The season-opening Lucas Oil 200 for the ARCA Racing Series will feature a variety of familiar names from the Late Model divisions along the East Coast looking to add their name to the long list of winners at Daytona International Speedway.
Among them will be Brenden Queen, who will be behind the wheel of the #35 Toyota for Vizion Motorsports when the green flag for the Lucas Oil 200 drops on Saturday evening. Queen has been patiently waiting for the opportunity to race at one of the most prestigious auto-racing facilities in the world, and he is hoping to make the most out of his partnership with Jennifer and Teddy Brown this weekend.
“This is unbelievable,” Queen said. “It’s a dream come true to just be at the same place that the Daytona 500 is ran at. I’m just really thankful for this opportunity.”
Queen impressed the Browns with his consistency behind the wheel of his family-owned Late Model, which earned him an invitation to be one of their drivers for the annual ARCA Daytona preseason test from Jan. 11-12. After posting only the 25th fastest time out of 30 cars in the morning session, Queen rebounded with a time of 49.873 in the afternoon session, which was good enough for third overall.
Following the two-day test, Queen went back to preparing his Late Model for the upcoming 2019 season while simultaneously holding out hope that a deal would be put together for him to race in the Lucas Oil 200. It would only be a few days before the race when Queen got the call he was anticipating, as Vizion Motorsports signed him to be one of their two drivers for the season-opening ARCA race at Daytona.
Joining Queen at Vizion Motorsports will be Paul Williamson in the #36, who tested alongside Queen at Daytona in January. Williamson has spent most of his career running a variety of Late Model races at tracks like Southern National Motorsports Park and East Carolina Motor Speedway, but he stated that driving an ARCA car at Daytona offers its fair share of similarities and differences.
“It all comes down to aerodynamics, and I never dealt with much of that in Late Models,” Williamson said. “I’ve had to get adjusted to aerodynamics, especially with drafting. I’ve never drafted, and now here I am doing as much drafting as I possibly can. The cars are pretty similar to Late Models, but I don’t have to put as much wheel into it as I do at a short track.”
Other prominent Late Model drivers that will battle it out for the win at Daytona on Saturday include veteran Derrick Lancaster in the #29 Total Car & Truck Service Toyota for On Point Motorsports, as well as Connor Hall, who will be piloting the #22 Marlow Yachts/Healing Hands Ford for Chad Bryant Racing. The partnership comes not long after Hall was signed to run part-time in the K&N Pro Series East in the #31 Viking Yachts/Breeden Concrete Chevrolet for Ted Marsh, which has given Hall a huge confidence boost heading into the 2019 season.
“I’m really looking forward to all of my ARCA and K&N opportunities coming up,” Hall said. “We’ve only got a few things announced so far, but we’re just taking things one week at a time. I think 2019 is going to be my attempt at having a big breakout year, and I’m just going to try and win as many ARCA and K&N races as I can.”
Hall was also a part of the same Vizion Motorsports test team with Queen and Williamson in January, but it would only be a few weeks after leaving Daytona when Hall was contacted by Bryant about racing one of his cars. Bryant was impressed by some of the finishes Hall put together behind the wheel of a Late Model, and after some brief deliberation between the two sides, Bryant signed Hall to his team for the Lucas Oil 200.
Like Queen and Williamson, Hall has learned a lot about drafting and aerodynamics over the last month, but he also understands that having the right strategy is one of the most important factors in securing a solid finish at Daytona or Talladega. For the Lucas Oil 200, Bryant plans to rely on the chemistry between Hall and his other driver Joe Graf Jr. to ensure that both cars have a shot at victory.
“The only information that I’ve gotten on my race strategy is that I’m only allowed to work with Joe,” Hall said. “It’s going to be him and I trying to run with the pack until about five to go, and hopefully we can then settle it out amongst the two of us.”
While Queen wants to work with his teammate Williamson in the Lucas Oil 200, he is expecting teamwork to get eliminated once the race starts. Queen still vividly remembers the conclusion to the previous Lucas Oil 200 that saw two big wrecks eliminate strong cars such as Zane Smith and Sean Corr, which puts him in a familiar position as he prepares for one of the biggest races of his life.
“I’m approaching this race just like Martinsville in the Late Models,” Queen said. “If you survive and keep your car clean, then you should have a shot at the end of the race. Statistically, we’ve seen a lot of wrecks here, so my goal is to finish and stay out of trouble.”
The 2019 Lucas Oil 200 is currently the only ARCA race scheduled for Queen and his teammate Williamson this season, but both are optimistic that a strong performance at Daytona will lead to more opportunities soon. Late Model racing is still on the calendar for the Vizion Motorsports duo along with Hall, as all three are currently finalizing their short tracks schedules for the 2019 season.
The 2019 Lucas Oil 200 will officially go green on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and can be seen live on Fox Sports 1.