Roush Fenway driver Colin Braun is one of the most accomplished road racers in the country. Prior to jumping over to NASCAR full-time in 2008, Braun’s list of accomplishments included: youngest driver to win a formula race, Grand-Am race winner, and 2007 RACER Magazine Rookie of the Year. He has competed in every major endurance sports car race and first competed in the Rolex 24 at Daytona at the age of 16.
In his rookie season last year in the Camping World truck series, Braun amassed eight top 10s in 25 starts and finished 13th in points, claiming Rookie of the Year honors. His 2009 campaign got off to a good start, grabbing the pole for the season opening NextEra Energy Resources 250 and finishing ninth.
Frontstretch caught up with the 20-year-old driver prior to his impressive Daytona run at the NASCAR Media Day to discuss is confidence level heading into 2009 and whether or not he would consider going back to sports car racing.
Mike Lovecchio, Frontstretch: A lot of drivers talk about the added confidence going from their rookie year to year two. Do you feel you have more confidence going into the 2009 season?
Colin Braun: I think so. I feel like I’m starting the ’09 season a lot more comfortable, I guess you could say. I don’t know if I’m more confident, but I’m definitely more comfortable and I feel like I’ve learned a lot of things. I feel I have a better understanding now of what it takes to win one of these races and run consistently.
Lovecchio: 25 of 39 drivers have switched teams from 2008 to 2009. How much of an advantage is it that you return with the same Roush Fenway team?
Braun: For me, the key person coming back is my crew chief Mike Beam. He and I have a great relationship and working with him again is huge. He’s got so much experience, he teaches me so much. Pretty much everybody’s coming back so I’m really excited about it because it’s basically a continuation of last year.
Lovecchio: Is that advantage even greater this year since these drivers can’t test with their new teams?
Braun: Having the chance to work with these guys for a whole year, they know how to work together with each other… we’ve got a lot of chemistry. I feel like there’s probably a lot of these guys who have switched teams and don’t have that chemistry because they haven’t had a chance to go test.
Lovecchio: You returned to your sports car roots this January for the Rolex 24, but ran into engine problems before half way. How disappointing was that for you?
Braun: It was very disappointing. I feel like the guys at Michael Shank Racing did a great job and the guys with the Roush Yates motors always do a great job… we always have great power and they’re super reliable. It’s just disappointing that something out of their control took all of their engines out of the race.
Lovecchio: What led to your decision to ultimately leave sports car racing for NASCAR?
Braun: For me the opportunity came at the right time. I felt like in the sports car deal I did a lot of the things I wanted to accomplish, I raced Le Mans, raced the 24 at Daytona, I ran two full seasons in Grand-Am, I raced at Sebring. I did those sorts of things and really enjoyed it, but I wanted to do bigger things and I guess what I thought were more challenging drivers to race against. I think nobody would disagree that NASCAR is the most sought after place to be in terms if you’re a driver in American racing, so that’s where I wanted to go.
Lovecchio: Would you ever consider going back?
Braun: If my schedule allowed it I’d run full-time Grand-Am stuff at the same time I do the stock car stuff. I love racing and it’s a lot of fun to race those cars.
Lovecchio: What are your thoughts about the Grand-Am series?
Braun: It’s a great series. I think there are a lot of cool drivers who all have diverse backgrounds. It’s certainly a lot of fun to race those guys and hear their stories. I really enjoyed racing there; I had a great time and really enjoyed the 24 hour races.