Brayton Haws is finally able to drive himself to Franklinton High School during the week. While it's finally legal for the 16 year old, he has plenty of experience thanks to spending the weekends blasting around CARS Tour tracks at over 150 mph in a Late Model car all season.
He doesn’t just go fast. Haws wins too. He’s currently sitting at the top of the standings heading into Southern National Speedway on Saturday night two wins in his first three races.
Like other successful drivers before him, Haws has progressed through the sport at multiple levels. He started in go-karts when he was 4 years old (yes, four) before moving up to Legends then Late Models.
The learning curve is a steep one, but Haws is starting to get the hang of how to drive a Late Model car.
“The biggest difference has been learning how to pass in Late Models. In Legends, we would just bump guys to move them out of the way,” Haws said with a laugh. “Last year, I tried doing that and knocked the front bumper off my car nearly every single race.
“This year, I don’t think I’ve even gotten a scratch on my front bumper except for South Boston.”
That run at the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown in South Boston was Haws’ second chance to race with the big boys. Names like Hamlin, Chase Elliott, David Ragan and Timothy Peters peppered the track and, Haws was hoping to surprise the field and the fans in attendance.
Unfortunately, he only made it four laps before taking a DNF due to car troubles. Losing breeds lessons too, though. The lone blemish on a phenomenal season thus far provided experiences Haws couldn’t get anywhere else.
“It was so cool to get to share a track with guys like Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott,” Haws said. “But once I get on the race track, I just picture them as normal racers. I have to race them like I would race anyone else.”A huge part of Haws’ progression this season into a CARS Tour championship contender has been working with crew chief Lee McCall. A former chief at the Sprint Cup level, McCall helped lead Sterling Marlin to four wins, 22 top fives and 51 top-10 finishes from 2001-2004.
McCall’s also groomed young drivers like Ben Rhodes -- currently with JR Motorsports -- into successful racers and those same drivers helped provide Haws experience to lean on moving forward.
“Really, he’s the entire reason for the driving style I have today,” Haws said of McCall. “Constantly during every lap he’s reminding me to save tires and let-off points on the track. He’s taught me everything that I know now to win races.”
McCall sees similar progression in Haws as a driver under Hawk McCall Motorsports.
“I don’t think there’s just one specific area where Brayton has improved. He’s done everything well since I started working with him,” McCall said. “I think the mountain is literally as high as Brayton wants to climb. I feel confident that Brayton can reach the K&N, Trucks or Xfinity level. The biggest thing for us is putting together a good car and getting his brand out there.”
That’s exactly what Haws’ sponsors have done to this point. Mechanical HVAC of Wake Forest, his father Brian Haws’ company, and Rheem have been his main sponsors over the last two years.
With Rheem becoming a primary sponsor this season, the financial burden is significantly eased for Haws.
The results are improved too. Rheem provided improved equipment and Haws results with HM Motorsports improved concurrently in 2015. Heading into Southern National -- a track he won at last year in the NASCAR Whelen Series -- Haws is brimming with confidence.
“I would say my turning point last year was Southern National,” Haws said. “After that everything seemed to click. … We had some issues there earlier this season, but still finished well. I can’t wait to get back out there and try to earn another win.”