Brenden Queen celebrates in victory lane after winning the 2018 Ronnie Barnette Memorial at East Carolina Motor Speedway. (Andy Marquis/ photo)

ROBERSONVILLE, NC – Brenden Queen snapped a winless drought dating back to July 2016 with a victory in the Ronnie Barnette Memorial at East Carolina Motor Speedway on Saturday night.

Queen spent the first two segments of the 100 lap race pacing himself and saving tires so he could be at peak performance in the final 40 lap sprint to the finish.  The strategy worked.  Shelton McNair rocketed to the lead early in the race and pulled away in the first two 30 lap segments.  When the third segment went green, McNair quickly dropped out of the lead and out of the podium as Queen drove to the front and held off Thomas Burbage for the victory.

“I knew from the get-go, my plan was to wait until lap 60 or I wasn’t going to make it,”
Queen told  “My crew chief, Phil Warren, best in the business, had a game plan with me.  We let [McNair] go, Burbage ran on the outside for a while.  Didn’t know what he was doing but I figured it was hurting him more than it hurt me.  They were reminding me to save and I was not even half-throttle.  Whenever I wanted to pull ahead, this Rayvon Clark motor, every time I put the gas down, I could pull ahead.  I just knew I needed to save it when I needed it.”

The victory was a much-needed one for “Butterbean”.  The Chesapeake, Virginia driver missed the field for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300, which was the latest struggle in a season of disappointment for the 20-year-old.

“It’s been a rough week, not making the field at Martinsville due to a parts failure,” Queen explained.  “I lost my dog unexpectedly.  I needed this win.  Had a horrible year and a half besides the long-distance races.  To me, this is a big race, the Ronnie Barnette Memorial.  There may not have been a lot of cars here tonight, but the competition was a quality field.  This is a big race for me, 100 lap race.  I got a Late Model Stock win now, so this is huge.”

Shelton McNair, in his first race in nearly two years, ended up finishing fifth.  After the race, he was puzzled as to how things unraveled in the third and final segment, saying he too was saving his tires.

“I couldn’t believe how slow the guys in front of me were before I passed them,” McNair said.  “I wondered, are they going to run this slow?  I was pacing myself.  I was turning 16.20s and they were turning 40s and 50s.  I wasn’t using brakes and I getting on the gas hard. I was trying to be smooth.  This is the first time we’ve run in two years so I’m happy.  It’s all good.  It was good racing for the fans.”

Thomas Burbage finished second and clinched his second consecutive East Carolina Motor Speedway track championship.

“I’m really excited,” Burbage stated.  “We fought hard all year long.  We found some good stuff for the car and stayed consistent all year.  I just think we were down on engine tonight running against a SPEC motor.  We run a built motor and it showed running down the straightaway.  We were even in the corner, but I just couldn’t do anything with him on the straightaway.”

The Ronnie Barnette Memorial was the final race of the 2018 season at East Carolina Motor Speedway.

Unofficial Results

  1. Brenden Queen
  2. Thomas Burbage
  3. Kenneth Mercer
  4. Louis White
  5. Shelton McNair
  6. Jeff Shiflett
  7. Maddy Ryan Mulligan
  8. Robbie Babb
  9. Wesley Johnson