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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Roush’s Colin Braun ready to make leap to Nationwide

Among the youth movement in NASCAR, Colin Braun’s name isn’t the most well-known among NASCAR fans.
Don’t expect that to last long, though, if he has anything to do with it.

After a successful couple years driving for Roush Fenway Racing in the Truck series, highlighted by a win in 2009 at Michigan International Speedway and a top-5 points finish, the 21-year-old Braun will be entering the Nationwide series in 2010 for a full-season run in the #16 Con-Way Freight Ford. In the past couple years, the car was split between several Roush drivers, but Braun will be a full-time competitor in the car this year.

As he begins the year, there is one main goal Braun has in his sights: to be the top rookie.
“My overall goal is to win Rookie of the Year. We did that in Truck series in 2008,” said Braun, who is originally from Texas. “That’s the goal for the 16 team this year. We’ve got fast enough cars to make it happen.” His competitors for the award should be Brian Scott, James Buescher and his Roush teammate Ricky Stenhouse, and possible others.

Looking back at 2009, Braun said he was glad that he was able to claim a victory at MIS, which is the hometrack of Roush, who is from Livonia, and his sponsor Con-Way Freight, which is based in Ann Arbor.
“It was a great first win at Michigan, in Jack Roush’s back yard and Con-Way Freight’s back yard,” he said. “I couldn’t have picked a better spot to get the first win.”

But that’s the past, and the future has arrived with the arrival of the 2010 season. As he enters the Nationwide series this year, Braun believes he can use some of what he learned in the Truck series to help him this year. But there will still be a learning curve.

“There’s quite a bit that translates. Learning how to race those guys, getting on pit road, etc., is going to carry over,” he said. “Cars are different than the trucks, though, and I’ll have to figure that out. It’s helpful I have an experienced crew chief in Eddie Pardue, who worked on the #16 team last year.”

Making this move at a young age is a sign that Roush has long-term interest in Braun as a potential Cup driver in the future, and he’s fine with that.

“Absolutely, I think it would be great to have a long-term home at Roush Fenway,” he said. “The relationship we’ve had with Jack giving me the opportunity to drive in NASCAR is awesome. It would be great to keep that relationship going. It’s a great organization.”

Braun is part a new, younger generation of drivers in NASCAR that is reaching the big leagues much faster than their predecessors. He said that despite younger drivers becoming more common, the amount of experience of the drivers on track has not been affected because young people start racing now at younger ages.

“I think the biggest things is people starting so much earlier,” Braun said. “Joey Logano and I have been driving since age 5 or 6. That’s 15 years. Before, drivers started at 15 or 16, when they got their driver’s license. If you do the math, the time frame is the same.”

Despite his young age, Braun had plenty of racing success already before even coming to NASCAR. He won as a teenager while driving sports cars during a July event at Daytona several year ago. He also is the youngest driver to stand on the podium at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, finishing second one year while driving a Ferrari F430. Last week, he raced in the 24 hours of Daytona, and his team finished fourth.

“To be a young kid getting to go around the country and see things you only dream about, I had a lot of fun doing that,” he remarked.

He said the switch from open wheel to stock cars came through a Roush connection.

“When I was 16 and 17 and I was in the Rolex series and using Roush-Yates built engines, that opened up some doors,” he said. “I drove a couple ARCA races, and that led to this opportunity.”

Braun said that Jack Roush keeps close tabs on his drivers, doing whatever he can to help improve team performance.
“Jack is very involved. He’s hands-on,” Braun said. “He comes to the shops here in Mooresville and Concord every Tuesday after we race and describes what happened, what we can do better. He’s a great person to have on your side, and brings a lot to the table as an experienced team owner.”

Braun is looking forward to what he hopes will be a first year in Nationwide that is full of success, and a step to bigger and better things in the future.
“I think we’re going to have a good season, for sure,” he said. “The experience this No. 16 team has had over the past couple years will pay off for us. Driving a full season will help me learn a lot.”

If what I’ve seen from Braun is any indication of what’s to come, get used to his name … because you’ll be seeing it for a long time at the top levels of NASCAR.

Help name the fall Richmond race
Want to help name a NASCAR race? The fall race at Richmond, sponsored by Crown Royal, has featured the name of a fan in the race title for the past couple years.
This year, they want to honor a member of the U.S. military, and a list of the choices, with their biographies, can be found at

If you visit the site, you can vote on who you think deserves their name in the title of the race the most.

They include:
-- Heath Calhoun, Army (retired), Clarksville, Tenn.
-- Chris Dempsey, Army National Guard, Yuma, Ariz.
-- Rick Hudson, Navy, Gulfport, Miss.
-- Georgia Powell, Air National Guard, Harrisburg, Pa
-- Brian Speach, Army National Guard, Clifton Park, N.Y.

All the finalists were nominated by their family, friends or fellow soldiers for their ability to demonstrate the core values of the military in performing a selfless act that made them a hero.

Voting ends Wednesday, February 10. Media are invited to submit their individual votes to representatives of Crown Royal so they have their own voice in determining the winner. The winner will be announced from Daytona on Friday, February 12, with all the finalists and NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth in attendance.


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