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May 19, 2024

‘Butterbean’ Queen dazzles North Wilkesboro faithful, lands top five in Truck debut

NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. — Brenden ‘Butterbean’ Queen heard the cheers perk up from the rugged front grandstand at North Wilkesboro Speedway. He figured the commotion was for Corey Heim, his Tricon Garage teammate and Sunday’s winner of the rain-delayed NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race.

Instead, the 26-year-old CARS Tour star was the deserving recipient. Upon realizing it, he egged the crowd on.

Queen was the darling of a stellar Truck Series debut, rallying his No. 1 Toyota for a fourth-place finish in the Wright Brand 250 after sustaining a mid-race speeding penalty on pit road. The top-five result came on the same 0.625-mile track where he scored a CARS Tour victory last year, and the partisan Wilkes County crowd has since adopted the short-track hero and fan favorite as one of their own.

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Sunday’s outcome followed the mold of respectable national-series efforts in recent years from other Late Model standouts, such as Josh Berry, Carson Kvapil and Bubba Pollard in the Xfinity Series. Queen added his name to that list Sunday.

“It’s just special, man. It just shows how important Late Model stock-car racing is and how important the CARS Tour is,” Queen said. “Just the support around our series, they want to see these guys that they’ve watched at the short tracks get these opportunities to go toe-to-toe with the big names. So I can’t believe it. I won here last year, so I think that’s where I gained a lot of the Wilkesboro crowd, and so many people came out and watched me tonight. I’m just super-blessed.”

Queen drove through the field twice to find the field’s upper reaches, starting 26th on the 36-truck grid after rain washed away Saturday’s qualifying. He made it to 12th place when a downpour halted the event Saturday afternoon after 81 of the 250 laps.

Queen kept climbing when the race resumed Sunday morning, making it to seventh place before he sped entering the pit lane on Lap 119. “I screwed us,” he radioed his Tricon Garage team, which told him to stay focused, even as he fell back to 29th for the restart. Almost prophetically, Queen replied: “Sorry, I’ll make up for it.”

Queen cracked the top 20 by Lap 148, then forged back into the top 10 on Lap 167. “Fastest truck on the race track right now,” his team told him, just before he arrived in the top five with 57 laps remaining.

Brenden Queen's No. 1 Toyota races inside the No. 13 of Jake Garcia and the No. 19 of Christian Eckes.
Alejandro Alvarez |

The final stretch included some tenacious racing with Craftsman Truck Series points leader Christian Eckes, who clanged his No. 19 Chevrolet into Queen’s side in retaliation on the back straightaway after an aggressive move through Turns 1 and 2. “Oh, yeah. Shove that finger up your tail, buddy,” Queen said over the No. 1 radio after Eckes showed his displeasure.

“I didn’t feel like I did anything wrong,” Queen said later. “We were racing hard, I got loose under him, and I didn’t wreck him. He did more damage down the backstretch than I did in the turn there.”

MORE: Craftsman Truck Series standings

Queen lined up fifth for the last restart with 32 laps to go, but made a point to thank his crew for the opportunity, no matter how the final stretch turned out. The team was just as grateful, lauding his ability to slice through the field and finish with a relatively clean race. The fan reaction was a bonus.

“I mean, I’m a Late Model guy myself, so to me, it’s awesome,” No. 1 crew chief Seth Smith told “The kid has an incredible following, and a lot of it is to do with his attitude and the work he puts in. Just very appreciative of any opportunity he gets to do anything, so he’s a very humble kid and just super cool to have the fan support that he does. Like I said, I think a lot of that’s because how humble he is.”

Queen said he will turn his season-long aspirations back to the CARS Tour schedule but was hopeful for more Truck Series opportunities, should they arise. Whatever the future holds, he’ll take away special memories backed by solid support from the team and the crowd.

“That’s awesome when your team believes in you,” Queen said. “And that’s why this 1 group is so special, is when you all believe in each other, you run good. If you don’t believe in somebody, that’s when the mistakes start happening, and so just everybody on this 1 team is special, and I hope I can be here with them next year.”