Catching Up With Braden Eves
 April 11, 2019| 
  • Series News
Catching Up Eves 2019

On track, 2018 was a year to remember for Ohioan Braden Eves. He made his Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship debut at the season finale in Portland, earned a Team USA Scholarship nomination and competed in the Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200K Shootout for the chance to earn a scholarship into USF2000 this season.

But off track Eves dealt with a situation that few 19-year-olds have had to face: increasing numbness in his left arm and hand that was diagnosed in September as an aneurysm. After successful surgeries to clear much of the blockage, Eves joined Cape Motorsports and immediately announced his championship intentions, winning both races at the season-opener in St. Petersburg, Fla. and setting himself up for a run at what could be the team’s ninth straight title.

Eves began karting at the age of 6 when his father took he and his older brother to the local indoor karting track. It began, as it always does, as something just for fun, since “you’re out there with a kart that basically has a weed-wacker motor and goes only 40 mph.” His career began in earnest when he began racing toward the front of the field at regional and national karting events at the age of 10 and 11.

With the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires as a goal from the start, Eves connected with Jay Howard’s driver development program, designed to help drivers make the transition from karting into open-wheel race cars. Eves raced with the karting team in 2016 and 2017, including two trips to the SKUSA SuperNats and the ROK Cup International Final, as he prepared to make that next step.

“Jay has done so much for me throughout my career,” said Eves. “He taught me more than anyone else in racing. I joined his team when I was headed to the senior level in karting at age 16, when I knew I wanted to make the transition to cars. He’d been an INDYCAR driver and had success on the Road to Indy, and he taught me things in karting that would prepare me for cars.”

Feeling as though he needed more experience before progressing to the USF2000 series, Eves joined Howard’s newly-formed F4 US Championship Powered by Honda team in 2017 and made an immediate impact, earning his first race car podium finishes in his debut weekend at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“People dream about being on the podium at Indianapolis, so to go in and finish second and third in my first two races was so cool. I was second-quick in the practice sessions, competitive right from the start. We had such a close relationship that Jay knew exactly what I was thinking, and what I needed to hear right before a race to go be competitive. He helped me get adapted to the car, and he helped guide me toward the Road to Indy.”

With Howard as an example of how to help a young driver succeed, Eves can be found at non-racing weekends giving back to the sport’s next generation. Two years ago, he began coaching up-and-coming youngsters, which has given him a chance to reflect on his younger self and has taught him a great deal about his own career trajectory.

“I work with kids of all ages and I really enjoy it. It’s great to see them grow and improve. Last weekend in Ocala, I worked with an 8 and an 11-year-old, while the weekend before I was coaching 16 to 18-year-olds. I learn so much, especially from working with the younger kids. I’ve been reflecting a lot on what I did now that I’m looking at things from a different perspective. I can see how to maximize their strengths and that teaches me how to maximize my own performance on the track. So even when I’m not racing, I’m still learning about racing.”

If 2017 proved to be a smooth transition for Eves, 2018 would test his very resolve. With the results not coming early in the season for a variety of reasons, Eves chose to focus on getting the most experience he could in anticipation of a move to USF2000 in 2019. He switched to the F1600 Championship Series and a car less dependent on aerodynamics, gaining confidence along with victories and podiums. As the year progressed, the Team USA Scholarship program, which provides opportunities for young American drivers, entered his radar. Eves was one of 10 young drivers nominated to compete for the scholarship, with an interview process at Mid-Ohio and on-track evaluations at Road America.

Shortly after, Eves made his Road to Indy debut, driving for Newman Wachs Racing at the season finale in Portland. He ran on pace with the series veterans and finished sixth in the second race, but the story of the weekend was not his impressive debut but what was happening behind the scenes. Eves had spent several months seeing doctors about increasing difficulties with numbness and pain in his left arm and hand that would get worse the longer he was in the race car. It took until October for doctors to realize the actual problem – an aneurysm in his arm that would require two surgeries.

“I was given the advice years ago that it doesn’t matter how much pain you’re in, you have to deal with it. I stuck with that through the weekend. My dad knew, of course, and Brian Halahan (NWR team manager) had an idea but didn’t know the severity of it. It was the worst pain I’d ever been in, but there was no way I was going to let this opportunity get away from me. I had a good debut in USF2000, but I didn’t think I did as well as I should have, and it was because of all the pain I was dealing with. But after that weekend, the problem was finally diagnosed as blood clots.”

Doctors discovered that Eves had several blood clots, including one that had completely shut down an artery in his arm. The other artery had compensated, but the symptoms increased when that artery began to clog as well, severely restricting blood flow into his left hand. Surgeons were able to remove an approximately 9cm clog that was trapped between his forearm and his bicep, and help him begin his recovery.

“People might think the recovery was the most difficult part, but honestly, finally getting it diagnosed was such a huge relief, that it was something that could be fixed, something I could recover from. The decline, from when I first began to feel it early in the year, until the diagnosis, that was the hard part, both mentally and physically.”

The surgeries meant that Eves would have to turn down the Team USA Scholarship, watching from home as Jake Craig joined Colin Mullan at the Formula Ford Festival and Walter Hayes Trophy in England. However, organizers of the $200k Road to Indy Shootout extended the invitation for Eves to join the other two Team USA drivers at the Shootout if he was able. While he was not yet 100%, Eves acquitted himself well against some of the top young junior formula racers from around the world, earning a spot among the six finalists who competed head-to-head in a qualifying session and 30-minute simulated race.

While Eves did not win the scholarship, he impressed the judges and more importantly, Nicholas and Dominic Cape, who signed him to drive for the team in 2019 – a decision that Eves justified with a sweep of the weekend at the season-opener.

“They do such a good job preparing the car but just as important, they know how to get that last bit out of the driver and teach them how to win races. People say that Cape gets the best drivers but they know how to turn their drivers into the best drivers.

“There’s no room for error in a series as competitive as USF2000 – but really, that’s true everywhere on the Road to Indy. I look at what Kyle Kirkwood did last year and it would be easy to just say ‘well, he had the best car’ but by no means is it easy to win here. He did an amazing job of starting up front, getting the lead and finishing first. That gives me confidence, knowing that the team will give me a car that is capable of winning every day, but I have to be perfect. The level of competition on the Road to Indy is so high that you have to come in prepared, and doing US F4, F1600 and the race weekend in September helped that.  I’ve never been in a series that you have to be so perfect to win, with so much up for grabs. Everyone is so committed; it’s a whole new level.”

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