Chesapeake, VA – You know how they say that bad things come in threes? 2016 East Carolina Motor Speedway Late Model Stock champion Brenden Queen was all too familiar with that over the weekend.
Things started off early Friday morning when Queen’s rig broke down on the way to pick up the car hauler. This would effect the time the car would arrive at the track. After securing a new rig, hooking up, and heading down south they discovered a tire going down on the trailer which would effect the arrival time even worse. The issues didn’t stop there however, after arriving more than two hours into morning practice the crew discovered a noise coming from the engine compartment. A bad lifter was the diagnoses from pit road – their weekend was over before it really began.
If we have learned anything in previous interviews with the young Chesapeake, Va driver it’s that Queen Motorsports tends to never give. Team owner Mike Queen and Crew Chief Phil Warren had to go to work and find their driver a motor. Luckily for them fellow competitor Mike Darne had a Ford crate motor he was able to rent the team for the weekend. Spending the rest of the afternoon and evening swapping out motors. Trying to get parts and pieces and their chassis to match up was not the easiest thing they have done. However, when final practice rolled around Saturday morning the driver and crew were ready to roll.
“Really worked on making sure the replacement motor was running good,” Queen said about practice on Saturday. “We couldn’t find any drive off. Just kept working at it.”
Work on it they did as they qualified tenth out of twenty-eight cars that took time Saturday afternoon (31 cars would eventually start the feature). A small victory for a team that has already been through so much in just 24 hours. It proved they had a solid piece with them and with patience and good driving they could be there at the end.
The first half of the race was relatively calm. Drivers getting into their rhythm, figuring out their lines, and trying to save tires. Queen had his work cut out for him the first half of the race trying to work his way up through the field. At one point he had fallen to almost the twentieth position trying to make the high line work on a restart. Doing what he has done some many times throughout his championship run, Queen leaned on the guidance from his crew chief, spotter and mentor – Phil Warren. We asked Brenden once all the dust calmed down and things were back to normal we asked Queen to just put into words his emotions going into the race after having what seemed to be the weekend from hell.
“To be honest with you it was the same attitude we had Friday that we used in the race,” Queen would answer. “Just kept a never give up attitude. I thought we were going home early after the motor broke Friday afternoon but my dad stepped in and made it happen. Can’t thank him enough for everything he does for my team.
The halfway break occurred around lap 106 where teams could come down pit road and make minor adjustments, add fuel and change up to two tires. The top six drivers were also inverted before they were set loose for the final one hundred laps – or so we thought. Queen knew it was time to get up on the wheel and make things happen as this was going to be the hardest part of the race.
“We never adjusted anything,” Queen commented on the halfway break. “The race started and we were good just couldn’t get the track position. Left it alone at halfway just had to fix damage where the 51 missed a shift. We really kept fighting and worked our way up to about sixth. We got lucky on one of those restarts and ended up getting to third. That last restart there I gave Tommy a run for his money and gave him a little shot going into three on the final lap but didn’t want to spin him for the win. I would hope to be raced the same way if it was the other way around. Congrats to those guys but man we were so close.”
The second place finish would be the highest finish Queen has recorded at Southern National as well as the highest finish in the big post season races of 2016 (10th at Martinsville, 7th at Myrtle Beach) and put a cap on the 2016 season for Brenden. When asked about this season and what it has meant to him and his crew all he could tell The Weekly Racer was it was unbelievable.
“It’s a unbelievable feeling to look back at how far we have come since last December,” Queen went on to explain. “Lots of hard work and dedication. We came into this season with our mind set on one thing, to win a race. Here we are going into Christmas having won four times, earned our first track championship in a Late Model and competing with some of the biggest names on the biggest stages. I’m very thankful for everything and don’t take it for granite.”
Brenden was not able to give an exact idea on what the plans were for 2017 but one could only imagine after having a break out year like they had in 2016 – who knows what is in store for them when the green flag drops next February.