The path to Victory Lane for three-time Langley Speedway track champion Brenden Queen in the South Carolina 400 at Florence Motor Speedway came down to a matter of survival.
An evening dominated by tire conservation, intense racing and heated rivalries culminated with Queen holding off Carson Kvapil for a crown jewel victory in his debut race with Lee Pulliam Performance.
Queen admitted Saturday’s triumph in the South Carolina 400 served as major validation for him by proving to the entire short track community that he can win at any facility on the East Coast.
Mason Diaz, who had worked vigorously to get back to the front following an earlier spin, found himself battling South Carolina short track veteran and 2007 Myrtle Beach 400 winner Sam Yarbrough for the win over a handful of late restarts.
With two of the fastest cars eliminated from contention, Queen and Kvapil were left to settle the South Carolina 400 amongst themselves during the closing laps. Queen perfectly executed all his restarts to keep plenty of distance between himself and Kvapil.
— NASCAR.com —
Lost in all of this was that Dale Earnhardt Jr. was in contention to win at various points of the final stage but was sent to the rear twice for contact that caused a caution — once with Matt Cox and another for Landon Pembelton — both inside the top-five.
Earnhardt finished ninth and had the most stereotypical short track night ever between the two penalties and having to go off-road twice to miss crashes.
“I checked a lot of boxes for that race,” Earnhardt said. “I thought I gave Matt Cox the room he needed. Maybe not, and maybe I just drove into his left rear. Got into Turn 1 and spun (Pembelton) out. That was my fault. I was in over my head. It was late in the race and I was just not using my brain very well, but fun race, fast cars, saved my tires did all those things right.”
— Racing America —