An action-packed tripleheader of late model racing on Wednesday night at North Wilkesboro Speedway saw Brenden “Butterbean” Queen, Bubba Pollard and Augie Grill collect victories in the opening races of NASCAR All-Star Race week.
Queen was the class of the field in the CARS Tour Late Model Stock Window World 125. The Virginia native won the pole on Wednesday afternoon and, after the lights came on and the race heated up, was at his best when it counted most.
Queen led the opening stages and remained in the hunt throughout a dramatic, caution-filled race. A multi-car accident on Lap 31 removed seven cars from the field and damaged others, including two competitors in Sunday’s All-Star Race – Brad Keselowski and Daniel Suarez. Both drivers rebounded from the melee and soldiered on, with Keselowski finishing 12th and Suarez 15th.
The duo were part of a star-studded cast of luminaries competing in the 125-lap feature alongside NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr., as well as fellow All-Star Race drivers Kevin Harvick, Chase Briscoe and Ross Chastain.
None of the stars could catch Queen, however. The driver of the No. 03 Toyota remained in command through the final 25 laps, pulling away and beating Ryan Millington to the checkered flag by 4.78 seconds.
Jared Fryar was third with Connor Hall fourth and Caden Honeycutt fifth. Layne Riggs finished sixth with Chad McCumbee seventh, Carson Kvapil – the 2022 race winner – eighth, Zack Miracle ninth and Briscoe 10th.
Harvick finished 11th with Keselowski 12rh, Suarez 15th, Earnhardt 16th and Chastain 19th.
BRENDEN QUEEN, NO. 03 LEE PULLIAM PERFORMANCE TOYOYA (RACE WINNER): “Man, as a driver you dream of winning races like Martinsville, Hampton Heat, places like that. This is exactly like that. I knew when I won the pole that I had my work cut out for me. Anything can happen. Our car was so good early on, I was trying to not get over-anxious and race the track, not the other drivers. That last pit stop, putting on some fresh tires helped. I didn’t want to rough anybody up and we were so good at getting off Turn 4 well that once we got the lead, I felt good about it. This is something that, I can look at 40 years from now and say, ‘Man, I won at North Wilkesboro.’”
RYAN MILLINGTON, NO. 15 SAVILLE MILLINGTON MOTORSPORTS CHEVROLET (RUNNER-UP): ”There wasn’t much saving on my end. It was an all-out battle from the get-go. (Getting damage) didn’t seem to bother the car much. I was a bit surprised to run as well as we did with the car torn up like it was, but it wasn’t too bad. It always feels pretty good to come here and run well.”
JARED FRYAR, NO. 14 JIMMY MOORING RACING CHEVROLET (THIRD-PLACE FINISHER): “It’s tough. I don’t feel like I did a good job with knowing the strategy until the end of the race. It takes a lot of good strategy to run well in this type of race.”
Pollard held off NASCAR stars William Byron and Chase Elliott over the final 40 laps of Wednesday’s nightcap, the ASA STARS National Tour ECMD 150, to score an emotional win.
The owner and driver of the No. 26 Ford had Byron, Elliott, Sammy Smith and Daniel Suarez staring him down as the thrilling 150-lap feature drew to a close. None of the NASCAR quartet were Pollard’s equal on Wednesday night, though, as the Senoia, Georgia, native sped to the point, negotiated lapped traffic and never looked back.
Byron was second with Elliott, Smith and Suarez completing the top five. Caden Kvapil, Casey Roderick, Cole Butcher, Derek Thorn and Ty Majeski rounded out the top 10.
BUBBA POLLARD, NO. 26 POLLARD MOTORSPORTS FORD (RACE WINNER): “We took off there and we were pretty good, but I let William (Byron) by me for a while to see if he was any better. We started the race tight – I wanted to start the race tight – but we made the right adjustments on the last break (at Lap 100) and after that, we were good. It’s so great to be here with the history of this place and with it coming back, I’m just glad to be a part of it.”
WILLIAM BYRON, NO. 24 ANTHONY CAMPI RACING CHEVROLET (RUNNER-UP): “I had a lot of fun out there. The race track was abrasive on tires. You could feel it through the wheel and how the tires just didn’t grip the road. … It’s fun any time you can race with Bubba (Pollard). He’s probably the best in these cars. I thought Chase (Elliott) was maybe the best on old tires – he had a lot of grip – but when we put tires on, Bubba was the best. I didn’t have anything for him. We’d get to lapped cars, but I couldn’t really catch him. He was good. … It’s going to be interesting on Sunday. The facility looks amazing and the place is really cool. The atmosphere here is pretty perfect for an All-Star Race.”
CROSSROADS HARLEY-DAVIDSON 75
A spate of early caution periods gave way to a frantic race to the finish in the CARS Tour Pro Late Model Crossroads Harley-Davidson 75. Augie Grill and NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series regular Corey Heim fought for the lead and the win in the closing laps of the night’s opening race.
When the checkered flag flew, though, it was Grill out front and Heim – who will also compete in Saturday’s Tyson 250 – second. Connor Zilisch was third with Tristan McKee fourth and Katie Hettinger fifth.
IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar champion Jordan Taylor made his oval-racing debut in an E33 Motorsports-owned Chevrolet painted like NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon’s iconic DuPont scheme of the 1990s.
Taylor – racing under the name of his alter ego, Rodney Sandstorm – avoided trouble and finished 20th in the 40-car field.
“I’d come back and race here again, for sure,” Taylor said. “This is all about seat time for me. I was just glad to make the race. Hopefully, we can build from there.”
AUGIE GRILL, NO. 43G ALABAMA BRICK RACING FORD (RACE WINNER): “I was really wanting to ride a bit more than I did. I felt like Corey (Heim) and I were pretty even, and whoever was going to be up front (at the end) was going to win. Luckily, I was able to keep it up front and now I get to take the trophy home. It was nerve-wracking (toward the end). He was so close to me that if I made a mistake, he was going to pass me. Luckily, the mistakes I made were minute enough that they didn’t matter. All in all, it was a pretty good race that I put together. I’m emotional now. Any race that I win is special, because they’re hard to come by these days. This is definitely a top-three win for me. It’s such a cool place to race at, and a cool race to win.”
COREY HEIM, NO. 28H WILSON MOTORSPORTS TOYOTA (RUNNER-UP): “With the 75 lap count we had, it was polarizing for me to try to get the lead, or save my stuff and race for the win at the end. I feel like I kind of gave it away on that restart with about 45 laps to go.”
NASCAR All-Star Race weekend ticket packages for all Friday/Saturday/Sunday activities, including NASCAR Cup and CRAFTSMAN Truck Series practice and qualifying sessions; the Pit Crew Challenge; Midland, Chase Rice and Dierks Bentley concerts; NASCAR All-Star Open; NASCAR All-Star Race and Tyson 250 CRAFTSMAN Truck Series race are on sale. A full race week schedule can be accessed by clicking here.
Single-day tickets for All-Star Friday presented by Raymer Oil – featuring the NASCAR Pit Crew Challenge presented by Mechanix Wear, and the Tyson 250 and All-Star Race heat races on Saturday, are also on sale. Tickets can be purchased online at www.northwilkesborospeedway.
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