With Brayden McMahan, there is much, much more than meets the eye. His responses clearly show someone who is very thoughtful and insightful. Brayden’s responses reveal a true love of life, people and most of all family. His responses were great, he even explains why he is half nuts. Unfortunately we are still kicking ourselves for not asking about his interactions with Paul Sides, Tiger King “character” John Rinke, and his wisdom tooth extraction. That being said, we still loved putting this together with one of the real characters of our sport, who works hard to make a lot of people smile just a little bit more every day.
This is a long read, due to Brandor’s candor and honesty but well worth a few minutes of your time.
Oh, and it appears Paul McMahan just might have something in the works……
TDP: First of all how is your family? – especially after your Mom’s cancer challenge a couple of years ago.
5X: My family is doing well! My mom’s cancer battle was a scary time for all of us but all things considered, it went about as good as it could’ve. Unfortunately I was living in another state for the majority of my mom’s battle but I got to be home the day it started when she had her surgery and I got to be at her last chemo appointment and got to watch her ring the bell that lets everyone know that it was over. She won. That was an emotional day for all of us. It was tough on me and my dad because we are both babies when we are sick/hurt. My dad always said he was always the one hurting and in the hospital and she was his rock by his side and the roles being reversed weren’t very fun. My mom is the foundation to our family. Dad always got the publicity in the family because of his job, but none of us could’ve survived without my mom so her battle challenged all of us harder than anything we’ve ever dealt with. Luckily we all are good now! Mom’s health has been great, we’ve all had COVID (thanks Dingus) and got through that. Kylie graduates from college in May, dad has a good ride for 2021 (hopefully that gets announced soon), mom is healthy, and I feel I’m in a position to have one of my most successful years since becoming an “adult”.
TDP: Describe growing up McMahan – the being on the road, the moves, dad being away for long stretches etc. _FYI if your sister wants to chime in we would welcome that.
5X: Growing up a McMahan was something I always took a lot of pride in. Besides my childhood best friend who’s dad has worked for Brad Paisley since he was an up and comer in country music, none of my friend’s dads had a “bad ass” job. They were teachers, cops, realtors, etc. No one goes to elementary school and says “my dad could sell a house before your dad” to someone. It’s always “my dad is stronger/faster than your dad.” My dad was faster than their dads. Not that being a realtor or something like that isn’t cool or a good life (it certainly is safer and probably an easier way to make six figures in a year), but my dad being a race car driver was just the coolest thing in the world to me. Being out on the road led to a lot of really cool experiences for me. Sure, we didn’t really take vacations, but I got to see and experience a lot of cool things. We experienced it all together in a motorhome that we finally got rid of after almost 25 years. It forced us to be a tight knit family. If we didn’t get along then being confined in a motorhome for 4 months would’ve been a nightmare, but thankfully me and my sister never beat each up (or at least never hospitalized each other) and we had a great life out on the road. As far as moving, none of that really phased me. We moved from California when I was about 4 and basically lived out of the motorhome until I started kindergarten in Indiana and Warren Johnson gave us a house to live in, while my dad wheeled the famous U2 car. We eventually moved to Nashville on September 11th 2002. I remember I went to school that day basically to just say my goodbyes to my friends. They did morning announcements, we did the pledge of allegiance, had a moment of silence in honor of those lives lost the year prior, and then I basically got immediately called to the office to leave and we loaded up and drove to Nashville. We moved to Nashville because my mom’s best friend lived there and their son was also my best friend. This gave our family people to be around while my dad was gone a lot and we couldn’t travel because of school. It gave us people to be there for us when my dad could only be there over the phone. It gave us a second family (since at this time every family member we had still lived in California), I call them Aunt and Uncle and everything. I guess my point is that we never moved states where it was hard because I was losing friendships. I was probably too young to even care and it probably helps that I moved closer to the guy that’ll eventually be the best man in my wedding. I had gained more friendships from moving rather than losing friendships. As far as dad being gone for things like birthdays, yeah it sucked. But after I got old enough to where birthday parties weren’t cool anymore, I would’ve rather been at the races with dad on my birthday than at home on my birthday. The only major life event that I was bummed he missed out on was high school graduation. That was tough, but even then I asked if I could skip it and go to the Grove with my dad instead. I believe my mom’s exact words were “I took your ass to school for 12 years, I’m watching your walk across that damn stage.” Mom’s are always right and I’m glad I experienced walking across that stage, dad almost won that night too! He led the first 12 laps at the Grove before he ended up fading to 4th, I believe. Thankfully I screwed up college long enough to where when I graduate from that, dad will be able to make it. But growing up a McMahan meant the world to me. My dad’s dream of chasing a World of Outlaw championship became our dream as a family together. We had many emotional wins like the first time I saw him win an Outlaw race in Chico during Gold Cup, his first win at Eldora in ’07, the Brad Doty Classic in ’14 in the 51, where the whole Clemens family was there, Barry had his wife there and maybe even his dad if I’m not mistaken, Shane (Noisy) had his wife and kid there, my whole family was there including my dad’s parents. Then there are the emotional losses we’ve experienced. Races that sting like dad checked out leading the last Historical big one in the 11H in ’03 and having a $20 part cost him 100k, his QuickTime at the Nationals that led to a quick ambulance ride to the Des Moines hospital, the Brad Doty Classic in ’13 where he passed Schatz on a restart with under 10 to go but a yellow negated the pass, the last “real” Gold Cup in ’10 where he was challenging Meyers for the lead when my Uncle Bobby blew a right rear and got high centered on the banking trying to exit the track, or really any of the many races that Dad was leading and that dang 15 car snuck around him through the middle. The road brought me some many great memories and some of my best friends. I have a group that I go to Chili Bowl and Knoxville with every year. Those are times of the year that are an absolute blast for me and it’s something I wouldn’t have experienced if it wasn’t for growing up a McMahan and being out on the road.
TDP: As a child, watching your dad race, where you scared for him? As you got older did your feelings change?
5X: I don’t really remember growing up and being scared watching my dad race. I didn’t understand at a young age that tragedy could hit our sport even though I was in attendance for tragic events that have hit our sport. I think it changed as I got older because I cared for the races more. For the most part before I was a teen, I just liked going to the races and hanging out with my friends. When I was little, it was me, Cole Kinser (Mark’s son), The Hillenburg boys, Shaylee Smith, The Dollanky’s, and Sheldon and we did a lot together. We’d play WoO ps2, soccer, football, play with toy cars, have water gun fights, and things like that. We were just kids that were extremely hyper because we were fed soda and candy bars from snack bars at race tracks across the country. That was my priority as a kid. I don’t even remember a lot of races from back then, just because I was being a kid. The dangers of the sport never really hit me till I was older. I do remember as a kid waking up to my dad all bandaged up after he broke his shoulder but it didn’t phase me, because my dad strapped back into a race car and raced with one arm not long after that. I do remember his crashes in ’02 and ’04 when he went BIG at the Nationals. I remember crying from those but that’s about it. Once I got older, I started to care a lot more about the races themselves. Then it became real that the sport was dangerous. Steve King’s passing is probably the first tragic loss that really opened my eyes. I didn’t know Steve, but I remember catching the end of the crash and thinking it wasn’t that bad, it might have been. I’m not sure, but 12 year old Brayden saw the end of it and thought nothing of it. Then the next night were we having a moment of silence in his honor. It was that moment of silence where I thought “Man, even a crash that didn’t seem bad can be really bad.” Then Lefturn’s passing REALLY hit me. That was probably when I started to have anxiety about my dad racing. Jason was in the car my dad had been driving off and on since 2009. I remember I was sitting in my grandparents living room in California and seeing someone tweet “prayers for Jason” and then the reports came out in the news that he was pronounced dead 2 minutes before that tweet even went out. That he was gone instantly. And that hurt. It hurt bad. Then there was a span from August 2015 to October 2016 where tragedy hit friends. I grew up around Kevin Swindell. I really looked up to him. I thought what he was doing at the Chili Bowl was bad ass, and this was before I even knew really what the Chili Bowl was. His accident was another one of those that didn’t look awful. My dad was teammates with Sammy that year so I knew things before the public. And finding out about his injuries really bothered me. Sure, I hadn’t spent any time around Kevin since I was probably 8, but it really bothered me. Then BC’s accident. I was standing beside Shannon Saldana when Kim Stewart called to tell her Bryan had been in a bad crash and they were rushing to the hospital. Then the next morning me and my dad were driving to Knoxville for the Capi. My dad got a call from my mom “Hey baby!….you’re shitting me…mhmm….mhmm.. love you too. Bye” and I thought that was weird. My parents can talk forever on the phone. Then my phone rang, I looked down, it said “Mom”, and I knew. I answered, she told me, and I didn’t stop crying until we stopped in Osky for lunch. Me and my dad rode in silence until he asked if I wanted to stop for lunch. Bryan was my hero. I looked up to him so much. I had met him earlier in the year at Kokomo after I watched him and The People’s Champ duke it out with Bryan parking it in the end. He had always talked to me when we were at the same races. I’m not one to care who follows me on twitter, but I thought it was so cool when he followed me. He tweeted me often, and even replied to my tweets about my own racing. I thought it was so cool the one of the guys I idolized was keeping up with MY racing. I remember getting to Knoxville and it wasn’t public news that Bryan had passed so I had to try to put on a brave face. I remember seeing Sean and Skye Strausbaugh in the Goodwill parking lot in Knoxville and Skye could tell something was wrong. Skye is my rock in racing. She’s my best friend. We worked in the t-shirt trailer together for 3 years. We have always been there for each other when we were dealing with stuff. She knew something was off with me so she asked. I broke down and told her. It was just a really tough week. I met Tim, Bryan’s dad, that week when he stopped by to hug my dad. Tim and my Dad go WAY back to their quarter midget days as kids. I tried to tell Tim just how much getting to watch his son wheel any race car meant, but couldn’t even get through that without breaking down. I was a mess for several months. Then my dad went to go race the Short Track Nationals for Donnie Cooper. One of my friends I had made through Twitter, Chase Gibson, was helping Donnie out and he was texting me updates as they built the car. Chase was PUMPED to be going to STN with Donnie and my dad. He tried talking me into making the drive out but I was a broke college student and couldn’t go. Then there was an accident that led to Chase’s passing. That also hurt. I felt like had I just sucked it up and gone, maybe I could’ve helped prevent it from happening. That really sent me spiraling through some serious mental health issues. I had lost one of my heroes and one of my friends in the span of like 90 days. That’s really when I knew that the sport as a whole could be dangerous. For drivers and even crew guys. And I’ve been both. I know accidents happen in every aspect of life, but it hits harder when it happens in something that is your passion. I do stress for my dad’s safety. But it’s sprint car racing. It’s what we love. It’s in our blood. I know in the end, all will be okay. No matter what.
TDP: From an outsiders view, you only really actively got into personal involvement with the sport 4-5 years ago. First of all, is that accurate? If it is, what prompted it?
5X: I feel like that is fairly accurate. I feel like that’s just because I got older. I’m not a kid anymore. In 2010 when my dad was in the KKR 91, I was a “crew member”. I got to wear the uniform every night and go into the pits and scrape mud and wipe the car down and after the races, help dismount tires. I think that’s when I stopped viewing sprint car racing as a place where I loved to hang out with my friends and viewed it more as a passion. I got active on twitter, selling t shirts, and learning about the sport which probably helped some people view me as an adult or at least trying to become an adult. I feel like that’s how it was for most of the WoO kids who grew up in the era where there were 10-15 kids that were out on the road. Nowadays we have kids like Jax Johnson and Owen Larson who are in the spotlight with their signature cage stands in victory lane. I’m sure us 90s WoO kids would’ve done similar things, but, I just feel like we were all too busy hanging out with kids our own age. Or maybe my dad didn’t win enough when I was a kid. I’m not sure. I feel like social media and the fact I raced have put me a little bit more on the map.
TDP: You have 8000 followers on Twitter, how the hell did that happen?
5X: That’s a good question. I’m not really sure. I remember having to ask permission to even get on Twitter. I didn’t really tweet much until I was at Ohio Speedweek in 2012 and the All Stars social media updates were pathetic. So I started tweeting updates. That started to get me followers. Not much, but I think I broke over 300 that week. My last name also helps obviously. My dad had his probably most successful stretch of his WoO career in the CJB 51 and tweeting through that gained me followers. And then I just started live tweeting races and giving my thoughts or just making jokes. Then within the last 3 years or so, I feel like my twitter has really blown up. I’m not sure why. I do it to make myself laugh, and it just so happens that it makes other people laugh (Sometimes). I’m an over-opinionated asshole sometimes, but I TRY (emphasis on try) to bring positive attention to certain aspects of our sport, or to address issues within our sport. I might not always express it in the best way, but I try. I know I have pissed people off, sometimes even pissed drivers off, which is never my intention. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t Paul McMahan’s son (not really) so I can report on our sport freely and not have people hold it against my dad, but that’s not the case. But for the most part, social media has brought a lot of positives into my life. I’ve made friends through it, I’ve had people message me that my tweets bring them joy on their darkest days, and I’ve had a lot of people come up to me at the races and ask to take a picture or they just tell me they enjoy what I tweet and that brings me joy. I am almost 26 with no degree. I want to leave my impact on this earth and that’s hard to do. But having people enjoy something I do, even if it is just social media, is something I take pride in. I share this meme with people often and it says “It ain’t much, but it’s honest work” and that’s kind of how I feel about Twitter. If I can make someone laugh, it ain’t much, but I’m sure reading one of my jokes is better than reading stuff about COVID or the election or anything like that. Life is too short for me to be serious all the time. I like to have fun with everything I do and that transfers over to twitter. And I guess people enjoy that. They might be laughing with me or laughing at me, but at least they are laughing.
TDP: What are the Twitter accounts you would recommend for fans?
5X: I recommend Walkapedia above all else. Walkapedia is run by my buddy Brian Walker and he is the best in the social media business. His passion for our sport is through the roof and luckily for us sprint car fans, he is taking over the social media accounts for the World of Outlaws this year. His work at the Chili Bowl is unreal. He knows everything that’s ever gone down in the Expo. He has stats on stuff that I would never even think of. And the great story about BWalks is that he basically just started doing this for fun. He originally started with his Chili Bowl updates by paying his way into the Chili Bowl and doing it just to do it and he’s grown to the point where he has sponsors and has job opportunities from it. He hasn’t gone to college. He is just a passionate kid that works hard and provides a better product than those that went to school for stuff like that. Other Twitter accounts I recommend would be Ross Wece, unfortunately we are losing him full time on the sprint car side of things, but he is a good dude with good dad jokes and great videos. Matt Weaver is another good account for me. He is a NASCAR guy, but I always really enjoy his content when he covers dirt stuff. He is new to the dirt side but it’s always a good read to see how someone views our sport when they weren’t born into it like me. (He forgot @thedriversproj An oversight we can assure you).
TDP: You have been very up front and candid about being half nuts – Can you tell the story one more time?
5X: So this was a fun night/morning. November 11th, 2015. On November 10th me and my 2 buddies in college entered in a 3 on 3 basketball tournament for intramurals. Basketball is my 2nd love. It’s my favorite “stick and ball” sport. We played often in college. We aren’t anything spectacular. We can’t jump really high or run really fast, but we love playing. We didn’t expect to do that well. Apparently we had underestimated ourselves. We finished 3rd out of over 100 teams and played for over 5 hours straight. We finally lost, went and grabbed dinner, and all went back to our apartments. I felt like maybe I had pulled my groin, thought nothing of it, took sleeping medicine and went to bed around 10 pm. Around 1 am, I woke up in pain, but I was still very tired, so I just tried to sleep it off. Then I woke up in EXCRUCIATING pain around 3. I had an issue a few times in my life where my left ball would hurt, but I’d go pee and it’d go away. So I tried that. No dice. I called my mom and told her what I was going through. Obviously I didn’t explain how much pain I was in or how swollen (and not in an impressive way) I was down there. I couldn’t stand up straight. So I drove myself to the ER. Got there, got checked in, they thought it was potential hernia so they put me on a bed where my feet were higher than my head so maybe gravity would do its thing and the hernia would slip itself back into place. Well I started to feel better! Woohoo right?! Wrong. It only felt better because all the blood that was pooled up trying to get itself to my left testicle had gone elsewhere which brought down the swelling some and made it feel better. They wheeled me to go get an ultrasound. They were kind enough to give me the heated ultrasound gel and this ultrasound tech started her adventure on scanning my manhood. Now, I may have been attempting college for 7 years, but I am no doctor. However, I could hear the machine. She went to my right side and I could hear blood flow. She went to my left side, my side in question, and… crickets. Nada. Nothin. Back to the right sides, blood flow. Back to the left, you could hear the world’s smallest violin planning. I knew that wasn’t right. They wheel me back to my room. Then this lady barges in and hands me these disinfectant wipes and says “I need you to strip down naked and wipe yourself head to toe.” I asked why, and she said “because you’re having emergency surgery. Has no one told you?” Whoops…” So I strip down and follow her instructions, and puke from nerves doing so. All with an IV in, which I might add was no easy task. I got the gown out, fired off a text to my mom that I was having surgery and then they took me to the room where they would prep me for the OR. It was quite an awkward bed ride. So I decided to address the elephant in the room. I said “So can I still have kids with just one nut?” And she said “yes. All you need is one good one and you can have as many kids as you want”. But that’s if you lose it. The goal is for you to keep it.” I told her I was going to lose it because that was just how my life goes. I got into the OR, they asked me to count down from 10. I got out 10 and then I was out. Surgery started. That means for about an hour and half, I was in this VERY cold hospital with my lil soldier and his comrades exposed to an operating room full of people. I hope I never had to see any of them again. I woke up, looked at the nurse and said “I lost my nut huh?” She confirmed and told me she’d give me about 10 minutes to wake up more and collect my thoughts before my family came in. She handed a TV remote to me so I hashad something to watch while processing the trauma, ie, strangers just took a knife to my nether regions and cut off my left testicle. Worse still, I couldn’t even keep it in a jar. I remember I couldn’t hear the TV even though I cranked the volume up all the way. Before I knew it, my family walks into the room and the nurse says, “Well let’s turn this TV down so you can hear your parents”. I was obviously so out of it that I thought I couldn’t hear the TV. I remember I made a joke as soon as my parents saw me. But that’s just how I’ve always let my family know I’m okay. I remember breaking through the fence in a quarter midget crash when I was about 10 and when I opened my eyes, I saw my mom mortified. I instantly screamed out “Ah man I snotted all in my helmet”. Making jokes is how I let people know I’m okay. We drove to my apartment to pick up some clothes so I could go home to recover. My roommates didn’t believe me that I lost a nut until they saw me waddling around the apartment. It was pretty funny seeing their faces. Then we started our 3 hour drive from the second best Knoxville back to Nashville. I remember thinking on the drive home that this was something people could target to try to get under my skin or burn me or whatever. Then throw in the possibility that I somehow get close with a lady friend? How do I explain that? Could that kill the mood? So I decided to be very open about it. I made jokes about it. It is hard for someone to bully you for something that you already bully yourself for. If I joke about it, it can’t be used against me. And it’s never really been an issue. I am very open about this story, and I’ve even helped save 3 other testicles because of it, 2 of them were racers. Because of my loss, 2 race car drivers can still be balls(plural) to the wall. My left nut was sacrificed for the greater good. Or at least that’s what I joke with people. Does having 1 nut bother me? Sometimes. But it’s really led to some fun jokes between me and my friends and is a surprisingly great ice breaker with women. It might be out of pity, but I tell myself it is because of my great looks, my exquisite mullet, and my charm.
TDP: Tell us about your own racing
5X: I started racing quarter midgets when I was about 6. My Great Grandpa Penny is a Quarter Midget Hall of Famer, he built cars for people like my dad, uncle Bob, Jeff Gordon, Bryan Clauson, and a few others that I can’t quite think of. My first weekend out I won a heat race and then my uncle Jim decided to change gears for the heat race and I started 4th and finished 3rd. Since the driver never does anything wrong and it’s always the crew chiefs fault, I blame him for not winning the first weekend out. Then my dad got me a quarter midget from my grandpa Penny and I was okay. Never really won anything but I don’t think I had that great of stuff. Plus I only got to race a few times a year. Then one year at the Michael Ross Memorial Foundation Golf Tournament in Sedalia Missouri, a lot of the people there started handing me money to get a better car. I think I ended up leaving with over 4 grand in sponsorships from people. So my dad upgraded my program. Suddenly I was competitive. I think the first race out in it was the Turkey Gobbler, which was a big race at the track in Nashville. I was very unlike my dad and I sucked in qualifying and it put me in the D main. I started towards the middle and my dad and I’s goal was to just transfer to the C. I did. Started tail end of the C and got to the transfer spot before I got spun out coming out of 4 to the checkers. It sucked. My dad was probably more pissed than I was. I ran around the Nashville track a few times a year and never won. I finished behind or in between this set of twins all the time. What sucked for me was that in order for me to be able to race, my dad had to race to make enough money for me to race. If dad was gone racing, then I had no one to take me who understood how to work on the car. Luckily we became friends with Keith and Tawnya Bacchetti and their son Kaleb who also raced and they took me a few times. If it wasn’t for them, I would’ve gotten to race a lot less so I’m thankful for them. Unfortunately, Keith passed away at the end of 2020. He was a kind man that helped a young Brayden get laps to maybe chase a dream. As I got older, I felt quarter midgets were boring. They were slow. It was no different than going to the local arcade and racing go karts there. So I lost interest. I didn’t get to do it enough. If I wanted to do it, I would’ve had to sacrifice going out on the road with my dad. That wasn’t what I wanted, so we sold our stuff. Then when I was a sophomore in college, I got an itch to try it. My buddy Mike Nichols was racing micros at the time, I grew up around Sheldon Haudenschild and he was starting his climb to stardom, and Garrett Dollanksy was also starting to race here and there. I wanted to try it. I told my dad and he gave me the money talk. It’s not like most sports? I wanna try basketball? Okay they buy me $100 shoes and a $30 ball and I’m ready to go. Racing was way different, but my dad still made attempts to get me to drive something. None of them really panned out. Oh well, understandable. During the holidays in 2014, my great Uncle Jim came to Tennessee for the holidays. He mentioned how he got a roller and just bought a 360. Thinking my mom would kill him, my dad kept his mouth shut. But then my mom said “Hey Brayden will drive it!” So he messaged me on Facebook and said “send me a resume” so I did. This is what I sent…
So my racing résumé isn’t that spectacular. My quarter midget career was brief. I won a few heats and features with one big win and that was the Turkey Gobbler. I finished last in 2 classes at the Western Grands in 2004. I hot lapped twice in a box stock. I haven’t raced in a car since maybe 2006, besides at the mini Nationals at Slideways, where I finished 3rd last year after starting 8th. I’m pretty good at selling T-shirts though. My résumé isn’t stellar. But what’s not on there is my willingness to listen, to learn, to work, and even get bitched at if I mess up. You don’t have to put me in a 360 just because I’m family. My goals were to start in an outlaw kart or micro to learn the basics before hopping into a bigger car. I can’t promise you I’ll be very good. My dad went from hitting a water truck to finishing 3rd in points with the World of Outlaws 2 seasons in a row. I’ve never had a real fair shot at racing because of my dad always having to race, which left me with no one to take me racing. All I want is a shot. If this isn’t my shot then it’s alright. I’ll make my own shot if I have to. I just know for the last few years all I have wanted to do was race. I’m willing to do whatever I have to do.
Obviously I made some jokes in there, because that’s how I work, but he hired me. We put together a 10 race schedule that started May 30th and ended July 4th both at Placerville. My first time ever starting a sprint car was for hot laps at a Civil War race. Thankfully I never hit anyone and went off the track twice in hot laps, once in qualifying, once in the heat, and spun out in the feature. I still remember the first car I passed and that was Ryan Robinson on a double file restart. Momma Larson, Andrea’s mom, (See what he did there- ed) was there and filmed me, to give to us on DVD to remember it by. I got it that winter and it was embarrassing. I was slow. I couldn’t get the car set into a turn. It looked like I was driving a dump truck. That said, if you compare pictures from my first race to my 5th race that year, I actually knew how to somewhat enter a corner. So not all was lost. I got better and that’s all I wanted to do. That September, I got to fly out and race with the World of Outlaws. I got to have Johnny Gibson announce my name. Something that I dreamed of in my head as a kid playing with toy cars in the dirt. I sucked. It was my 12th and 13th ever race in a sprint car and I had a 360 that my uncle bought off Craigslist and I was racing against the Greatest Show on Dirt. We were parked beside Jason Johnson. His beautiful truck and trailer and well prepped sprint car, parked next to my Uncle’s motorhome pulling an old quarter midget trailer that we crammed a sprint car into. It was funny. First night out and during wheel packing, me, my dad, and my uncle all went out at the same time. We idled around together and thankfully a photographer grabbed a picture of it. And then I passed Donny Schatz. Sure it was during wheel packing, but my grandkids won’t know that. In my heat that night, everyone kept crashing. Next thing I know, there is a double file restart and I’m restarting 7th with 3 to go, looking at the back of Pittman’s Great Clips number 9 in the last transfer spot. I thought “I am going to jump the shit out of this start and then be WIDE” but then I remembered how big Kale Kahne is and that wasn’t someone I wanted to piss off. I was way off in the C. Dominic Scelzi threw a haymaker to lap me. I’m still trying to get the streaks out of my underwear from that. The next night after qualifying, me, my dad, AND my uncle were supposed to be in the same heat. I was pumped. I was going to be on the track at the same time racing against my dad. I was hoping he’d lap me and there would be a picture of us by each other at speed. Unfortunately Tyler Walker got DQ’d for skipping the scales, moving me up a spot and out of that heat. I ended up in a heat with Joey Saldana, who is like family to me. The track that night had a big curb and I jumped it and went off the track in turn 2, when I came back on the track, I could see Joey’s bright yellow car entering turn 1. In my head, I remember all those years of Skye yelling at cars that were in Joey’s way (her now husband worked for Joey at the time) so to avoid her cussing me in the stands, I ran the bottom so Joey could pass with ease. That night in the C, I ran 8 consecutive laps side by side with Mikey Keumper in Kraig’s 11k. Sure it wasn’t Kraig, but Mikey and I have raced before and that was an outlaw car and I was ripping a thick cushion for 8 laps side by side. I eventually ran out of talent and brought out a yellow, but about 4 of my 8 hero laps were caught on Dirtvision. I learned so much that night about keeping my speed up to keep up with guys that had better equipment than me and how to work both pedals at the same time. I got done, hopped out to go watch my dad in the dash before getting changed back into my street clothes. When I got back to my phone, it was blowing up with people texting and tweeting me positive things with how good I had just looked running the cushion. That gave me a big boost of confidence and then throw in my dad getting done with the dash and coming and giving me a hug, telling me he was proud of me, and telling me how much he was smiling while sitting in staging watching me go balls (pre-nut loss) out on the cushion. I was over the moon. I was pumped. And I thought if I keep trying to learn, maybe I could be halfway decent. Summer ’16 we put together a 9 race schedule. I spent the first 3 just trying to shake the rust off. That was the worst part for me. I had to take so much time off and then start racing in the middle of summer when everyone else was finding their groove. I don’t think I did really anything special other than flip after going 15th to 10th ripping the cushion at Placerville. Then came Antioch. Probably one of the worst tracks in California if you ask anyone else, but to me it’s God’s Country. It was July 16th, the Saturday of the King’s Royal. Sprint cars were the first heats. I ran 4th. Then we had a long break till the sprint cars were the last feature. We watched the King’s Royal. Donny Schatz won but I believe Rico and Bell were giving him all they had. Dad had a terrible weekend. They just fired the crew chief at 7:00, the Friday night at Eldora after missing the first 2 shows. He made the A on Saturday but still wasn’t great. A bummer weekend for sure. I hear lineups are posted so I go to look to see where I started. Pole. P1. I was leading a feature of sprint cars to the green. Holy Shit. I went back and told my crew to move the rear tires out as far as possible because I need to be WIDE since I was starting on the pole. My Uncle Bob was always there as my driver coach and to make sure nothing would fall off. He told me “I’ve never seen them call a start back here so jump the start.” I got onto the track after about 3 hours after my heat race. We got lined up. Got the One to go signal. Green. I tried my best to jump the start but the guy to my outside, and current Antioch Speedway points leader, was about half a car ahead of me on the exit of 4. Luckily the straightaways were slick up top and tacky on the bottom so I had the lead getting into 1. Had the lead entering 3. Had the lead at the line. Holy hell I led a lap. Led 2 laps. Led 3. Lap 4 I missed the bottom, realized there was zero grip anywhere else, and knew I just needed to focus on my left foot to slow the car down so I didn’t miss the bottom. I just watched Donny Schatz win the King’s Royal that night, so I knew the only person in the world that could pass me through the middle was in Ohio and not Antioch California. I kept clicking off laps. I was in a nice rhythm. I felt good. I felt like I was almost a race car driver. A red came out with 8 to go. I came to a stop and sat there in turn 4. Watched them tow Kaleb Montgomery’s beat up 3 car off the track. I realized I am a heat race away from actually winning a feature race. We pushed back off and went back to green. I was too conservative. I was telling myself I was slowing down way too much. Then there was a lap car with 4 to go. Oh God. A lap car?! They came over the radio, “58. The leaders are coming. Hold your line” He went to the top. Thank you Jesus. 3 to go. Nailed it. 2 to go. Don’t mess this up. Holy shit white flag!!! Nailed the bottom in 1 and 2. Got in a little too hot into 3 and was just slightly in the slick and thought I blew it. I’m going to spin out on the last lap. Fortunately I didn’t miss it that bad. Crossed the line, fist pumping out the side as I went by. I did it. I won a race in a damn sprint car. I never thought I would ever get a chance to race and here I was waiting to scale before going to victory lane. I had eaten 50 packs of Oreos and In n Out 35 times in 30 days at that point so I knew I wasn’t going to be light. It was all kind of a blur. There were no fans left in the stands. It was the only race that summer that none of my friends or family made the drive to. My car owner Uncle Jim didn’t even know what to do with himself. He never even made it to victory lane for the picture. But that night meant so much to me. It was everything I had dreamed of as a kid. And to do it with my Uncle Jim, Uncle Bobby, my Cousin Jayson, and our family friend Keith spinning the wrenches, it meant that much more. It was only my 18th night in a sprint car. And we won. As a family. I went to change out of my uniform after fighting off all the screaming and adoring fan (yes singular) congratulating me. I facetimed my family. Come to find out that my Aunt Linda was Facebook Live-ing the feature. So my whole family got to watch me win my first race. They answered and all I could do was tear up and say “I did it”. It sucked not having them there to celebrate that night with me. The best part is that our friend Steven videoed my dad watching my last 5 laps or so and Kylie videoed her, my mom, and the Saldana boys watching. So I got to see their reactions as it happened. I had 3 more races left that season 2 at Placerville and the finale at Antioch. I ran 2 of my best races ever at Placerville. I was racey. I was aggressive. I think I only finished 11th both times but I felt good. Had I made better lane choices I think it could’ve been better. Then the finale at Antioch I started pole of the heat but let the outside front row set the pace. Didn’t get the jump and then screwed up trying to diamond off the corner to pass for the lead and ran 4th. Started 8th and ran 7th. And that was the last race I’ve ever ran. Maybe 30 quarter midget races and 21 sprint car races later, I am financially retired and play iRacing to get my fix. It sucks, because I feel like I could have been okay if I could’ve maybe had a full season to race. But that just wasn’t in the cards. And I’m okay with that. (Sometimes) At the end of the day, I can still say I’ve won a race.
TDP: What will Brayden Lee McMahan be doing in 5 years
5X: Hopefully in 5 years I will be a History and Geography teacher with a race car of some kind to go play with on weekends. I’d kinda like to be a Lee Jacobs, where I teach on weekdays and be a highly respected, bad ass racer on weekends and summers. Family is important ,so hopefully by then I will at least be financially responsible enough to start one of those. A teacher isn’t the most glamorous life, but I feel like I can make what is typically a boring topic a little bit more fun for students. I like to think my humor relates to high school kids really well so that’s my goal age to teach. But who knows. Hopefully I will have won the Powerball by then and I’ll own every race car there is. But I should also probably start actually playing the Powerball so that can all happen.
TDP: When you look around the sport is there anything that pisses you off, and makes you wonder. why don’t they??
5X: Unsafe race tracks. Abrupt openings. Exposed poles. Tractor Tires. Racers with zero respect for their equipment. The ASCS not qualifying. Twitter trolls that hide behind profile pictures and @’s that aren’t their real name. If you’re an asshole with your picture and name attached to it, I can respect it. Mostly unsafe race tracks. I understand some tracks can’t afford the upgrades, but I personally don’t feel that big named series should go to some of these unsafe places. I’ve learned that just because you don’t think a sprint car could hit something, they are really good at proving us wrong and eventually will hit that something. I know our sport comes with risks, but if drivers and teams have to spend money to make it as safe as possible for them, shouldn’t race tracks have to do the same? Some of the places the All Stars went this past year were sketchy at best.
TDP: What are you up to now?
5X: Tweeting probably. But I’m currently back in school at Middle Tennessee State as a History major with minors in Geography, Journalism, and Education. I’ve had COVID really flip my life upside down. I had a good job as a valet in Nashville making really good money. That got shut down on March 15th and hasn’t opened back up for me. I spent that unemployed time traveling with my dad and the Misfits this summer which was an absolute blast. It was the first time I’ve actually worked on my dad’s car which was fun. Sean, Kurt, Skye, and lil miss Elliot are a fun time to be around. Then after the Not Knoxville Nationals I had COVID, beat that, and then really focused on school. It was my first semester back in almost 3 years so I was nervous but I ended up with all A’s and B’s. As I say this, my spring semester starts in 6 days and I am currently trying to find a job to fill in my free time so I can have Dingus and Chili Bowl money! I’m in a really good spot mentally and I’m just doing my best to enjoy each day and any new twists and turns that this new decade decides to throw at us.
The Drivers Project is a media collective devoted to North American open-wheel racing.