Defending champion Josh Berry claimed his 14th career CARS Response Energy Late Model Stock Tour victory Saturday night, holding off Deac McCaskill for the win at Orange County Speedway (NC).
Craig Moore started on the pole for the 150-lap feature after time trials were scratched due to weather. Moore led the first 11 laps before surrendering the top spot to 2016 series champion Deac McCaskill.
McCaskill held the lead until lap 93, when Josh Berry moved to the lead following a restart from a competition caution. From there, Berry distanced himself from the field over the final 58 laps to claim the victory.
“We were just biding our time there at the beginning,” Berry told Speed51.com. “Just trying to put our self into a position. Me and Deac were real close. I really just think it came down to that restart.
“The top had some weepers and water running down the track,” Berry said about the decisive restart. “I felt like he wouldn’t be expecting me to run the top like that. So I just sailed it off in there and it stuck. We were able to pin him down off of turn two a little bit and get clear of him, and that was exactly what we needed.”
While former champions Berry and McCaskill battled for the win, Bobby McCarty and Lee Pulliam continued their battle for this season’s title. At race’s end, McCarty added to the 17-point advantage he carried into Rougemont.
For McCarty, the evening gives him more confidence entering the season finale after scoring a top-five finish.
“I feel a lot better,” McCarty said about his championship chances with one race remaining. “Apparently that Blue Ridge Color Company sticker is a bullseye. I don’t know what that guy has against me, but the 9 car [of Charlie Watson] went on the black trying to wreck me getting into one. I don’t know. I really don’t.
“We dodged a bullet,” McCarty added. “We were blowing up for the last 30 laps. We just had to hang on. We’ll have a pretty good lead going into the last race, so I feel pretty happy about that.”
Pulliam fought an ill-handling car all evening before coming home in eighth place.
“It’s a really disappointing night,” Pulliam said. “We tested over here this week and weren’t where we needed to be. We were decent with the package we ran in April but didn’t have enough in the end. We came back with something totally different, and it was terrible. I don’t know if the rain got us or what, but I just had no side bite at all.
“We needed to win and gain points on the 22 car [of McCarty],” Pulliam lamented. “We just didn’t get it done.”
The CARS Response Energy Tour will crown the champions in both its Late Model Stock and Super Late Model divisions on November 3 at South Boston Speedway (VA).
-By Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ZTEvans
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com