Monthly Archives: September 2016

Brenden Queen Wins First Career Late Model Track Championship at East Carolina


📸| Casey Kern/

Almost a full week has gone by since East Carolina capped off their 2016 season and crowned their track champions. Some drivers celebrated their second or third title, some were honored to win the tracks first championship in that division, and some were honored to be called champion for the first time in their career. Sometimes when something so big happens in your life it takes time for all of that to soak in. Chesapeake native Brenden Queen, still finds himself start struck after a week.

“We came into this year wanting to win at least one race and found ourselves looking at so much more,” Queen told The Weekly Racer in an exclusive interview. “I feel like this was a dream season. Looking back on it now it was just an unbelievable year that I am so thankful to be apart of this team.”

Queen entered the 2016 essentially “homeless” when it came to racetracks. Langley Speedway, where he got his start in asphalt racing, and spent his first three years running at in a Late Model, did not open its doors forcing many drivers, like Queen, to hit the road a little more. With ECMS being so close to home Queen Motorsports made the decision to give the 3/8th mile a shot in 2016 and see where it took them. Queen found immediate success on the high banks worn out surface and was able to earn his first career Late Model Stock Car victory and that was just the start. However, it wasn’t as easy as it appeared on Saturday nights, we talked to Brenden on what it took to make the transition to a new track.

“It took a lot more seat time and really knowing what I wanted to feel in the car,” Queen explained. “Working with Phil [Waren] in the shop, as also been a huge step in that by learning more about the car from the outside. We took the entire winter to really go through the car from the bottom up.” Queen also went on to explain just how much of a confidence boost it was to have local Late Model legend Phil Warren – 7 time Langley Speedway Late Model Champ – helping out on the car full time this year. “He believed in me even when I doubted myself,” Queen went on to explain. “You can always learn so much just from talking to him and I really feel like that has impacted my racing career big time.”

Of course things did not come easy for the young driver trying to make a name for himself in the NASCAR scene. Take away the fact he started in thirty-seven total races, thirty of them between East Carolina and Southern National, Queen had plenty of his own ups and down as the “new kid on the block” so to speak at East Carolina but Queens inability to give up might be what ultimately won him the track championship.

“You know you just have to have a never give up attitude,” said Queen. “No matter how upset I was about what was going on or what was being said about me, I owed it to my team to over come it. My team never gave up on me and they kept everything positive and worked hard no matter what. They are the reason we fought till the end.”

2016 was a season for learning for young Brenden Queen. Learning more about the car, learning more about the tracks, and even learning more about himself. During out chat we talked a little bit about what he could take from this year, something that he learned that might help him in the future with racing or with life in general and that was to never give up!

“That is a tough one,” Queen said. “There are so many things we learned this year. Probably never give up till the checkered no matter what. Even if it looks like the race or a championship is over don’t give up because you never know what can happen to the other guys out there just as quick as it happened to you.”

Though Queen’s season has wrapped up at East Carolina Motor Speedway for 2016 his season is far from over. In just a few short weeks Queen Motorsports will head out west to Martinsville Speedway to compete in one of the most prestigious Late Model races in the region in hopes to bring home a grandfather clock. In addition Queen plans to run in the Thanksgiving All-Star classic hosted annually at Southern National Motorsports Park as well as the Late Model portion of the Myrtle Beach 400.

Queen will also be honored December 3rd at the East Carolina Motor Speedway banquet for his accomplishments at the speedway. For more information on how to attend visit for details.

Chris Johnson with Strong Win from Dominion Raceway – Chris Humblet Wins First Track Championship


Chris Johnson celebrating his victory at Dominion Raceway Sept. 24, 2016. (Justin Kern/

Thornburg, VA – It was an all out blitz to say this least this past weekend at Dominion Speedway for veteran driver Chris Johnson. Entering the weekend just ten points behind Chris Humblet, Johnson needed everything to play in his favor; a win, some bonus points, and a slip up from Humblet. Fifty laps later, Chris Johnson found himself one factor short of clinching Dominion’s first ever Modified championship.

Johnson, trying to use the NASCAR points system to his advantage in gaining two additional bonus points from winning from tenth or worse, was actually able to go out and set the tenth fastest time of the sixteen car field. Jimmy Humblet was the nights pole award winner clocking a lap in at 15.690 (91.778 MPH). Jimmy, however, would actually hand the pole position over to his son and points leader by virtue of Dominion’s invert – Chris Humblet qualified sixth with a time of 15.898.

That seemed like it was just what Chris Humblet needed once the green flag was displayed in what ended up being a race of attrition. A few early cautions put an interesting spin on things as the field worked multiple restarts. One that saw Jimmy Humblet almost shoves Johnson into next week. The contact between the two ended up cutting a tire down on Humblet’s car – he had to go down pit road to the attention of his crew. To make matters worse for the #11 race control decided to penalize the driver one lap for aggressive driving.

When the race went back green Chris Humblet resumed the lead while Chris Johnson worked his way through the field. Making his way around the #48 of Balluzzo as well as Mike Johnson’s #38 machine before setting his sites on the second place car of Andrew Fortin. His efforts would be halted briefly after two engines expire within jut a few laps of each other. Balluzzo, who after the race learned a piston was the issue, was able to get his car down on the apron and off the track. Robert Conner on the other hand had his motor blow entering turn three which shot him to the outside wall.

The race was only slowed one more time from the spinning car of Wayne Hartley – not what Chris Humblet wanted to see but was exactly what Chris Johnson needed. With car restarts in effect at Dominion this set up a Humblet/Johnson front row with less than ten laps to go. When the green flag dropped the two sailed it off into turn one, Johnson looking to take the lead away on the outside and did within the lap and never looked back to take home the win in the season finale. Humblet was able to hold off a hard charging Andrew Fortin – who ended up having break issues on the final lap – there at the end to finish in the second position. Even with the extra bonus points Johnson earned it was not enough to take the championship. Great way to finish the season right? First and second place in points finishing one and two on the night in a tight points battle.

“We knew we had to start tenth or worse to get those two extra bonus points if we won the race tonight,” Johnson said in victory lane. “We felt our chances to win the championship was the best if we did start tenth or worse so that is why we did that. Had a little incident there on the first lap, it was a little scary there but its apart of racing.”

Johnson did have a bit of a moment as mentioned above with Jimmy Humblet during the race that could have potentially taken him out of the hunt they he calls just good hard racing.

“We got with the eleven there, he did everything he could to help his son do what he had to do,” Johnson said. “We got up underneath him clean and it was just racing. Hard racing you know. We had a couple cautions there that worked out in my favor.”

A few cautions late in the race might have been what helped with the victory tonight as it bunched the field up for one final restart where Johnson used the high banks and the outside to his advantage.

“I was just trying to save my car there for the end, 50-laps here with these cars is a fairly decent race,” Johnson explained “Chris was doing everything he could to stay in front of me and I was just trying to ride there and save my tires till we got that restart with eight to go. I knew it was time to put the hammer down and was glad we could come home with another win.”



2016 Dominion Raceway Modified Track Champion – Chris Humblet dives into turn three during practice just before the rains came in to cancel the evenings races. (Justin Kern/

Though he may not have won the battle but Chris Humblet ended up winning the war. His second place finish on the night was just enough to hold of even the extra bonus points awarded to Chris Johnson to win his very first ever track championship.

“This has been a year of trials,” Humblet said about his championship season. “We showed up to the first two races and won those, ran a lot of seconds and thirds. We had some battles in the tech shed, cutting hairs, just little things. The team I got just drove me harder. Every time we changed something to get what they wanted it seemed like we were faster.”

Humblet, who just completed his fourth season in Modifieds, and anything with wheels as we told us, was also humble in admitting there were plenty of driver errors through out the season that made things difficult on the team but was very happy with the ability of the team to pick things back up.

“A lot of driver error seemed to hurt us in qualifying,” Humblet admitted. “Just mental errors on my part that would put us deep in the field like last race where we ended up getting taken out on the first lap. Its just a testament to the team, keeping up with two cars and being competitive all season, it was a lot of work.”

Chris Humblet, who spent the better portion of his Modified career running at Langley Speedway, a flat .395 mile oval, had to look else where this season when the track was unable to open over a land/lease dispute. Being able to travel to not only a new track and be completive, to also run a completely different tire we had to ask what adjustments, if any, were needed for this season.

There wasn’t a big adjustment from Langley,” said Humblet. “I was able to be a little more consistent here. I feel it suited my driving style a little better. We didn’t really notice a difference in the tires. We tested back here in December with a Hoosier and I couldn’t really tell a difference. This track has just been a learning curve in general. Its just crazy fast and you have to drive it like no where else.”

Humblet eluded to bringing both cars back for the 2017 season as well as maybe looking to get some funding together to run Southern National’s annual Thanksgiving race as well as looking at some of the bigger races into the winter including the Snowball Derby down at Five Flags Speedway.


Modified Results

1.#36 Chris Johnson; 50
2. #20 Chris Humblet; 50
3. #51 Bubba Johnston; 50
4. #15 Andrew Fortin; 50
5. #38 Michael Johnson; 50
6. #5 Tony Folwer; 50
7. #1 Donnie Holston; 50
8. #00 Tyler Davis; 50
9. #37 Wayne Hartley; 50
10. #8 Mike Rudy; 50
11. #73 Paul Ellis: 50
12. #2 Eric Fowlkes; 49
13. #11 Jimmy Humblet; 48
14. #12 Robert Conner; 20
15. #48 Shawn Balluzzo; 18
16. #66 Tanner Aman; 1

ValleyStar Credit Union 300 to Have New Format in 2016

img_9179The ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway on October 16 will have a new format in 2016, Track President Clay Campbell announced Friday.

The 200 lap feature race will include two competition cautions, one at lap 100 and one at lap 175. During the first stop, cars will be lined up on pit road and allowed to take fuel only, no other adjustments to the cars are allowed. There will also be a blind-draw invert for the cars running in the top-10.

On the second stop, teams will be allowed to change four tires and make any adjustments needed to their cars.

“Ever since we started this race, we’ve been tweaking the format to improve the racing,” Campbell said. “By stopping at lap 100 we’re ensuring fuel doesn’t become an issue for teams and we’re getting back to a true halfway break.

“By allowing teams to take tires and make adjustments at lap 175, I think we’re setting up for a great finish. It should improve the racing throughout the race, as drivers won’t have to worry about saving tires for the end.”

When the field stops for the halfway break, the leader will be awarded the $2,000 Clarence’s Steakhouse Award.

The ValleyStar Credit Union 300 is NASCAR’s biggest, richest and most prestigious Late Model Stock Car race. It pays $25,000 to win and regularly sees more than 75 teams show up to make the 40 car field. The winner also takes home an iconic grandfather clock trophy.

The day starts with three 25 lap heat races and a 25 lap “last chance race” to set the field, followed by the 200 lap feature.

Last year Tommy Lemons Jr. held off a furious charge from Timothy Peters on the final lap to win his second grandfather clock trophy.

General Admission grandstand seating is $30 for adults and $5 for youth 12-and-under.

Tickets can be purchased by calling 877.RACE.TIX or online at

Jeff Oakley Back in Victory Lane at Dominion Raceway – Wins 2016 Season Finale

#11 Jeff Oakley wins the 150-lap season finale at Dominion Raceway

#11 Jeff Oakley wins the 150-lap season finale at Dominion Raceway

Thornburg, VA – Jeff Oakley has shown speed all season long at the newly opened Dominion Raceway. It looked like it was going to be a dogfight all summer long between he and Nick Smith. However, with some issues in the tech shed and some bad luck on the racetrack, Oakley found himself outside of the top five in points and just about mathematically eliminated.

Even with those odds that did not stop the driver from flexing his muscles again in the final race of the tracks inaugural season. Earlier in the afternoon Oakley was the only driver to break into the 14-second bracket, a 14.953 (96.302 MPH) to snag the pole position. That however, would be negated after pulling a number four pill for the redraw, inverting the top four qualifiers. Jeff Oakley, Nick Smith, Doug Barnes, Jr., Michael Hardin and Trent Barnes were the fastest five in time trials.

In one of the more interesting race formats that we have seen this season, the 150-lap race was broken up into three parts; a 50-lap segment where the fans voted on a top two, four, or six car invert, a 75-lap segment where there would be a random pill draw fro the leader at the time, and finally a 25-lap shoot out to determine the winner. Each break was only five minutes and teams were not allowed to change tires.

Michael Harden, who was awarded the pole position after the initial redraw, was able to lead every lap in the first 50-lap segment. Hardin was able to keep a solid three to four car advantage over the entire top five through the first segment. Points leader Nick Smith and Jeff Oakley looked like they were just riding saving tires – teams were not allowed to swap tires at all during any of the breaks. Some of the best racing however was back in the sixth position, the last possible invert spot from the fan vote. Connor Hall was the man to hold those honors after holding off the #82b of Cameron Burke – who eventually had engine issues that took him and Ganoe out the feature.

The caution flag for Cameron Burke essentially took the field to the first of two five minute breaks. This was when the tower looked to the fans to determine how many cars would be inverted for the second 75-lap segment. The crowd had three choices; two, four, or six. It was all but unanimous as the fans selected the top six, handing the lead over to Hampton, VA native Connor Hall.

When it was time to go back racing Connor Hall handled himself like a true contender and jumped out to a solid lead. Took several laps for the top five to catch the bumper of Hall to start applying pressure for the lead. This generated a pretty good battle between Nick Smith and Trent Barnes. Little contact from both drivers but overall some good hard racing! At one point Smith and Barnes were three wide with a lap car and some how found a way to keep racing.

Once Smith got around the lap machine he was able to get by Barnes as well and set his sights on Connor Hall who had been leading since the field went back green. The veteran driver gave Hall a little tap as they worked through turn two which allowed Smith to take the lead. Smith would open up a pretty big gap over the field for the most part of the second segment. Oakley was able to get to the back bumper of Smith before the lap 125 break but looked pretty content riding in the second position as that was one of the invert spots.

At the break Smith was given the honors of pulling the third and final redraw pill. The magic number was three, handing the lead over the Trent Barnes. Jeff Oakley got to keep his position while Smith would have to start from the third position. Connor Hall and Michael Hardin would round out the top five and get to keep their positions on the restart.

With 25-laps left it didn’t take long for things to get interesting. Barnes and Oakley sail it off into one and make contact coming out of two. Oakley gathered the car back up and mounted a charge back around Barnes to his outside. Another almost scary moment for the leaders after Barnes got pretty lose and came across Smith’s nose – kudos to both drivers for keeping the car under them. With the third and final segment being so short, Smith was just able to reel in Oakley but ran out of laps and would settle for second.

The best battle on the speedway was again centered around Connor Hall. This time doing all he could to hold off Michael Hardin. The two would stay glued to each other for the final fifteen laps. Hardin eventually getting around Hall to take home the fourth position. Hall showed great skill, and with the help of his spotter I am sure, to find a way to slide into the fifth position and avoided be freight trained to what was almost a seventh place finish.



1.#11 Jeff Oakley; 150
2. #12 Nick Smith; 150
3. #1 Trent Barnes; 150
4. #7 Michael Hardin; 150
5. #77 Connor Hall; 150
6. #5 Billy Morris; 150
7. #57 Eddie Johnson
8. #13 Tyler Daniels; 150
9. #07 Richard Storm; 145
10. #56 Doug Liberman; 111
11. #27 Kevin Sims; 99
12. #66 Zach Wells; 85
13. #61 David Polenz; 70
14. #82b Cameron Burke; 43
15. #82 Mike Ganoe; 43
16. #88 Doug Barnes Jr.; 24
17. #01 David Moon; 2
18. #17b Joe Brown; 2

From Rookie of the Year to State Champion – Tyler Matthews Making a Name for Himself

Oh how much difference a year can make. One year your struggling, the next you find your self on top of the world. One year your the lapped car, the next your lapping cars. Things are not always that extreme, sometimes you find yourself like Tyler Matthews, a 19 year old Richland, North Carolina native, who is slowly making a name for himself within the Late Model Stock Car community. Matthews began his journey in this crazy lifestyle we like to call Late Model racing last year in in 2015 and wound up winning the North Carolina Rookie of the Year award at just 18 years old.

Matthews, a two sport athlete in high school – Football & racing ATV’s found himself in a pretty tough spot with some decisions to make. Starting off in the world of racing ATV’s Matthews spent most of his Friday’s traveling to race. Once he started playing football with his high school, Friday travel days to the race track were all but impossible to make. Instead of giving up on one of the sports he loved Matthews just made an adjustment.

“I used to race atv and we were traveling on Fridays,” said Matthews. “Then I started playing football we couldn’t travel around to races so we started doing something closer to the house that we can race on Saturdays and not have to travel all day Friday”

Matthews played middle linebacker, tight end and fullback for his now alma matter Richland Hights High School while driving his Late Model Stock Car. “I had some DII football offers to play in college but turned them down to go racing,” Matthews told The Weekly Racer.

One year later Matthews found himself at the top of the leader boards again – this time as the North Carolina State points champion. Competing in thirty-four races between two tracks, Matthews – who calls East Carolina Motor Speedway home – found himself with with four wins, eighteen top fives and twenty-eight top tens to edge out fellow competitor Brenden Queen by just two points, and Late Model veteran Louis White by fourteen points. Crediting ECMS with the top three drivers in the state who listed East Carolina their home track in 2016.

Though Matthews found himself finishing third in the season finale at ECMS behind Louis White and Brenden Queen, (Louis White Wins Second Ronnie Barnett Memorial at East Carolina Motor Speedway) it was just enough to lock up the sophomores second NASCAR accomplishment in just his second year of racing. “You know it really hasn’t set in just yet,” Matthews spoke about winning the title. “Last year it didnt set in till we got to Charlotte and you walk and your surrounded by all these great drivers. Last year we finished fifteenth in the state which wasn’t really all that bad and locked up rookie of the year.”


Tyler Matthews celebrates a second place finish in the first of two 40-lap twins along with girlfriend Kodie Drake. (Justin Kern/

Matthews started the season out strong running between his home track East Carolina Motor Speedway where he picked up a couple wins while visiting Southern National on the off weekends. “We came out this year and lead the state early,” Matthews told us. “Mainly because we just had more finishes than every body. We hit a lot of bad luck there in the middle of the season and didnt really get the finishes that we wanted. We put a strong run there though specially with guys like Matt Bowling coming down and trying to get full field wins. We definitely couldn’t have done it with out him last week. To split [a win] with him, thats probably one of the biggest weekends of my career yet. Not sure how his night went but if he locked up the National title thats going to feel pretty awesome to split with a national champ this late in the season.”

NASCAR took just a little bit longer than their normal Tuesday to release the points information, our guess was just to take the time to check and re-check points to make sure they were correct. Matthews told us in our interview that he was blessed to be able to call himself a state champion.

“Not many people have one those you know,” Matthews spoke about state championships. “In racing or even high school sports, its pretty cool to be able to say you are a state champion.”

The season isn’t quite over the young driver however as he has even more opportunity for achievements. Matthews enters this weekend as the Southern National points leader. A hefty 50 point advantage over Ricky Jones. With national points concluded Matthews merely just needs to start the races and he will also be able to add “Track Champion” to his resume of things he has accomplished in young career as a Late Model Stock Car driver. Gates will open tomorrow at SNMP at 5 PM with racing getting underway around 7 PM.




« Older Entries