On Saturday night, the CARS Late Model Stock Tour 125-lap feature at Motor Mile Speedway came down to the two most recent champions of the series battling for the win. Contact between the two after taking the white flag led to Bobby McCarty taking the win while Josh Berry fell to 14thin the final running order.
With the dust settled, the two drivers spoke Monday with Speed51 about the incident.
McCarty, last year’s season champion, collected his first CARS Tour win of 2019 at the Radford, Virginia oval Saturday following the contact with Berry and a subsequent green-white-checkered restart, holding off Justin Carroll for the victory.
McCarty quickly acknowledged Berry had the better car on the night, outside of struggles on restarts such as the one that led up to their incident.
“We had a second-place car, there’s no doubt about that,” said McCarty. “The 88 [of Berry] was the fastest car. We had four or five restarts, and every restart, I don’t know if it was cold tires or what, but he was running up the track every restart. I didn’t think anything of it, it was hard racing. He was doing what he had to do to stay out front.”
Knowing this, Berry was disheartened to take the white flag, only for an incident involving Ryan Repko and Brandon Pierce to bring out the caution. Per the CARS Tour rulebook, the leader must take the checkered flag for a completed race, and thus a green-white-checkered finish was in order.
“Taking the white and coming around to get the checkered and having a caution come out was obviously pretty deflating, I’d say,” said Berry. “But I know the rules and know that was a rule. Every time in that scenario, I hold my breath.
“As good as our car was, I didn’t really fire off the best on the restarts,” Berry added. “The last one was the same.”
Coming to the white flag on the key restart, McCarty crossed over Berry in turn four to pull to the inside line entering turn one. It was there where McCarty and Berry made contact, with Berry spinning and McCarty maintaining the top spot.
McCarty insists that he had no intentions of roughing up Berry for the win, mentioning some of the negative feedback he has received on social media for the ordeal while also drawing a contrast to the late-race battle between Brandon Pierce and Berry for the win at the CARS Tour season opener at Southern National Motorsports Park (NC) where Pierce prevailed after heavy contact.
“That green-white-checkered came out and kind of set everything up,” said McCarty. “We had a really good run coming out of four. At that point, we’re catching a lot of backlash on [social] media, but if I wanted to drive through him, I would have done it off turn four like what happened to him at Kenly at the beginning of the year.
“I wanted to race. I respect Josh a lot. I think he’s a really good competitor, and I wanted to race straight-up and see who could come out on top.”
Nonetheless, Berry entered the final lap expecting contact between the two drivers.
“I haven’t studied it too much yet, but I’ve raced enough to know that he wasn’t going to turn until he hit me, no matter where I turned in,” Berry said. “That’s what it was, and I expected that. He just happened to catch me in the left-rear tire and it spun me out.
“I don’t believe there was intent to spin me, and I can’t say there was intent to make contact, but I know that if it wasn’t going to happen in one and two, it was going to happen in three and four,” Berry continued. “That’s how it was going to be. I really don’t have a lot to say about it. If you hit somebody in the left-rear like that, most of the time they’re going to spin out. It caught me right in the tire and it spun me out.
“I don’t think he was intentionally trying to take me out of the race or anything like that at all. Ultimately, I ended up facing backwards.”
While Berry acknowledged he has not heavily studied replays of the incident, McCarty has reviewed the footage and felt the contact was the result of hard racing between two hungry racers.
“I’ve watched plenty of videos from a lot of different angles, and I feel he was trying to hold us down a little bit and I was trying to hold him up a little bit.
“Our tires touched,” McCarty added. “It’s a bad deal that goes on with these cars. They’re really strict that the tires stick out past the body. That’s just a product of it. Your tires will touch, and when they do it snatches you around.
“I strongly believe it was a racing incident,” McCarty concluded. “I’ve been on the wrong side of racing incidents before. It’s frustrating, it makes you mad, but if you’ve seen the video, you see he’s pinching me a little bit, I’m pinching him a little bit and that’s how it played out.”
One common trait holds up between both drivers in the incident. They both feel they have often been on the wrong end of physical on-track battles over the course of the last year.
“We’ve been getting run over the top of for the past year,” said McCarty. “It’s always somebody different looking at our fuel cells getting into the corner, running me into the wall, everything else. At Ace, I feel like the 88 used us up quite a bit when we got to the front. He pinched us down coming into one, he carried me coming out of four and then he ran me up the track getting back into one. By the time I got back down, I was in fourth and he was in the lead and went on to win the race.
“Stuff like that is going to happen,” added McCarty. “It’s the end of the race. You’re racing hard for the win. You’re not racing for fourth or fifth in the middle of the race. It’s the end of the race, you’ve got to put all your cards on the table.”
Berry was more succinct, referencing a post-race interview from the CARS Super Late Model Tour event Saturday night at Motor Mile by winner Bubba Pollard.
“For me, at this point, especially over the last seven months, I seem to be getting the raw end of these deals,” said Berry. “I guess it’s getting to the point like Bubba Pollard said after the Super race, you’ve just got to stop taking s---.”
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: CARS Tour Twitter