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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - When Langley Speedway officials decided not to open for the 2016 season of racing, Brenden Queen found himself searching for a place to race.
Queen, who hails from Chesapeake, Virginia, and goes by the nickname “Butterbean” ended up landing at East Carolina Motor Speedway in Robersonville, North Carolina, after winning the season opening race at the three-eighths-mile oval on April 16.
It proved to be a championship winning decision as Queen was crowned the East Carolina late model division track champion, his first track title at East Carolina and his first track title of any kind in a late model.
“It was a crazy start to the year because my home track Langley was closed. We really had to start traveling around. We really didn’t know where we were going to race. We went to Myrtle Beach, South Boston and ended up winning the opening race at East Carolina,” Queen said.
It was an incredible season for the now 19-year-old driver. He ended up tailing four victories at East Carolina, the first four victories of his young late model career. Those victories came aboard the No. 03 entry led by crew chief Phil Warren with sponsorship from Atlantic Plumbing and Utilities, Brin Building Supply, Oldskool Video Games & More, among others.
“We set out to win one race and ended up winning more than one and winning the track championship and almost winning the state (title),” said Queen. “We lost the state by two points, but it was still a good year.”
As Queen noted he nearly completed the double in North Carolina by winning both a track title and the overall state championship. He won the East Carolina track title by six points over Louis White, but came up two points short in the state title race against Southern National Motorsports Park track champion Tyler Matthews.
U.S. state and province champions are determined by the best 18 finishes at tracks within the respective state or province.
“It would have been awesome to win them all together. It was definitely a wound to the heart to lose the state by two points considering we were leading the next to last weekend,” Queen said. “We just didn’t perform how we needed to at Kenly (Southern National) and then we went to East Carolina Sunday. We sat on the pole and we had a decent shot at winning and Louis (White) and I were racing for the track championship and ended up having our feud going on and that took us out of contention to win the race.
“Tyler Matthews was on his game,” Queen said. “He was on his game when he needed to be.”
In addition to his successful run at East Carolina and in North Carolina, he performed well enough to finish 13th in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National standings. He had 21 top fives and 32 top 10s in 37 points paying races. That success is even more impressive considering the competition he was racing against.
“We just found ourselves (being) really competitive there (at East Carolina) and the competition started growing there with Matt Bowling traveling down there for National points,” Queen said. “It just turned into a situation where we were having pretty good car counts, having about 18 cars a week.”
Right now Queen isn’t sure where he’ll be racing in 2017. He said should Langley open back up he’ll likely race there, but he’d also like to race for a National title.
“We’re still working on our sponsors. Last year was our biggest year. We ran around 40 or 41 races. Going into this year I’m definitely looking at trying to get another championship. I would love to get a state (title), whether it be Virginia or North Carolina. We had talked at trying to make a run at the National championship, but its all about how much sponsor money we get. We’re not really a high budget team. I’m just working with the sponsors trying to figure out a plan.”
If the 2016 season was any indication, Queen should be a contender no matter where he races this season. Who knows, he may even have a shot at the National title.