Mikel McQueen, a 20-year-old UTPB mechanical engineering student, grew up in the Permian Basin where oil is the life blood of the towns as well as the racecars.

With a name like McQueen, racing icons like Steve McQueen or Lightning McQueen are probably who come to mind. So, carrying the name McQueen at a racetrack is going to draw attention.

McQueen is a third generation racer whose love for racing came at an early age when his dad, Randy McQueen, took him to Midland’s former drag strip Desert Thunder and he witnessed junior dragsters for the first time.

Mikel McQueen warms his tires for a pass Saturday morning at Penwell Knights Raceway. McQueen won the IHRA Summit Super Series Bracket Race in Penwell on Saturday.

“A pair of junior dragsters went down the racetrack,” McQueen said. “I had to have one. …It was just in my blood.”

Randy was also a racer whose late father, Jody McQueen, built him a dragster. Randy and Jody, as well as Mikel, raced at Penwell, which Jody’s father, the late Joe McQueen, helped to build in the 1960s.

Mikel’s grandmother, Odessan Kathie McQueen, said both Jody and Randy would race “whatever they could get their hands on.”

Of her late husband, Jody, she said the last vehicle he raced at Penwell was a Chevrolet Luv pickup.

She has an album of articles and photos from the building of the track in Penwell in the 1960s and said she recently had a number of them framed and gave it to grandson Mikel as a gift. “It was 50 years worth of drag racing from Penwell.”

Mikel is keeping the racing gene going.

He eventually aged out of junior dragsters when he turned 17. Without a car to race, he was left sitting in the pits. That is until friends began offering him the chance to race their cars down the strip.

Mikel was able to establish some sponsors and with a good price on a dragster from friend and mentor Brian Canady, he finally had a car.

The dragster was a tribute car to Brian’s daughter, Samantha Canady. Samantha died after having trouble breathing and not being able to be flown quickly to a hospital with the proper resources due to inclement weather. Since then, the Samantha Canady Center for Pediatric Care was established at Medical Center Hospital, which is geared toward providing immediate, advanced medical care for children in the Permian Basin.

“When he bought that car from me, he asked me if he could leave all that on there (Sam’s Race tribute graphic) because he wanted to do that,” Canady said of Mikel. “And so that was a really good feeling. You can tell the heart the kid has. His mom and dad raised a good young man. … They’ve done a good job. He’s very talented”

The late Samantha Canady raced junior dragster against Mikel, and so he said he feels honored to drive it. Her memory is kept vibrant among the racers at Penwell Knights Raceway.

Mikel McQueen pulls to the starting line for a pass Saturday morning at Penwell Knights Raceway. McQueen won the IHRA Summit Super Series Bracket Race in Penwell on Saturday.

After obtaining a competitive motor for a “really good deal” from another friend and mentor, David Brandenburg, his tribute car was ready to compete.

“The kids really like it,” Brandenburg said. “They start out at 8-years-old, in little junior dragsters, all the way up to 17. That’s where the tires hit the pavement. That’s the future of drag racing and the adults are out here setting a good example.”

“Anybody out at the racetrack, it seems like, would give you the shirt off their back,” Mikel said. ”You got a part that you need and somebody has it, they don’t even hesitate. ‘Here, Here you go. Go put it on your car, give it a try and let me know if it works.’ If it doesn’t work, they just ask you to bring it back.”

“That’s the way it’s always been and everybody out here has got each other’s backs,” Mikel said.

Mikel won the IHRA Summit Super Series Bracket Race in Penwell on Saturday in the final against Brian Canady. Canady won both Friday and Sunday races.

Mikel said he is so thankful for the help and support from his family, both Canadys, the Brandenburgs, and the James family.

Mikel and Brian Canady are scheduled to compete in the 2022 Vegas Spring Fling Million presented by Optima Batteries at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Wednesday through Saturday.

With a potential $1 million purse on the line for Friday’s race, racers will leave it all on the line.

A guarantee payout of $30,000 will be given to the champions of Wednesday’s, Thursday’s and Saturday’s races.

Dragsters will compete against dragsters until the latter round where they will also compete against door cars. A door car resembles a manufactured car.

Mikel said from the time he got in a junior dragster, he hasn’t looked back.

Racing is in the McQueen bloodline.