If there is a perfect way to begin a season, it’s by sitting in victory lane. Braden Eves went one step further, sweeping the opening weekend for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship presented by Cooper Tires in St. Petersburg.
The Cape Motorsports driver recently reflected back on the success, while sharing his outlook moving forward.
POPULAR OPEN WHEEL: What are your thoughts looking back on the opening weekend at St. Petersburg?
BRADEN EVES: So, St. Petersburg started off in the absolute best way possible. Going into St. Pete, it’s a little bit tough for us drivers because we always prepare on the simulator beforehand, but St. Pete is a street track and there’s not any real way to prepare on the simulator beforehand. So I kind of went in just having video and going in as prepared as I could be, but knowing everyone had a little bit more experience as I was definitely behind the curve in the beginning.
But I was pushing super hard in qualifying, and my teammate had an issue but I was able to put it on the pole and right off the bat, being on the pole took a lot of pressure off of me. I just had to get good restarts and now looking back, having a good points lead, it takes a bit of the pressure off.
I’m still going after all the wins that I can, but I know that if somebody else gets a couple of wins, I’m still looking good in points. So it takes a lot of the pressure off of me and I’m really looking forward to Indianapolis.
POW: Were you surprised at how quickly you were able to reach victory lane?
BRADEN: A little bit surprised. I definitely knew that I could, especially after Kyle Kirkwood’s success with the same team last year. I knew the car was going to be there. I knew I just had to do my job, and I would reach victory lane as long as I held up my end.
I knew that was definitely extremely possible, but again, I was just pushing as hard as I could in the first race to get good results, good points, and to come out leading the points, there’s no better feeling going into the rest of the season.
But I definitely knew it was possible. I was a bit surprised to sweep the weekend; I wasn’t expecting that, but definitely there’s no better feeling than victory lane for sure.
POW: What are your thoughts as we look towards the Indianapolis GP in May?
BRADEN: I’m really confident going to Indy. I’m one of a few rookies that have driven there before. I ran in the F4 US Championship a couple years ago, and raced there, and that was actually my very first car race. I actually did very well, ended on the podium twice with very minimal testing.
I feel that track really suits my driving style, and I’m really looking forward to being back on a normal road course versus a street course. In addition to the pressure that I had going into my first race, knowing those walls were there added even more. Now those walls aren’t there, I definitely think I have a lot more experience in that sort of thing and I’m really confident going into Indy with the success that I had.
A lot less pressure on me, a lot more confident going in, and I’m really looking forward to it.
POW: What are your goals and expectations for the season?
BRADEN: My goal is to win the championship. I know that Cape Motorsports is a championship winning team. They’ve won the championship for the past eight years, so I’m looking to do the best that I can. I know that I believe in my abilities more than anyone else, and I know that I am capable of the championship so that’s the ultimate goal.
POW: Beyond the first two races this year, what track are you most excited to get to?
BRADEN: I’m looking forward to Road America. I absolutely love that track. I was there watching last year, and it’s such a cool environment. The fans there are great, and walking around the track, the track is stunning. In my opinion, it’s the coolest track in the country with the fans and the environment, the culture there at that track. It’s unmatched.
I also competed in the Team USA Scholarship there, and I love that track from the last time that I drove it. So I’m really looking forward to that one, as well as Indy. I’m really looking forward to Indy because you have all the history with Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as well as my success there in the past.
POW: How did you get your start in racing?
BRADEN: I started like many other drivers in go-karting when I was six-years-old. It kind of just started as a fun family activity. My family doesn’t really have any background in racing, so the timing was perfect. Everybody says they started at six-years-old, but it wasn’t like we were planning to start then.
I was six, my brother was 11, and my dad – we all got into it at the same time, and I really took a liking to it. My brother and my dad raced for five years, and both of them kind of got wore out and went on to do other things and focus on school.
I was the one that carried the torch for my family, and ever since, I’ve become really competitive, won a lot of races and championships. It’s my dream, and it’s always has been, so I’m looking forward to what the future has.
POW: What’s been your most memorable racing moment to date?
BRADEN: Definitely the most memorable moment was when I won my F4 race – actually, it’s a tie. My first win with Super Special because it was in my second race weekend in cars in F4 at COTA – that was a huge moment for me. I would’ve told you that before St. Pete, but looking back, sweeping the weekend was incredible. I would say it’s close between them.
POW: Who is your racing hero?
BRADEN: Robert Wickens. He had an incredible season last year, and even more than that, his determination to recover from his accident, he’s definitely my hero. What he’s done and what he represents as a person, and how he inspires everyone not only in racing, but his recovery. It’s truly inspiring to see what he has gone through.
POW: Being on the Road to Indy, what would it mean to you to reach the IndyCar Series if you were able to down the road?
BRADEN: It would mean everything. It’s the series that I follow most closely, and they’re racing at the same places that I’m at so I’m always watching their races; I see the drivers. It’s been my ultimate goal to make it to the top in open-wheel formula car racing, and the IndyCar Series is the most competitive.
You see the most passes, closest racing of any open-wheel series in the whole world, and that’s where all my heroes are. It would mean the world to me.
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