By: Ashley McCubbin
Following a pair of victories and 10 races, Braden Eves finds himself second in the Indy Pro 2000 Championship, 18 points behind Christian Rasmussen. That’s why Mid-Ohio can’t come at a better time as he has a lot of confidence there following past success, and being his home track.
NEWS FROM THE PITS caught up with the Exclusive Autosport driver to get his thoughts heading into the weekend.
ASHLEY MCCUBBIN: What are your thoughts going into this weekend?
BRADEN EVES: I’m excited. Last year, it was my strongest track. We’re coming off a rough weekend so I think this is the perfect place to bounce back. It’s my home race so lots of fans here to support me, friends and family s well. It’s always good to run a home race. Last year, there was no fans so I didn’t get as much as a home race feeling last year, but I think it should be good. We’re not too far back in points so I think it should be a good weekend, overall.
ASHLEY: Is there any extra pressure to perform in knowing you’re racing in front of the hometown crowd?
BRADEN: Yeah, there’s always pressure to perform. Every race has pressure to perform, mostly from myself putting pressure on myself to perform. The championship battle always comes down to the end so every race, you have to do your best. So ultimately, I need to focus on what I can control and not worry about that.
Last weekend was tough in not being the fastest team, but knowing our history here, we’ve always been super strong so knowing that gives me a lot of confidence in knowing I have a good set-up to start on and should be strong throughout the weekend.
ASHLEY: What’s the biggest challenge of Mid-Ohio?
BRADEN: The biggest thing I think here is how important qualifying is, because there’s not much of a straightaway to pass on. So if you get the pole, it’s a lot easier to win the race. So it really comes down to qualifying. It’s always a busy course; you’re always doing something, it’s never relaxing especially come off a place like Road America. We’re flat out for a long periods of time with long crazy corners and straightaways.
Here, it’s all flowy, super technical track ,and really tough track from a driver’s standpoint. But I like that. I like the challenge and the extra challenge is what allows me to rise above so it’s always fun around here.
ASHLEY: How would you grade your season so far?
BRADEN: I think we’ve had a really good season, but just been plagued by bad luck. I think we’ve been extremely strong, probably the best that I’ve been in my three seasons. It’s just been a lot of bad luck but eventually, it has to give way and more normal results will start coming.
I think if we keep doing what we’re doing, keep the pace we’ve had at Indy, really everywhere other than Road America, the results and wins will come. I feel like we’ve just missed a couple wins so far so if we keep doing it, the results and wins will come.
ASHLEY: You ran well last year, but it seems you’ve hit an extra step in 2021. What’s made the biggest difference?
BRADEN: So I think the team has improved a bit, I’ve improved a bit. I didn’t get a full season last year because of my crash, but even having half a season under my belt, it helped going into this season. I have a different engineer this year in Don Hays and he’s just done an incredible job helping me improve as a driver and improve the cars from a set-up point.
So it’s been a lot of things – just more experience overall, just having that experience pays diligence when going to places for the first time.
ASHLEY: What do you feel that you need to improve upon?
BRADEN: It’s always little things. I feel like I’ve been well-rounded this year. It’s just we’re always trying to push for more and try to improve car control and ability to give feedback. I don’t think I could just nail down one thing to improve on. It’s always just executing as well as you can and not making mistakes every time you hit the track. It’s always just a lot of small things that go into it.
ASHLEY: Couple wins early in the year, so is there extra pressure to get back to victory lane?
BRADEN: Yeah, there’s always extra pressure coming into the season once it is over halfway. There’s still quite a few races left, but there’s always extra pressure as you have no time to recover if we have a bad show now. It’s all going to come down to everything, ultimately. Being in second place just means I have nothing to lose so just have to put it all out there and do the best that I can.