At the end of the 2015 racing season, many of the CARS Late Model Stock Tour regulars were breathing a sigh of relief knowing Josh Berry didn’t race the full season. Berry, the 2014 Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) track champion, scored three wins in just four CARS Tour starts last season, leading him to make the decision to chase the tour championship in 2016.
But there’s a slight catch for Berry. He can’t make all 10 races on the schedule. Berry is making two starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with JR Motorsports this year, and one of those races falls on the same night as a CARS Tour race at North Carolina’s Orange County Speedway.
“We’re going to focus on this CARS Tour,” said Berry during his media day interview. “I have a conflicting date with an Xfinity race in Iowa, so I won’t be able to compete in all ten races, but we’re going to be there for each one we can. I’ll be doing a rain dance in Iowa for a rainout in Orange County if we get to the point of championship contention, but that’s a long ways off so we’re not going to switch up.”
Last weekend, Berry scored his first win of the season in a 100-lap Late Model Stock race at Hickory Motor Speedway, the track he’s dominated for years. Though he still wants to win at Hickory, he’s hoping to visit victory lanes all over the Southeast and beyond this upcoming season.
“We’re going to run going to run a few more Late Model Stock races here and get to tracks around the region. Obviously I got two Xfinity races with Sun Energy 1 on board at Iowa and Kentucky later on in the Summer, so I’m excited to get the season going.”
Berry’s two scheduled NASCAR Xfinity Series appearances come on the heels of a strong seventh-place performance last September at Richmond which brought him praise from fellow drivers and his boss Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
“It was an unbelievable experience, that’s the best way to put it. That whole night is just crazy, sitting in the media center next to Kyle Busch and having (Earnhardt Jr.) come in afterwards and say the things he said about me.”
The strong run was promising and left Berry wanting to do more in the Xfinity Series.
“I wish we could get something out of it. He did a lot for me that night, he tried really hard to find something and unfortunately we only got a two-race deal, which is better than what we had last year, but it’s still a difficult road. It shows how tough it is really with him sitting there saying the great things about me and still not being able to figure out anything on a full-time level. That’s obviously a big step, but we’re chipping away at it.”
Berry’s enthusiasm for the 2016 CARS Late Model Stock Tour is overwhelming following his three wins in four appearances during 2015. He believes his full-time effort this season will make him better prepared for further NASCAR appearances.
“It’s a great competition level in the CARS Tour,” Berry said. “The better people you race, the better racer you become because of it, racing people like Tommy Lemons, Jr. These are the people that taught me how to race and there’s a lot of young talent coming in. It’s exciting to run.”
The 2016 CARS Tour season rolls off April 2 at Southern National Motorsports Park for a 150-lap race along with the CARS Super Late Model Tour.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com State Editor (CT, LI, MA) – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com