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March 14, 2024

Brenden Queen is prepared to show the Truck Series what ‘Butterbean’ is all about — relentless hard work and a good time

LUCAMA, N.C. — The 2024 CARS Tour season-opener was far from the only thing on Brenden “Butterbean” Queen’s mind when he pulled into North Carolina’s Southern National Motorsports Park last weekend.

The 26-year-old was eager to share news of a golden opportunity.

Queen is getting the chance to compete in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series; he will pilot the No. 1 Toyota for TRICON Garage at North Wilkesboro Speedway on May 18.

Queen’s announcement was met with an overwhelmingly positive reception from the Late Model Stock Car racing community in which he’s embedded. He attributes the jubilant reaction to all the hard work he’s put into building both an efficient race program and a recognizable brand.

“It was hard to keep a secret,” Queen said. “You want to tell all your fans so they can get excited, but what a day it was. This is something I’ve dreamed of, and to see how many people supported the news was really important to me.”

Brenden Queen
Butterbean has defeated many talented competitors, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., in Late Model Stocks. (Photo: Ted Malinowski/NASCAR)

Queen has always been associated with the nickname “Butterbean,” a moniker he received from his family when he was a baby due to the resemblance he shared with professional boxer Eric “Butterbean” Esch. He’s glad the nickname stuck; it enabled him to create an identity to which fans at his home track of Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia could attach.

Queen’s perseverance and magnetic personality garnered him a loyal fan base for Langley’s weekly shows, even when, initially, he wasn’t delivering victories. As the years progressed, he evolved into a perennial contender. He won Langley’s prestigious Hampton Heat for the first time in 2020, and he parlayed that into three consecutive Late Model Stock track titles to open the decade.

The dominance Queen displayed at Langley gave him the confidence to branch out and test his luck against the best Late Model Stock competitors from the southeast. He embarked on this venture by departing his family team and joining Lee Pulliam, whose accomplishments include four NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series national titles.

Queen and Pulliam found instant success by winning the 2022 South Carolina 400 at Florence Motor Speedway. That triumph set an efficient tone for the following year, when Queen secured another Hampton Heat win along with four victories and a second-place finish in the CARS Tour point standings.

Butterbean has emerged as one of the best in Late Model Stocks with a resume that includes crown jewel victories and three titles at Langley Speedway. (Photo: Sanjay Suchak/NASCAR)

Such an efficient run was something Queen knows would not have been possible only a few years earlier, even with stellar equipment. Dealing with one hardship after another was a crucial first step in his development; it helped him simultaneously understand how to take care of a car and maximize its potential.

“This comes from the days of grinding in my backyard with lesser equipment, not being able to afford parts and having to use old stuff,” Queen said. “It made me appreciate the car and equipment way more, so when I got better stuff, I knew how to appreciate it. Last year we proved we could go on the road and have so much success.”

The natural ability Queen displays and the compassion he has for those around him are two reasons why Pulliam wanted Butterbean to join his operation. Pulliam said there’s never a day around the shop when Queen is not actively sharing information to help the organization. This includes assisting Pulliam’s driver development program, which now includes Isabella Robusto and Gavan Boschele.

Pulliam had high expectations for Queen, but even the car owner was impressed by how quickly the wins began accumulating. He has every reason to believe they will reach more milestones in 2024.

“Brenden sets the bar very high and is a valuable asset,” Pulliam said. “We knew we could win right out of the gate, but knowing you can and getting it done are two different things. He’s won some really big races for us, and we’ve come close to winning a lot more, so we’re looking forward to continuing our journey together.

“Quite frankly, I think he’s the best Late Model Stock driver in the country right now.”

Brenden “Butterbean” Queen signs autographs ahead of the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 at Virginia’s South Boston Speedway July 1, 2023. (Photo: Sanjay Suchak/NASCAR)

Queen’s talent was on full display during his final victory of 2023 in the Thanksgiving Classic at Southern National. At the end of an intense, 50-lap battle to the finish, Queen fended off NASCAR Cup Series driver Josh Berry and fellow Late Model Stock standout Kaden Honeycutt.

That win caught the attention of several in the motorsports industry — including Toyota. The manufacturer contacted Queen about making a Truck Series appearance, which he was more than happy to accept.

Queen can’t think of a place better than North Wilkesboro to make his Truck Series debut. The historic facility was the sight of his dominant victory last year against a field that consisted of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and other Cup Series stars.

Queen, though, is anticipating plenty of differences in the Truck race, especially now that the track has been repaved. He will also have to adapt to new aerodynamics and a heavier ride, but those factors are not quelling his optimism about earning another North Wilkesboro win.

“Riding that lift is something not a lot of people get to do, and I’m lucky enough to have done it once,” Queen said. “What an honor it would be to ride a truck up the lift in my debut, but it’s going to be a totally different ball game than Late Model Stocks, and you’ll need a good enough truck to have enough momentum to keep your free roll up.”

Brenden Queen pictured ahead of the South Carolina 400 at Florence Motor Speedway on Nov. 18, 2023. (Photo: Ted Malinowski/NASCAR)

The primary piece of advice Pulliam has provided to Queen before his Truck Series debut is to enjoy the experience, reminding him that many great short-track drivers have gone their whole careers without receiving a similar opportunity.

For Pulliam, the furthest he progressed up the developmental ladder was a handful of starts in what’s now the ARCA Menards Series East. There are days when Pulliam wishes he could have made it to NASCAR’s top ranks, but he has worked tirelessly in his post-driving career to ensure his drivers have the fundamentals to excel.

With another of his drivers in Corey Heim serving as Queen’s teammate, there is plenty of elation for Pulliam leading up to North Wilkesboro. He’s confident Queen has the capability to eventually turn that one-off Truck Series appearance into a full-time Cup Series career one day.

“I couldn’t be any more proud,” Pulliam said. “It’s awesome to see Brenden get an opportunity like this. I’m kind of living my dream through my drivers now, so it’s been pretty cool for me to do that through these guys like Corey Heim and now Butterbean. This is something I take a lot of pride in.”

The best way for Queen to prove he’s worthy of additional Truck Series starts will be to keep his Toyota Tundra in one piece, respecting the competition and showcasing the skill set that won him so many Late Model Stock races around the southeast.

Queen hopes the identity he’s built around the Butterbean brand attracts more fans who aren’t familiar with his short-track exploits. He also wants to inspire the next generation of young fans who fall in love with motorsports by watching races.

“All those years of never giving up pays off,” Queen said. “I was one of those little kids sitting in the stands growing up and always wanted to be a NASCAR driver. You just need to keep chasing your dreams, and if you never give up, you can make anything happen.”

Once the checkered flag waves at North Wilkesboro, Queen will go back to focusing on Late Model Stock competition. He intends to maintain that diligent work ethic so he can one day open his seasons at Daytona International Speedway.