NASCAR Cup Series
One Less Spot, Two Races Left to Make the Final Four
Oct 17, 2022
It’s the Brandon and Brenden Connection in 2023 at Lee Pulliam Performance.
Team owner Lee Pulliam, the four-time NASCAR Weekly Series National Champion, confirmed on Tuesday that his organization had signed Brenden 'Butterbean' Queen for the 2023 CARS Tour and Virginia Triple Crown seasons to pair with returning veteran Brandon Pierce.
Queen is the reigning and defending three-time Late Model Stock track champion at Langley Speedway, who also has victories in the prestigious Hampton Heat (2020) and a CARS Tour (2022) victory at his home track.
Now, following a widely successful season on both dirt and pavement, the 24-year-old is looking to take his career to the next level in the most unexpected fashion. Queen started racing Dirt Late Models this past spring for car owner John Staton, who enjoyed the championship winning experience at Dixieland Speeday so much that he pitched chasing a CARS Tour season with Butterbean.
"When we won the CARS Tour race at Langley, John came to me and wanted to help further my career," Queen told Racing America over the weekend. "To be honest, I was content being a local racer at Langley, running that dirt car on Fridays, but John really wanted to see what else we could do, and we decided a CARS Tour season could be a really important next step."
There were opportunities to go Xfinity or Truck Series racing but Queen and Staton wanted to win, which led them to Pulliam.
Queen runs his family owned car at Langley with crew chief Phil Warren, a short track lifer that Pulliam respects like few others and jumped at the opportunity to race with a driver shaped by one of his heroes.
"It’s really big for us to have two drivers this year that you just plug in, you don’t have to teach them, and it’s up to me to get the cars driving the way they like," Pulliam said on Tuesday morning of Queen and Pierce. "We talked to several drivers about next season, but when Phil said Brandon was looking, he went straight to the top of our list."
There was just one matter they needed to discuss before putting pen to paper. In winning the Hampton Heat in 2020, Queen moved Lee Pulliam Performance driver Corey Heim out of the way, and Pulliam never forgot.
"I told him he broke our hearts that night," Pulliam said. "I told him I sure was mad that night, but really, he has progressed so much as a driver the past several years and that’s a huge testament to Phil Warren.
"I really feel like we’re going to go to the race track every week next year and have two really great chances to win."
Queen will continue to run the No. 03, with support from Old Skool Video Games, replete with retro characters like Mario, Crash and Sonic in addition to Staton’s Best Repair Company branding. For Queen, this represents a chance to prove himself against some of the best teams in the country, with an eye towards a NASCAR national touring run if everything goes well.
"We know how good Lee is on and off the track," Queen said. "He wants to win, and I want to prove myself against that level of competition away from Langley. We’re still going to run our car at Langley every chance we get, but we’re out to prove something in the Late Model world.
I definitely want to go big time, but we know what that takes, but we’ve won three championships at Langley and it was just time to branch out, but we needed that little bit of help. To be a CARS Tour contender would be huge because I don’t just want to be seen as a one-track wonder."
That mission will actually begin next month as Queen will make his Lee Pulliam Performance debut at Florence Motor Speedway in the South Carolina 400 alongside Pierce.
"One, I really just want to thank Steve (Zacharias) for putting that race on and everything he's done for the sport," Pulliam said. "We've won the Myrtle Beach 400 when that race was run there, but we really want one at Florence now too.
"For Brenden, we really want to hit the ground running in 2023 and that means making sure we get our communication down and work through anything that might come up so we're ready for the Tour races."
And make no mistake, Queen is ready to run.
"I never thought I'd ever have the chance to race for someone else," Queen said. "I really enjoy working with Phil and working on our car together. I had come to terms that we were going to race for a fourth championship at Langley. I've raced here full-time since 2013 and it's been the time of my life.
"So, when we closed out on this last championship, I really wanted to enjoy the moment, because next year is going to be something different, and I hope special."