The win in the biggest Late Model Stock race at South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach Speedway came down to two JR Motorsports teammates on Saturday night. Josh Berry, the 26-year-old veteran, and Christian Eckes, the 16-year-old newcomer. The battle ended with one teammate in the wall, and the other celebrating in victory lane.
Berry took the lead late, but saw his teammate coming hard. Eckes caught Berry coming to the white flag.
“We got to the lead and felt good about it, but once Christian got clear of (Lee Pulliam) he was just faster,” Berry told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “On the last lap I knew he was faster and I knew it wouldn’t be easy to hold him off.”
Eckes ducked inside Berry on the exit of turn two. They drag-raced into turn three with Eckes on the bottom and Berry outside. On the exit of the final corner they made contact. Berry caught the wall, sparks lit up the South Carolina sky and Eckes beat Berry by a nose to score the biggest win of his young career.
“We worked hard all year just to win a local race,” Eckes said. “To win the Myrtle Beach 400 is just something truly amazing.”
While Eckes celebrated, Berry went to a private area to collect himself. Even with a full 24 hours having passed since the checkered flag waved, Berry is still working trying to figure out what to think and feel about the incident.
“Honestly I don’t know what to think,” he said. “Obviously I’m disappointed that we didn’t win, but at the same time I’m happy that it was Christian that won. Obviously he’s one of our cars and I know that’s a big deal to him.”
Even though Berry is happy his teammate won and happy JR Motorsports scored a one-two finish, Berry made it clear that he’s not happy with how Eckes won or how the situation unfolded on the final lap.
“I knew he’d lean on me and rub on me. I just hate that it was that deal,” said Berry. “Everyone saw it. He turned to the right and put me in the wall. But I understand it. I’ve thought about it a lot. He did what he had to do to win the race. But I hated the situation. With the situation ending like that, that’s something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. It was a difficult situation to handle. I hope that everyone understands that and knows I tried my best to be respectful. I’m glad he won. I think that in due time he will learn a different way to go about what happened.”
Eckes said he didn’t try to turn right and put Berry in the wall. He said he instead got loose underneath Berry on the exit of turn four.
“We got under him and really gained some ground in one and two and we got side by side off of turn two,” Eckes explained. “Once we got alongside of him in three and four I got a little bit loose under him in four just trying to get everything I could and got into Josh a little bit and slowed his momentum down and we were able to shoot forward.”
“I don’t believe that,” Berry said. “Ultimately I think I’d rather him just say what happened other than try to make an excuse for it. He was racing for the win. He wanted to win. That’s it. In the end I’m happy for our team. I’m happy because they won and we got a 1-2 finish. I just wish it would have gone a little bit differently.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas/TheFourthTurn.com