Josh Berry showed himself to be a gambling man Saturday night at Hickory Motor Speedway.
After recording fast time in qualifying for the Fall Brawl, Berry gave up the pole position and started from the rear of the field for the chance at an additional $1,000 bonus. Ultimately, the gamble paid off as the JR Motorsports driver charged from the rear of the field to score his third career victory in the prestigious race.
In addition to scoring a big chunk of change ($5,000 total), Berry’s win made him the winningest driver in Fall Brawl history.
“We elected to start at the back of the field for the bonus money and I think we just wanted to prove it to ourselves that we could do it,” Berry said. “It’s a lot of fun coming to Hickory for us. There’s always good racing here, and we’ve won a lot of big races, so it means a lot to pick up another big win here. I can’t thank my guys for all their hard work and all the people who have supported us all year long.”
After the Commonwealth Classic at Richmond Raceway was postponed due to weather, several Late Model Stock Car teams including JR Motorsports made the trip to Hickory Motor Speedway for the 200-lap feature.
Young-gun Jacob Heafner topped the charts in the first practice and Berry was quickest in the final practice session.
Berry carried that speed over to qualifying when he claimed the pole. However, Heafner came within one-hundredths of a second from knocking the veteran from that top spot.
When Berry elected to give up his pole position and fall to the tail of the field, that moved Heafner to the top spot with Austin McDaniel to his outside.
McDaniel jumped to the point early on in the feature, but Heafner challenged back and set a blistering pace after taking the lead on lap 20. While Heafner extended his lead, Berry had broken into the top five by Lap 50.
On a restart, McDaniel regained the lead with Sam Mayer and Berry on his bumper while Heafner slipped back to fourth. Just two laps before the halfway break, Mayer made his move around McDaniel for the lead.
“Mayer and I were first and second at the halfway point, so both of the cars were great,” Berry said. “I started having a little bit of an issue with the throttle, but luckily everything held together. We made some adjustments at the break and the car just kept getting better.”
After tires, fuel and adjustments at the halfway point, Mayer held on to the lead for 50 laps before his JR Motorsports teammate began to apply pressure. With 40 laps remaining, Berry took the lead and never looked back on his way to victory lane.
Mayer held on to finish second ahead of McDaniel and Heafner, while Zach Bruenger completed the top five.
-Story by Madison Mabry, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com