Following CORE autosport’s recent success which has included two consecutive pole positions (Watkins Glen, CTMP) and a breakthrough overall Prototype victory at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP), we’re celebrating father-son engineer-driver duo Jeff and Colin Braun.
Since Jeff joined the CORE autosport team mid-way through the 2015 IMSA season, the two have competed across three different platforms. First they ran in LMPC in 2015 and 2016 before transitioning to GTD in 2017. This year, the CORE organization stepped up to the top-level Prototype category and the team returned to its winning ways in Canada two weeks ago when drivers Jon Bennett and Colin Braun snagged not only the pole position, but also the race victory.
It was one of those weekends where everything just came together and one element of the team’s success is the father-son pairing of engineer Jeff Braun and driver Colin Braun.
Their engineering relationship is a unique one – one that dates back to when Colin, now 29, was just five years old. And though his dad never pushed him to join the racing world, Jeff’s racing background certainly had an influence.
“When I was a young kid five or six, I thought what my dad was doing was great – and I could watch it on TV,” said Colin. “I mean who doesn’t like cool, fast cars?! So I was definitely interested in it, but he never really pushed me into it. I just thought it was the coolest thing ever. I started doing karting and as we did more and more, I just got more of a passion and love for it. It’s hard to back out of that once you’re down the trail a bit. When you’re winning races at five years old and beating other kids, it was just so much fun. It was great because my dad was able to cultivate and foster my love of the sport but never in a way that pushed me into it.”
In fact, it was truly a family effort from the beginning, as Jeff would actually miss out on paid engineering opportunities in order to be at the kart track with Colin.
“There was a time when I couldn’t work on the weekends and make money as a race engineer because I was out racing with Colin,” offered Jeff. “So I was not making money, and I was spending money. So now Jon Bennett (CORE owner and driver) has arranged it so that he pays both of us to work together. Thanks to Jon it’s a great thing. We’ve worked together since Colin was five years old in racing. A lot of people spend a lot of money to get the relationship between driver and engineer so that they click and everything, well that’s been easy for us.”
And the relationship that Jeff and Colin share is a special one.
“I can say with a lot less words to my dad what I’m feeling or what’s going on with the car than I could with a normal engineer,” said Colin. “But when we’re at the track, it’s very professional, we’re both here doing our jobs, we have a lot of respect for each other and we just put our heads down and go to work as any driver-engineer would. I think it’s helpful because I can get across what I’m feeling and how the car is driving to my dad better than a lot of other guys that I’ve worked with. Just because, I can look at him and he kind of knows what I’m thinking.”
Jeff Braun agrees.
“I’ve had one other driver in my career who I worked with for several years and we were fifty percent to where Colin and I are,” said Jeff. “But I mean, he was 10 years old and we were racing go-karts and we talked about it at the end of the day and we talked about it all the time. We lived together during all of that time. From a performance standpoint, it’s a big advantage for us. From a fun standpoint, getting to work with your kid – it’s amazing. A lot of people say don’t work with family and stuff like that, but it is just really fun, enjoyable, and productive. And there’s almost like a sixth sense, we know what each other is thinking without saying it. Do we ever disagree on some directions on what we want to do with the car? Yes, but we want to disagree. We want to bounce ideas off of each other. It’s pretty amazing, I’m thankful every day that I get to run him as a driver.”
And at the end of the day, it all comes down to family.
“When Colin went away from our family team and got hired as a professional driver when he was 17 to go drive, we told him that you’ll never have it as good on your family team as you would on your professional team," said Jeff. "But maybe we were wrong, because now we have this family team here doing it together. We get to see him every weekend and his wife Melissa is a great. We have the daughter that we never had. She’s fantastic and it’s fun to do it all with family.”
“It’s great,” added Colin. “Working with my dad is a lot of fun. We’ve done so many different kinds of racing together. Growing up as a kid going karting he was there all the time and really taught me a lot and crafted me into the driver that I am now. Of course we get along really well. And getting to see him at all of the tracks and work together is a lot of fun. Of course it’s a little different than showing up for a holiday and just hanging out, but it’s still fun to be working with your dad.”