NWAAS: Brenden Queen Grabs First Career Victory at East Carolina Season Opener
Robersonville, NC – Mother Nature was a race fan this weekend for sure, providing racetracks all over the Mid-Atlantic with almost perfect race conditions. One track in particular was East Carolina Motor Speedway where The Weekly Racer was there for the third opening night in a row to bring you right to the action. A night packed with six different divisions and 200-laps worth of racing proved to be exciting and memorable to say the least for many.
With racing all around the Mid-Atlantic a solid field of fourteen cars would take the green flag – should have been fifteen however the #6 of Evan Horne broke a rear end earlier in practice and was not able to make the repair. Side note, Ryan Haddock, another car having rear end issues during practice was able to barrow some parts and makes the green flag. Kenneth Mercer, who despite running an older style body paced both Late Model practices, posting times in the mid thirties.
Qualifying took place later on in the evening just as the sun started to set over the trees in turn two. Brenden Queen, 18 of Chesapeake, Virginia, stole the pole away from Thomas Burbage – long time East Carolina Motor Speedway veteran as the second to last car to take time. Queen able to lay down a lap of 15.302 (88.224 MPH), just .077 seconds faster that Thomas to lock down his first official career pole. Burbage, Matthews, Mercer, and White would round out the starting five for the 75-lap feature.
It was very clear from the jump that Queen had come down to East Carolina with business on his mind. Setting the pace early and to his advantage, Queen battled Burbage side by side for just one lap before clearing him on the exit of two. Burbage, knowing how to get around that tricky little place did not make things to easy on Queen, staying right with him just waiting for a mistake. Meanwhile things were really heating up for the for sixth as Mercer had to give the spot up to Johnson who immediately was under fire from two time defending track champion Jeff Shiflett.
Twenty laps ticked off the board as Queen set a pretty quick pace on the field. By lap 35 the top three had were on a straightaway of their own. Queen had already extended his lead to just about a quarter of a straightaway over Thomas Burbage. Third placeman Tyler Matthews had just started to turn up the wick and reel in the back bumper of Burbage – Matthews would eventually take over the second spot just past the halfway mark of the race. Meanwhile we had a few cars hit pit road and pull into their pit stalls, the #7K of Jim Kelly as well as the #29 of Melvin Langley – we were not able to get reports of what issues they had.
With the field strung out pretty good now Queen had just what was in front of him to worry about. Opening, hanging onto what looked to be a full straightaway lead over Matthews focused on putting some of the slower cars a lap down. Bit of a scary moment for the leaders as on the other side of lap 50. Both Queen and Matthews look to make contact with Robbie Allison as they put him a lap down – will be completely honest here folks I was partially looking down at the computer when this happened but as I looked up both Allison and Matthews were a bit out of shape. No major damage to either of three other than a piece of sheet metal off Allison’s car came to rest in the infield grass.
Did not see our first caution till just after that little incident as track officials found debris in turn three – but you know what happens when one caution comes out to play… he brings his friends. Clean up took care of the issue with extreme haste and it was no time till we were back under green… and it seemed like it took us even quicker to get back under yellow. Three caution flags in the span of what must have been ten laps for spinning cars in four – two of those cautions coming from Kenneth Mercer. Third time is a charm must be a real thing as a few cars got torn up and forced out of the race due to what appeared to be front-end damage. Was not able to see from our vantage point if Mercer had help going around that second time but we were able to see was a torn up Jeff Shiflett as well as Allison. Burbage appeared to get some light damage but was able to continue.
Final green flag for the night came with just over five laps to go. Queen, who had been good on the restarts all night long, hit yet another near perfect start and puts plenty of distance on White, in fact leaving him to deal with the likes of Burbage. Louis White, who had been mid pack all night, with the exception of his slip up in the middle of the race, really able to power through the closing laps and steal a fourth place finish from Wesley Johnson. Queen would be able to hang onto the lead and grab his first checkered flag of his late model career – winning in dominating fashion so to speak. Click the link to read what Queen had to say after the race –>Brenden Queen Leads Wire-to-Wire In Route to First Late Model Victory at East Carolina Motor Speedway. Matthews, Burbage, White, and Johnson would round out your top five.
P1 #03 Brenden Queen; 75
P2 #63 Tyler Matthews; 75
P3 #9 Thomas Burbage; 75
P4 #7 Louis White; 75
P5 #12 Wesley Johnson; 75
P6 #25 Kenneth Mercer; 75
P7 #99 Zach Henshaw; 75
P8 #19b Cameron Bowen; 75
P9 #01 Jeff Shiflett; 63
P10 #67 Robbie Allsion, Jr.; 63
P11 #33 Ryan Haddock
P12 #19 Chris Burns; 35
P13 #29 Melvin Langley; 27
P14 #K7 Jim Kelly; 23
It was a championship front row for the Street Stock division for their 30-lap opening night feature. 2014 ECMS Champ Jesse Council snagged the pole earlier in the evening over 2015 ECMS Champ Travis Roberson with the best time of 16.606. Kevin Benton, Drew Starling, and Brandon Manning were your Fast Five in a field of 11 cars.
Council and Roberson wasted no time hitting the go fast button when the green flag was displayed to the field. Sailing it off into turn one side by side trying to navigate the very tricky turn two. Council would gain the advantage early and stretch what looked to be a ten-car lead over Roberson just three laps into a thirty-lap feature. The two were no doubt the class of the field as it took no time for them to distance themselves from Benton, Manning, Starling and Lawrence all fighting for positions three through six.
Just seven laps was all Roberson needed to catch and pass Council – who looked to be on the tight side of things – for the lead, it was almost as if the two switched rolls. Took Roberson just about three and half to four laps to open up his own ten-car lead before all of the problems started to unroll. Twice was this race stopped by the red flag, both times were after some pretty hard contact with the outside retaining wall. Brandon Manning’s #48 was the first, coming to a halt out of two, and a very hard hit indeed. Was not given an official report from the tower but we assumed the driver was okay as safety did not need to leave the infield.
Second incident came shortly after we were back under the green after yet another big wreck on the front stretch involving Andy Ipock. Was truly glad to see him exit the car under his own power and head to the ambulance to get checked out after such a hard hit. The race would be halted for just over 17 minutes as crews worked to clean the track up.
Once we were back to green flag racing there was no challenge for Roberson as he would drive away with the victory. Benton, who got around council for second just before the red flag was scored second, Council and Starling would fight it out the final lap for third – Council getting the better end of the stick and the third spot followed by Starling and Scotty Lawrence to round out the top five.
P1 #3 Travis Roberson
P2 #55 Kevin Benton
P3 #00 Jesse Council
P4 #44 Drew Starling
P5 #83 Scott Lawrence
P6 #22 Gary Rochelle, Jr.
P7 #73 Steven Wells
P8 #48 Brandon Manning
P9 #51 Andy Ipock
P10 #99 Kenneth Willis
Yes, you are reading that right, this is the Super Street division that is normally run at Langley Speedway. However, with that Hampton, VA track closed for business for the foreseeable future, John Vick and East Carolina Motor Speedway owner Wayne Perry offered these drivers a place to come play on Saturday nights. Seven cars made the trip to try out the high-banked speedway.
Bill Eaker would grab the pole over Sean Calway, Sammy Gaita, Michael Perkins and Craig Warren with a 17.729 (76.146 MPH). Putting on a show must be in the blood of these drivers because the racing was exciting from the get go. The 30-lap feature saw three different leaders along with some bumper to bumper racing.
Eaker was able to hold onto the top spot till a mistake off four coming to lap six allowed for Gaita to get by in turns one and two all the while holding onto about a fifteen car lead over Calway riding back in third.
Not so much a scary moment for the leaders but a rather unfortunate turn of events as we have now completed almost ten laps, Calway has caught and passed Eaker for second, and with the help of Jim Bennett was able to catch the back bumper of the twenty-four machine. Did not see what all happened in turn two but when we looked up Bennett just about spun off tow causing Gaita to check up extremely hard.
Calway then used another lap car as a pick to make the pass for the lead. Have to give Gaita credit for hanging in their the way he did as we learned he was fighting a break problem pretty much the entire feature. Calway would hang on to win his first race at East Carolina Motor Speedway in just his second trip to the track. Gaita, Eaker, Perkins, Warren your top five.
P1 #12 Sean Calway
P2 #24 Sammy Gaita
P3 #22 Bill Eaker
P4 #57 Michael Perkins
P5 #47 Craig Warren
P6 #05 Don Massimo
P7 #50 Jim Bennett
Dillon Spain was your man to beat in the INEX Legends division starting from the pole position. With a couple new faces to the speedway along with a few start and parks, seven cars took the green flag for their 25-lap feature. Eric Courtney & Blaise Brinkley would finish 6th & 7th respectively. Rookie, Chris Hayes of Newport News, Virginia, made the trip down to help shake the car down for the 2016 season. He to was forced to retire early citing a bad vibration in the rear end. Better to call it quits early than to completely tear your stuff up. Hayes felt confident it wasn’t to major and will make the repairs needed.
Spain would lead flag to flag practically uncontested over Will Bristle, Zach Brown, and Sparky West – the last car running on the speedway. Chris Hayes would come home with a top five finish.
P1 #7 Dillon Spain
P2 #91 Will Bristle
P3 #88 Zach Brown
P4 #99 Sparky West
P5 #4 Chris Hayes
P6 #12 Eric Courtney
P7 #91b Blaise Brinkley