more seat time beforehand," Braden said. "you know, I was just starting to get the hang of it. I need to get comfortable in the car and kind of get a feel for where I need to be with the car and 25 laps just isn't enough to do that."