Greg Edwards, Connor Hall, Nick Smith and Mark Wertz all had a chance to open Langley Speedway’s 2021 Late Model Stock Car season with a win on Saturday evening.
When the checkered flag flew, defending champion Brenden Queen was the one celebrating in victory lane after he avoided several accidents and charged to the front following several late pit stops.
“We had a right rear go flat,” Queen said. “We came into the pits to try and get it back up but it lost air again under the next caution. They’re going to be mad about that but the Lord does things for a reason and he blessed us tonight.”
Queen obtained the pole for Saturday’s 100-lap feature but quickly surrendered the top spot to Edwards on the second lap.
Edwards proceeded to take command of the race during the first half while Hall slowly climbed his way towards the back bumper of the six-time track champion.
Hall finally caught Edwards as he tried to pass the slower car of Terry Carroll but ended up making contact with him while trying to make a pass on the inside in Turn 1 on Lap 61, which sent both cars around.
With an angry Edwards and Hall at the back of the pack, Smith assumed control of the lead but was tasked with holding off Queen on the top side over several restarts.
The two traded the lead numerous times during the next 20 laps until Smith finally prevailed over Queen, who was forced to tuck in line behind Thomas Marks in second.
Marks pulled alongside Smith for the lead with seven laps remaining but sustained heavy damage to the front of his Late Model after colliding with the lapped car of Jarred Clarke.
Marks was unable to slow his wounded car down in Turn 1 and turned Smith around, giving the lead to Wertz.
Several more cautions slowed the pace of the race during the closing stages, which enabled Queen to position himself in second following his unscheduled stops.
On the final restart, Queen used the fresh rubber to surge in front of the field on the high side, denying Wertz an opportunity to open the season with a win.
Queen knows he still has plenty of work to do to obtain another track championship at Langley but he said that Saturday night showcased how far his program has come since its inception.
“We got a points-paying win and we can defend this title,” Queen said. “Phil Warren is my man. He got us the championship last year and it was badass to see Rick Gdovic run up front in our team car too. I have to thank everyone that’s helped out and the fans [that came out on Saturday.]”
Although Queen was thrilled to win, he is hoping for a much smoother outing in his next two races at Langley on April 24.