Colin Braun became accustomed to racing – and winning – at a young age, beginning his international career at just eight years old. He’s the youngest driver to win a major auto race on American soil (2006 Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona at age 17) and, later that year, became the youngest driver ever to have a podium finish at the 24 Hours of LeMans, finishing second in his class. This year, he added NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winner to his already impressive resume, and will take the reins of a full-time Nationwide Series ride for Roush Fenway Racing in 2010.
Braun took a little time out of his busy schedule last week to talk to Amy Henderson about his racing accomplishments, as well as his future in stock car racing with one of the sport’s most successful organizations.
Amy Henderson, Frontstretch: Start off with a little bit of background. You have a lot of accomplishments from a very young age, both in road racing and in NASCAR.
Colin Braun: I started racing karts and quartermidgets when I was five years old. I guess I just grew up with it. I went on to racing go-karts all over the country and all over the world and had some success with that. I got the opportunity to go race Formula TR cars and won a couple of championships there, which gave me the opportunity to race Grand Am sports cars. I had some good success there, won some races. I had a really good time doing that, and that gave me the opportunity to drive for Jack Roush and do a couple of ARCA races. Those went well… and [from there], I was able to get in the truck. That’s the short and sweet version!
Henderson: What was it like racing on an international level from such a young age?
Braun: It was really cool to be able to go and travel internationally, to see all the different countries and what that was like. When you’re twelve years old, I don’t think you really appreciate it as much then as I do now. I look back on the things that I got to do, the places I got to go, and the things I saw… I really appreciate it a lot more now than I did when I was actually doing it. It was really cool.
Henderson: You’re also the youngest driver to podium at Le Mans. Describe that experience.
Braun: Finishing on the podium at Le Mans was really special. That was a race I remember watching on TV growing up. Getting to watch it on TV and then to see the things that actually happen and to get up on the podium and spray the champagne, all the cool things that happen before the start of the race… it always seemed when I was a little kid that it was almost on a different planet. So to actually get to see and experience what I saw on TV was pretty special.
Henderson: Fast forward to 2009. Last year, you were Rookie of the Year in the Camping World Truck Series, and then this year you started out with a pole at Daytona and have a win at Michigan. What’s it like being one of the younger guys racing against the series veterans, and what have you learned running in the series so far?
Braun: Racing the No. 6 Con-way Fright truck is something that has really taught me a lot about racing with those veteran drivers. I’ve certainly learned a lot; the biggest thing is that you have to be there at the end of these races, and anything can happen in the last 10 or 15 laps. That’s all that matters, when you really get down to it.
You can come from pretty far back in the field to really have a good finish, and you’ve just got to make sure you’re there at the end of the race and not get too caught up in thinking that you’re slipping back at the start. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned from the veteran drivers like Ron Hornaday and Todd Bodine that I’ll take with me for the rest of my career.
Henderson: You announced in June that you’re going to the Nationwide Series with Roush Fenway in 2010. What are your plans in that series, and do they include your team or crew chief?
Braun: Right now, I’m really not sure. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that it’s the same group of guys, because I love working with them and they’re such good guys. My crew chief, Mike Beam, is a really good friend of mine and an awesome crew chief. Hopefully we can all stay together, and I think that’s what they’re leaning toward right now. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that happens, and I’m certainly looking forward to running the Nationwide Series next year!
Henderson: As a rookie coming into that series, as well as the Truck Series last year and coming through the ranks, what kind of goals do you set for yourself?
Braun: For me, when I came into the Truck Series in 2008, the goal was to be Rookie of the Year. We completed that goal and did that. That was really good to accomplish, and I’m sure that next year in the Nationwide Series [the goal] will obviously be to [win] Rookie of the Year again. Beyond that, I feel like driving for a team like Roush Fenway, you’ve got to set your goals on at least winning a race or two, and I hope can do that – I think we can.
Henderson: Do you feel like there is added pressure driving for one of the premier organizations in Roush Fenway, or does it make you more confident?
Braun: I think it just gives you more confidence. You know every time you show up at the racetrack that you have a car and an engine that can win the race, and it comes down to doing a good job driving it and communicating well with your crew chief on what adjustments you need to make your car fast and be able to win the race. You never get “out-equipmented” when you go to the racetrack, which is really nice.
Henderson: What’s the best piece of advice you have received in your career?
Braun: It’s what I said earlier, I guess: just being there at the end. That’s something that I didn’t realize how important it was and how much you really have to focus on it in stock car racing. You have to protect your vehicle and make sure you’re there at the end of the race. If you can do that, you’re going to have a good finish. We always have fast trucks, and that’s one of the coolest things about driving for Roush Fenway.
Henderson: Do you have one race that stands out the most?
Braun: I think the race that stands out the most was the win at Michigan. That was a race that couldn’t have been more perfect. It was in Jack Roush’s backyard, in Con-way Freight’s backyard, and it was my first win. It was really cool to win there – I couldn’t have picked a better place for it to happen.
Henderson: What’s the strangest request you’ve ever had from a race fan?
Braun: When I was racing in the Nationwide Series in Mexico City last year, I had a request from a fan to sign the top of a baby’s head with a Sharpie marker. I thought that was pretty strange – I don’t know if that was a smart thing to do or not.
Henderson: You’re headed to the grocery store. What’s the one item you always come home with?
Braun: I’ve been hooked on these Artisan Cheddar crackers lately. I’ll sit down and eat an entire box at one sitting. So I always get a couple boxes of those.
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