Officially, Bobby McCarty won the 2019 CARS Late Model Stock Tour championship by one point over Josh Berry. Unofficially, you can say the margin of victory was 0.084 seconds.
Berry dominated the 125-lap CARS Late Model Stock Tour season finale at South Boston Speedway (VA), leading every lap from the pole to gain every point possible to close the nine-point gap between himself and McCarty entering the race.
However, McCarty held off Corey Heim and Layne Riggs to finish second in the race, beating Heim to the line by less than a tenth of a second as the two raced door-to-door over the closing laps.
That battle ultimately decided the championship after 11 races. McCarty finished with one more point on the campaign than Berry. If McCarty had finished third, the two drivers would have tied, with the tiebreaker going to Berry on the basis of his four wins in 2019.
Berry left satisfied knowing he had done everything he could do to claim his second series championship to add to his 2017 triumph. There was some understandable disappointment on missing out on the championship, but ultimately excitement after a strong showing to back up his dominant win in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway (VA) was the overriding sentiment.
“It’s a little bittersweet," Berry told Speed51. "I come here with one goal. We weren’t concerned with the points, really. We said if we could do our job, lead the most laps, get the pole, the points would take care of themselves and they almost did. That’s just racing.
“Me and Bobby have been going back and forth all year. At the end of the day, we come up one short but we’ve had a hell of a season. It’s been a real privilege to do this and work on these cars. Obviously, I would have loved to have the championship too, but if I had gotten all that I don’t know what I would have done.”
McCarty was well aware of the scenario at hand, and knew it was imperative for his title hopes to hold off Heim.
“Josh led every lap and won the race, so we knew we had to finish second,” said McCarty. “We absolutely had to. The last five laps were hang her out and get all you can get.”
The two battled closely over the final green flag run, often running side-by-side. As they duked it out, Layne Riggs closed in and entered the fray.
That trio nearly crossed the finish line three-wide on the final lap, with McCarty finishing 0.084 seconds ahead of Heim and .215 seconds ahead of Riggs.
McCarty was extremely complimentary of both racers, who raced hard for their positions but did not jeopardize his championship aspirations.
“[Corey]’s a class-act racer. Him and Layne [Riggs] both. They both had opportunities to rough me up and make the pass easy. They tried doing it the right way. I have to thank Layne and Corey for racing me clean. At the end of the day, that’s all I can ask for.”
As a hungry competitor, McCarty couldn’t help but express disappointment in the runner-up finish, knowing work must be done to gain on Berry on-track during his hot streak. Still, he is able to claim the honor of being the first back-to-back champion in CARS Tour history.
“Josh showed up and did everything he needed to do,” said McCarty. We squeaked by with the bare minimum. We’re not too happy with a second. Josh is in a different zip code right now, so we need to get our stuff better. To make history tonight, for me and everybody on my Autos By Nelson team, it’s special.”
Race fans who missed Saturday’s CARS Tour season finale at South Boston Speedway can visit Speed51’s Race Day Now updates by clicking here.
The CARS Tour will kick off its 2020 season on Saturday, March 7 at Southern National Motorsports Park (NC).
Unofficial Results - CARS Late Model Stock Tour
South Boston Speedway - South Boston, VA
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com photo