The 2012 Motor Mile Speedway (VA) champion, Josh Berry broke a long winless streak at his home track Saturday evening, taking the CARS Late Model Stock Tour 125-lap feature in a wild event that saw Berry's competition fall by the wayside.
After dominating the competition at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) in recent seasons, Berry and his JR Motorsports team decided to spend more time on the road in 2015. That change has kept him in the headlines all year long, whether it be his first visit to Langley Speedway (VA) victory lane or the controversy from a last lap crash in the Hamlin Showdown at South Boston Speedway (VA).
Still, Berry has never been a prolific winner at Motor Mile, often settling for top-fives in long-distance races. Yet Saturday's mastery of one of the toughest Late Model Stock fields to ever race at the facility highlighted his development as a driver in recent seasons.
"I won a couple of times up here and even won the track championship," said Berry moments after the race, "but this [victory] was probably the most fun race I've had up here. I'm tickled to win. This is where me and my team really started racing together, so this is a really special place for me."
Berry would start the feature outside pole of Deac McCaskill, who extended his Fast Qualifier record to 4-for-6 on the season. McCaskill would get the early jump, with Berry falling back a few spots as he, even by his own admission, may have been a little too conservative early on. Berry's fall back towards the lower half of the top-10 opened the door for Tommy Lemons to chase down McCaskill.
Lemons, who finally scored a breakthrough 2015 victory in the Rusty Harpe Memorial last Saturday, looked hooked up again at Motor Mile. He challenged McCaskill side-by-side for a number of laps before they started really racing hot and heavy around lap 40.
That would not end well for either, as Lemons slid a little coming off turn two on lap 47 and hooked McCaskill into the inside wall. The contact also ended Lemons' evening as he bent the right front suspension. As one could expect, there was a difference of opinions between the Southern National Park rivals.
McCaskill tersely said that he just got "dumped".
"It was nothing intentional on me," said Lemons. "It was just hard racing. Two good friends racing hard for the lead and not wanting to give an inch."
Berry may have had the best view of the incident.
"They were just racing hard for as early as it was," observed Berry, "Tommy was just really trying to get the lead there. They were both starting to get a little squirrelly and they just kind of met."
Berry's path to the lead wasn't quite done yet. CARS Late Model Stock Tour points leader Brayton Haws had rallied from a poor qualifying effort to take the lead on the next restart and set sail in search of his fourth victory of the six-race season. Berry began to stalk Haws as the laps wore down. But all the sizing Berry did of his rival turned out to be unneeded as Haws lost a tire on lap 92.
That handed Berry the lead, but the race was still by no means settled. Tyler Ankrum, who had been challenging for the top spot the previous 50 laps would lose a tire and Todd Gilliland would scoot by Berry for the lead inside of 25 laps to go.
"I was a little bit surprised that he [Gilliland] was able to stick it on the bottom," said Berry. "I started getting tight that run. Man I was frustrated really bad at that point. But then we had another caution and I thought he would make me go to the bottom for that restart. He gave me the top, he gave me a second chance. I had to fight for it, but I knew we could get him then. And from there, just had to hit my marks."
Gilliland hung on for second with Myatt Snider finishing third and unofficially scooting out to a slight points lead on Haws, who finished 15th after dominating the middle portions of the race. Four races remain on the tour for 2015 with Orange County Speedway (NC) coming up on August 1.(powered by 51's Third Turn)
| 1||88B||Josh Berry||125|
| 2||98G||Todd Gilliland||125|
| 3||2||Myatt Snider||125|
| 4||50||Jamey Caudill||125|
| 5||88D||Doug Barnes, Jr.||125|
| 6||77||Blake Stallings||125|
| 7||11||Caleb Holman||125|
| 8||12||Austin McDaniel||125|
| 9||58||Tyler Ankrum||125|
| 10||59||Roddey Sterling||125|
| 11||54||Michael Fose||125|
| 12||7||Justin Crider||125|
| 13||1||Trent Barnes||125|
| 14||98||Stefan Parsons||125|
| 15||41||Brayton Haws||125|
| 16||42||Craig Stallard||125|
| 17||28||Chris Hudspeth||125|
| 18||31||Thomas Beane||113|
| 19||27||Tommy Lemons, Jr.||105|
| 20||08||Deac McCaskill||47|
| 21||16s||R.D. Smith, III||29|
| 22||54R||Clay Rogers||29|
| 23||16||Jeffrey Oakley||11|
| 24||51||William Skewes||7|
-By Tim Quievryn, Speed51.com Southeast Editor - Twitter: @thethirdturn
-Photo credit: Speed51.com