Photos and Words by Mike Emery | @emeryphoto
When you’re cruising through the Daytona International Speedway during a Supercross, the pits are one of the coolest aspects of the event with NASCAR-style pits for the factory rigs. The Corner Pocket would obviously be found elsewhere, and while heading to the far corner we caught eyes at what was possibly the most “fun” looking pit area in Daytona. Two Honda’s (one ripped to pieces as a parts bike), two Jet Skis, and a trailer with a bed in the back. Yes, we stopped and had to meet the owner of it all. Enter Chaz Braden, a friendly East Coast 250SX competitor that gave us an awesome interview. Read on and enjoy this week’s Corner Pocket!
Start this off with your name, where you’re from, your race number, and class you race.
My name is Chaz Braden, I’m from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, I ride the 250 East Coast series, and my number is 336.
Have you ever seen Corner Pocket on TransWorld?
I’ve seen it a few times, yeah!
And you didn’t park in the corner, but the Jet Ski’s and general pit appearance lured me in. So note to racers, random things easily sidetrack us! So are you racing all of the East Coast rounds?
Yeah, we’re doing all of the East Coast rounds, just traveling around, staying in the van or the camper as much as we can –keeping it cheap. And yeah, we came down here and rode some Jet Ski’s earlier. We rode on the beach here yesterday!
Where at? Daytona Beach?
Yeah, there’s a certain area that you have to ride them in and we searched for about an hour to find it but finally found it.
What kind of Jet Ski’s are you running here?
Those are JS550’s –old school –like 84’s.
Two-Stroke? What’s the ratio?
Yep! We love the stand-up life. Those aren’t regular Jet Ski’s, they’re stand-ups. They’re super fun. 40:1 premix.
Does it cross train over to moto?
Definitely. You’ll ride one of those and you’ll work muscles you don’t even work on a dirt bike.
So your friends came along too?
Yeah, they just came along to hang out this weekend for spring break. They slept in the truck.
Under the stars?
On a Lay Bed, under the stars! She slept in the back seat of the truck, and I slept in here in the trailer.
Right where we’re at?
Yeah, right here in the pits last night. It was a little warm until the sun went down but I kept this main door open and this side door open and slept right here.
Respect to that. Hotels are expensive.
The cheapest one we could find was like 300 bucks, and we hadn’t booked anything in advance. It’s usually not this expensive, but with Bike Week it’s a little crazy.
That’s all part of the privateer struggle, right?
This is your dog too, right?
Yep! He’s seven and a half and usually comes to all of the races with me; his name is Dungey.
Literally named after Ryan Dungey?
Heck yeah, he’s my favorite rider for sure. I’ve met him a few times –I know the Minnesota guys. He’s super cool. I have another dog named Barcia; she’s at home though!
That’s so sick. It this your rig that you take to all of the races?
Yeah, I go in this camper and also sometimes I ride with Chase Stevenson. He’s from my hometown too, so I’ll hop in his van sometimes. This time, we had to bring the Jet Ski’s though…
I hear you, how far of a drive is that?
From Cedar Rapids it was about 18-19 hours.
Clocking miles, man.
Yeah, it was a lot of miles. The truck didn’t get to good of gas miles; it was like nine miles per gallon. Just pinning it down here.
It’s funny how when you pull a trailer and the difference of 5 to 10 mph can save a lot of gas mileage…
Yeah, we switched off driving, too –I try and keep my mileage good and then he switches in and just floors it. I had like 10.5 miles per gallon and next thing I know when I look at the dash after he drives it’s at like 8.5!
You ride a Honda, and I see the other Honda is essentially torn down to pieces. That a parts machine?
Yeah, that’s the parts bike. I’ve been using a bunch of parts off of it and just starting to run out of parts right now! [Laughs] It still runs, but plastic and all of that has been going quick.
What year are they?
The race bike is a 2016, and the other bike is a 2015.
Privateer life means making two bikes into one sometimes…
Exactly! If you don’t have two bikes and you’re a privateer, it’s going to be hard. Parts are always breaking, and I don’t just have parts lying around.
How many years have you been pro?
This is my third year. The first two years I only did a couple –the closer ones like St. Louis and I made them. Last year I did three of them and made all three of those, so we decided to just race the whole East Coast this year.
How’s the year been?
I’ve made all of the races I’ve been to. I didn’t go to Toronto last weekend. It’s just too much money, hassle, and I don’t have a passport. We are going to do the rest of them though, and hopefully put it into the show at all of them.
What’s it like to line up next to all of the big dogs when you make it into the night show?
To start off, my bike is not too fast! It’s pretty hard out there, especially on the starts. I’m definitely underpowered, but I like the Honda’s because they turn great. I don’t have the funds to build the motor out though.
So you’ve made it to the LCQ’s?
Yeah, and in Minneapolis I was running eighth in the heat for around three laps and ended up in 11th or 12th. I can’t remember. The LCQ’s haven’t gone the best for me. They’re all about the start and getting out there, but that’s the big goal –making a main.
Even making it into the night show is solid, not many people can say they’ve done that.
It helps with the funds, you know? If you don’t make it into the night show you have to go home with no money, and then the whole trip is a big expense!
Do you have a mechanic?
I have a mechanic at home who helps me out sometimes. But my friends help out sometimes, and they can push the bike up to the line but if anything happens I have some tools and I know my way around the bike.
You’re packing your own gate and all of that?
I’m doing everything solo.
Much respect. Daytona is sick, right?
Dude, it’s awesome here. Just the atmosphere is sweet. To be where we’re at, and to be in here…
There aren’t too many people that can say they’ve slept in the infield of Daytona International Speedway.
Welcome to the Hotel Braden…
Is this all about fun to you?
Yeah it’s all about the fun. If you’re not having fun, then why are you even doing it?
Who makes this all happen?
My parents, definitely, because I work for them and I’m always missing work to go racing.
What do you do for work?
I’m actually in maintenance at an apartment complex.
So that’s the 9-5 grind?
Yep, I book it home and try to get as many days of work in before I have to head out.
What does maintenance include? Name some gnarly stuff you see.
Everything, dude! Pulling toilets, snaking pee traps, getting all the hair out of pee traps. Anything to pay the bills…
Then you go from that to racing under the lights in front of thousands of people…
Yep, that’s how it goes!
Who helps you out with sponsorships?
I have Team Carey, JPM, Morris & Co., Sportland2, and a bunch of other sponsors that help me out like FMF, Hinson –they all help me out on a smaller level like percentage off and stuff like that. FXR gear hooks me up too, and they have a little program where if you make the mains they give you a little money too.
Follow Chaz on Instagram: @chazbraden
*Editors Note: Chaz qualified 34th into the night show, and went on to finish his night in 11th in the LCQ.