One year ago, Brenden Queen followed a breakout season with a runner-up finish at the Thanksgiving Classic at Southern National. This year, Queen and company come off a winless season going into the Classic, but built momentum at Myrtle Beach.

Coming off a strong 2016, in which Queen won the track championship at East Carolina Motor Speedway, he looked to be one of the favorites for both the Langley track championship and a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Virginia state championship. However, things didn’t go his way over the first half of the season.

“We learned a lot as we went on, the first half wasn’t as good, but the second half, after the Hampton Heat, I think we have been a contender everywhere we went,” Queen told  “We overcame adversity and it made us stronger. You can be on top of the world one moment, and then struggling to keep up next year. That’s just racing, and it humbles you.”

Queen, who also goes by “Butterbean,” did come away with a fourth-place finish in the Langley points standings, while finishing 10th in the NWAAS Virginia State points standings and garnering 15 top-10 finishes in only 18 races. In the Myrtle Beach 400, Queen’s final tune-up before the Thanksgiving Classic, Queen persevered and brought his car home fourth after being forced to start at the rear of the 43-car field.

“It was a battle for sure,” Queen said. “We really didn’t have much speed but made the race, when we went to pull out for pace laps, I heard a noise and was told my lead box has fell off so we had to pit and start 43rd. We drove up to 21st before the break and then up to 4th. We didn’t have enough tire left after working up there so that kind of hurt us.”

Queen will be returning to the spot of his second-place finish at Southern National in last year’s installment of the Thanksgiving Classic. This time, he aims to be the one holding a $20,000 check at the end of the race, but knows it won’t be the same as it was last year.

“We just have to go back and work on the car a little bit,” Queen explained. “Every year is different. You really can’t live off what you did last year. We really just need to go down there and work on it and keep the fenders and tires on it. Hopefully we can improve one more spot.”

If Queen can go out and score a victory this weekend at Southern National, it will propel him, and his confidence, into 2018 as one of the drivers to watch in Late Model Stock Car racing. Next season, he will again pursue the track championship at Langley Speedway.