Young Colin Braun Dominates Fran-Am 1600 Weekend LITCHFIELD, Ariz., Sept. 30 - Young Colin Braun dominated twin Fran-Am USA West Pro 1600 races at Arizona Motorsports Park here last weekend, setting numerous records enroute to his double victory...
Young Colin Braun Dominates Fran-Am 1600 Weekend
LITCHFIELD, Ariz., Sept. 30 - Young Colin Braun dominated twin Fran-Am USA West Pro 1600 races at Arizona Motorsports Park here last weekend, setting numerous records enroute to his double victory and emerging as the overall point leader.
The young driver from Ovalo, Texas, has been turning heads all year in the Fran-Am series. He just turned 15 on Sept. 22 and doesn't even have a learner's permit, let alone a driver's license.
In Saturday's 30-minute, 20-lap race, veteran John Knudsen got the advantage at the start, but Braun was not to be denied. The pair drove side-by-side at numerous points around the 2.25-mile, 16-turn road course before Braun took command in the last turn on the first lap.
He then opened up a 3-second gap, but wisely decided to try to save his tires for Sunday's race and backed off a bit. He took the checkered with a 2.3-second margin of victory over Knudsen, Al Unser, Darryl O'Young and Brian Frisselle.
Even though he was conserving his tires Braun still set the fastest lap of Saturday's race with a 1:40.374-second lap, which was a half-second faster than Knudsen's fastest lap.
With the victory Braun also took over the points lead in the Rookie of the Year category and moved to second place in the overall championship, only four points out of the lead. Factoring in the one race each driver is allowed to drop, Braun led the overall point standings by two over Knudsen after Saturday's race.
Tire conservation was the name of the game on Sunday. All the teams were required to use the same tires they had used in Saturday's race, except for one replacement. However, after Sunday's warm-up session and only 30 minutes before qualifying, the officials decided to allow one new and one used tire to be utilized due to the severe graining that most drivers had on the tires they'd used on Saturday.
That was bad news for Braun, because his only scrubbed tires had 200 miles on them. Luckily the First Air Fran Am 2000 team allowed him to dig in their junk pile and find a tire that Robert Bell had used in the Denver race a month earlier.
"It was better than anything we had that was used," Braun said, so that tire was mounted and put onto his car.
Although many of the other drivers had better rubber, Braun still qualified a close second to polesitter Knudsen.
By race time on Sunday the track temperature was 130 degrees Fahrenheit and the air temperature was over 100, making the challenge of the race even more brutal for the drivers, their cars and their tires.
When the green waved Braun stayed right with Knudsen into the first turn, but Knudsen had a slight advantage by the second turn.
After that it was a three-car break-away, with Knudsen, Braun and Unser running in that order. There was never more than a 1-second interval between first and third in the first half of the race.
With 10 minutes to go in the 30-minute race, the tire factor started to come into play. Knudsen started to slip and slide, but never enough for Braun to attempt a pass. Unser was having a tough time as well, and slipped a few tenths back.
Braun tried to keep the pressure on Knudsen, hoping for a mistake or a better run out of a turn. He had a place picked out where he was going to attempt a pass, but he was waiting for the last turn to make it.
Opportunity knocked sooner than that, however. With four laps to go Braun was right on Knudsen's rear when the latter hit the curb in turn two and slid slightly wide. Braun got a better run out of the turn and pulled alongside him on the long straight.
It was a breaking battle into turn four. Braun had the inside and was just waiting for Knudsen to apply his brakes. When he did Braun went for it; the threshold breaking sessions he's been participating in at the Speed Secrets Camps paid off; and he charged into the lead.
With three laps to go he had a 0.3-second advantage over Knudsen, with Unser right behind. With those two trying to out-break each other, Braun edged into a 0.8-second lead which he held until the end for his fifth victory of the year, four more than any other driver in this division.
Braun, Knudsen and Unser were trailed by Brad Coleman and C.R. Crews III to round out the top five on Sunday.
With Sunday's victory Braun took the points lead in the overall championship, and stretched out his lead in the "money won" category with over $13,000.
In qualifying on Saturday Braun won the pole by 0.4 seconds over Knudsen, also breaking the track record set in April by more than 0.8 of a second.
Two more doubleheaders remain on the 2003 schedule: Oct. 18-19 at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in Buttonwillow, Calif., and Oct. 25-26 back at Arizona Motorsports Park.
For more information see www.tracc5.com and www.fran-am.com.