Race Weekend Central

Down in Daytona 2008: Roush Phenom Colin Braun Fast, Heads Home After Crash

Editor’s Note: Mike Lovecchio will be covering testing news and information in a variety of ways for us this January at Daytona. To read his reports from earlier in the week, be sure to click the links below:

Cup Testing, Day 1
Cup Testing, Day 2
Cup Testing, Day 3

Daytona testing has long been called boring and a waste of time, but don’t tell that to Roush Racing phenom Colin Braun. The 19-year-old driver began 2008 the way he has for each of the past four years, shaking down a sports car in preparation for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, but this year he was back one week later logging laps in his new full-time ride, the No. 6 Con-way Ford for Roush Fenway Racing in the Craftsman Truck Series.

Unfortunately for Braun, an incident with Joey Clanton on the first day of practice in the afternoon drafting session has sent he and his team home early.

Braun was one of 30 drivers on hand for a three day test at the famed 2.5-mile speedway and wasted no time shooting to the top of the charts, posting the second-fastest time in the morning session behind only teammate Erik Darnell. It wasn’t difficult for the No. 6 team to find speed in a truck that won four times in 2007 with Travis Kvapil behind the wheel, but a proven team is just what Braun feels he needs as he tries to make the transition from sports cars to NASCAR.

“So far everything’s been going good having a team like Roush Fenway,” said Braun prior to the incident. “I think that one of (Jack Roush’s) biggest pet-peeves is having everyone work well together and that’s something that this team does well.”

While he resisted the temptation to turn left at the exit of the tri-oval and enter the infield course as he is accustomed to, Braun will still compete in the Rolex 24 that put his name on the map, but it’s the only Grand-Am race he has planned so far this year. Instead, Braun’s full focus will be on his NASCAR effort, although his credentials at a young age in the sports car ranks had him on pace for a legendary career.

It all started in 2005 when Braun teamed up with now Nationwide Series driver Brad Coleman and Adrian Carrio as a group of 16-year-olds competing in the Rolex 24. ‘Team 16’ as the trio was conveniently named piloted a Racers Group Porsche GT3 Cup car across the finish line proving every naysayer that doubted the team’s ability to run an entire 24 hours wrong. In that same year Braun became the youngest driver to ever compete in a Daytona prototype, but the records didn’t stop there.

In 2006, Braun began racing for Krohn Racing and became the youngest driver in North America to win a major motorsports race when he won the Brumos 250 at Daytona in July at 17 years, nine months and seven days old.

Carrying momentum from that first win, Braun went on to grab the pole position and lead every lap in his next race at Barber Motorsports Park. It may have been a championship year that year for the young driver, but tobacco rules forced the 17-year-old to miss three races and he finished fourth in driver points.

In his next season, Braun joined forces with Roush Racing as a developmental driver, but not before setting another sports car record, becoming the youngest driver to place on the podium at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Braun adjusted quickly to the stock car ranks, finishing ninth in his ARCA debut at Gateway and driving from 28th to third in his second start at Chicagoland. He nearly picked up the win in his third ARCA start and first restrictor-plate race, but was shuffled out of the lead on the final lap at Talladega.

If the past is any indication, early success is expected this year with Roush Racing already nabbing five Rookie of the Year awards in the truck series.

That’s why Braun’s plan was to learn as much as he could from testing this week, but he now must wait until next week to test Roush Racing’s No. 16 car in the Nationwide Series.

Lack of drafting practice will hurt Braun coming into Speedweeks, but he will see more practice running in packs in Nationwide Series testing.

Said Braun prior to the afternoon session:

“I think this test is obviously good for the team, but it’s also very good for myself to get some laps out here and get a lot of practice in drafting,” he said. “I’ve driven sports cars so much that when we test with those cars it’s more of me just helping the team out. We’re going out here trying to make as many laps as we can.”

Although several young drivers are already on a timeline for Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup rides, Braun admits that’s not the case for him.

“The plan was for me to drive ARCA this year, but the No. 6 truck became available and they decided to put me in,” he said. “We’re going to feel it out as we go and see what’s available, then we’ll go from there.

Top-Three AM Speeds (single-truck runs)

  1. Erik Darnell – 177.420 mph
  2. Colin Braun – 176.790
  3. Joey Clanton – 176.509

Top-Three PM Speeds (drafting)

  1. Brendan Gaughan – 184.638 mph
  2. Andy Lally – 184.604
  3. Joey Clanton – 184.411

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