Every season there is a group of drivers who make noise in the circles of Late Model Stock Cars in the Southeast. During the 2016 season, one of the noisiest drivers in the discipline was Josh Berry. Now, the JR Motorsports driver is looking to make some noise in another type of a race car: a Super Late Model.
In the midst of a career season that featured five CARS Tour wins in 2016, Berry made one Super Late Model appearance late in the season which resulted in a top-10 finish. Now Berry is reuniting with the same team for his very first outing of 2017 at this weekend’s Pro All Stars Series Winter Meltdown at Dillon Motor Speedway (SC).
“I’m driving Robert Hamke’s house car, the blue 74. I’ve been doing it for a few years, we ran a race at Hickory last year on the CARS Tour and we thought that went pretty well,” Berry told Speed51.com. “But we still kind of felt like we had more to do, so he called me up, asked if I wanted to race and of course I said yes. I’m excited to get there this weekend.”
While this will be the second start in PASS competition for Berry, the first coming in another SLM appearance at Concord Speedway’s (NC), North-South Shootout last November, Berry will be making his first ever trip to Dillon in any kind of race car. But a lack of track experience has rarely tripped up Berry in the past.
“I’ve never been to Dillon, but typically I’ve been pretty fortunate to have some luck at a few places I had never been to, so hopefully we get some beginner’s luck there,” he said. “Robert does a good job; he’s won a lot of races. I feel confident we’ll have a good car. Last year when we ran Hickory, I felt like we had a good car and left knowing what we could have done to win a little bit better next time. Now it’s next time and hopefully we can improve a couple of things from last year and be there at the end.”
With the surge of big events and experienced drivers in the past couple of years, Berry has been eager to throw his name into more Super Late Model events. But with few chances in the past and with SLM rides being at premium going forward, Berry is fully embracing this particular opportunity and scoring the win this weekend would be tremendous.
“We definitely have some interest in it. I don’t know on the JR Motorsports side when or if, but personally I have some interest in running these races. There’s a lot of big races out there in Super Late Model racing, and I always enjoy paying attention to them at the track or on Speed51.com, seeing who wins and who’s running good. I definitely have interest in it; I would love to win a Super race no matter where it is, hopefully we have a shot at doing that this weekend.”
As for the adjustment to driving a Super Late Model over his Late Model Stock, Berry anticipates some adjustments but is not worried about it occupying his time or concentration.
“There’s a good bit different, obviously the Super has way more motor, better brakes, it’s lighter, but it’s hard to decide if one is harder to drive than the other. I feel like the Super is a lot more forgiving in the fact that you got some motor and brakes to bail you out more than Late Model Stocks. So you’ve got to adjust for sure.”
One detail that Berry is looking forward to is that the focus will be fully on running the PASS entry this weekend. During his last SLM start, his attention was split while also running at Late Model Stock Car at Hickory.
“I know that two of the times I ran a Super before, I was running the Late Model Stock the same night and it was a little bit of a challenge bouncing back and forth between the two,” Berry explained. “I’m excited about doing the Super this weekend and being able to completely focus on it and hopefully that will allow me to do a better job than the last couple of times I ran it.”
While Berry is very confident in his team and ride, he’s bubbling with excitement knowing that this weekend will present the sturdiest field he has ever gone up against in a SLM. The Winter Meltdown not only serves as the PASS South season opener, but also the opening round for the PASS National Championship, which is bringing extra attention from Southern competitors and some big names out of hibernation from the Northeast.
“I’ve looked over the entry list, those kinds of races there’s always people that show up for them, they always have. That’s what everybody loves about Super Late Model racing, there’s a lot of big races and a lot of pretty stiff competition. I’m excited, a lot of stout cars, but if we can get the car where it needs to be and be there at the end, it’s a long race, we’ll have as good a shot as anyone.”
The Winter Meltdown rolls off this Saturday, February 4 at Dillon Motor Speedway with time trials at 12:30 p.m. and the 200-lap PASS season opener getting the green flag at 2 p.m. ET. Be sure to follow Speed51.com for the latest from Dillon this Saturday, and watch the Speed51 Network for interviews and highlights after the race.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com