- “The Majors” – NWAAS Style
Hampton Heat – Langley | SoBo 200 – South Boston | VSCU 300 – Martinsville | All-Star Classic – SNMP
Yup, just like with the PGA our sport has what some of us in the media here in the Mid-Atlantic like to call The Majors. A term not coined by our staff or myself but it seemed to fit – for the most part. The PGA has four very large and very prestigious events on their “tour” or “circuit” that are sought after by just about everyone in the sport.
My sport I like to think we have five events and for the sake of the name, as well as the fifth event being a whole new item on my bucket list, I felt okay with separating them. Most will argue the Late Model Stock “Majors” consist of; The Hampton Heat, the South Boston 200, the annual Martinsville 300, the All-Star Classic at Southern National and The Battle at the Beach down in Myrtle Beach. First question – What are you “Majors” in the Late Model Stock community?
This year these races made my list of top five races mainly because of their prestige and the cars they attract. The second reason is because of the car counts! You put more than a couple grand on the line and you will have the ladies and gentleman clawing at the chance to cash the big check. Finally the quality of racing you get to witness as a fan and cover as a member of the media.
Langley’s Hampton Heat saw a brand new winner this year in Lee Pulliam – which actually kick started the campaign to almost sweep the VA Triple Crown Series. Just about thirty Late Models piled into Langleys small and flat .375-mile facility. Drivers from all over like Tommy Lemons Jr. coming out and mixing it up with locals like Greg Edwards and Brenden Queen. All working in the heat of summer fighting for the chance to say they won the Hampton Heat.
You have your good days, and then you have your bad days. Then you have your good days almost go really bad but all in all after you work on a few things it comes back around to being a pretty good day! This is the idea behind our Hard Charger Award. Our staff evaluates the race, the circumstances thrown your way, and the overall outcome. This award is given out to a driver to commend them on their efforts through out the race. To thank that driver for never giving up on their sponsors, their team, or their fans. We put this out there to show our appreciation from pit road, the sky box, or where ever we may be, that you never gave up!
This weekend we traveled down to our home away from home, East Carolina Motor Speedway, to the 2nd Annual Ronnie Barnette Memorial 200. One of the largest Late Model races of the year for the speedway, and might I add, an event that will continue to grow into a prestigious race for them in the future. Eighteen drivers all fighting for the same thing; bragging rights for the next year as well as a $6,000 pay out. Earning an eighth place-starting position on the grid, Brenden Queen looked to continue riding that wave of success through these “post season” races. This was the plan for Queen Motorsports…
From the drop of the green flag, however, things did not go as the team wanted. You could immediately tell that something was just not right with the car. After setting the second fastest time in practice last month, when the race was originally scheduled and the third fastest time this weekend, one could only imagine the frustration. Queen would be forced to battle through the hornet’s nest so to speak. Making sure to keep the tires under him and the nose clean. A task much easier said than done.
Robersonville, NC – No stranger to victory lane here at the tricky 3/8th mile D-shape oval. McCaskill took the lead from Justin Johnson on lap 172 with a pretty slick cross over move out of turn four that was actually set up as the field came out of turn four on the restart. From that point on it was the veteran in control. McCaskill, in the two short years the track has been under the NASCAR banner has racked up just about a dozen wins around this place. Wrapping up the 2015 season and $6,000 richer sure did make things just a bit better for him and his crew.
“Feels great man. I was a little worried there because we were just a little off in practice,” McCaskill said from victory lane. “Qualified fifth and the car just drove really good. In that first half Justin and the eighty-three car [Bowling] were really strong, they were just beating me with drive off.“ Like any veteran driver McCaskill knew he had plenty of time to make moves and even a break in the racing to make adjustments to the car as needed. With the race starting in daylight but finishing under the lights you knew there were going to be adjustments.
“We made some great calls at the break, I cant think the guys enough,” McCaskill proclaimed. “We really took a gamble and it worked. Which usually doesn’t happen with me, we usually make the wrong call like we did last week at Kenly. This really worked though and allowed us to get off four much better and get up with Justin and then really stretch the lead out.” Stretch the lead out they did. In just under eight laps McCaskill had built himself a pretty comfortable ten-car lead over the new second place machine of Matt Bowling. Then what no leader wants to see late in the race, multiple late race cautions; even worse a Green–White–Checkered finish. “Those last couple of cautions kind of had me worried there,” said McCaskill about the end of the race. “It was really fun there and a good way to end the year.”
Brendan Queen during practice at this years Thanksgiving All-Star Classic. (Photo: Justin Kern/The Weekly Racer)
Just like in your traditional stick and ball sports, momentum is a huge factor on the racing surface. String a few good races together and your driver feels unstoppable behind the wheel. Have mechanical failures and a few wrecks and they are sitting in the shop wondering why in the hell they actually even do this in the first place… Okay that’s probably a bit of an exaggeration but you get my point! Coming off one of the best years in this young drivers young Late Model career, Brenden Queen has been rolling through this post-season with momentum on his side.
Finishing third in points at his home track of Langley Speedway, Brenden Queen entered this season as somewhat of an underdog. That’s not saying the kid cant drive but lets be real with our selves; just eighteen years old, third year in a Late Model Stock Car, and no wins under his belt going up against some of the best in business. Who, not only have been at it as long as he has been alive, but have just about won everything there is to win. Think that has stopped Queen… Nope!
Queen has certainly turned heads this season with his third place finish at one of the toughest short tracks in the region when it comes to competition. Not good enough for you, what about battling for the lead during the Hampton Heat with thirty plus drivers fighting for $10,000 – Queen would ultimately finish 8th. If that is not enough for you, Queen managed a sixth place finish in the Virginia State points and 80th in the entire nation for Div. I.
Driver Brenden Queen has been pretty busy this “post-season” running all of the major trophy races and doing quite well I might add, (Martinsville – 22nd, Myrtle Beach – 6th after qualifying outside pole, Southern National – 10th). Looking to cary that momentum into this weekends Ronnie Barnette Memorial 200 at East Carolina Motor Speedway. “I really felt like when we were at East Carolina before these other two races that it was going start our momentum,” Queen said. “I felt like we really had a fast car. I do think we have some momentum going back, still looking for our first win and I’ve never raced at the track but I feel like I’ve picked up quick at it.”
Mother Nature has not played very nice this season when it comes to racetracks in the Mid-Atlantic region. Plenty of times this season we have had to go without racing one weekend, or push back dates which can really screw up teams, sponsors, tracks, drivers! Either way nine out of ten times we, the racing community, do not let that hold us down, we pick another date, strap into our cars, and get at it just as hard as we originally planned!
This year was no different for this fun little track located in the quite but beautiful town of Robersonville, North Carolina. Just a little side note, if you like jumping in the car and going for a little drive, this track is just as fun to drive to than it is to be at! Opening night and various dates throughout the season really put a damper – pardon the pun – on a season that truly saw increased car counts and fans in the stands. I have to give credit to the officials and track staff for really hanging in there and working to put on a great show.