Mooresville, NC – The season-ending AutosByNelson.com 250 at South Boston brought an end to one of the closest points battles in CARS LMSC Tour history. JR Motorsports driver Josh Berry found himself in the middle of the points battle, as he trailed leader Layne Riggs by only four points in the standings while keeping a small five-point advantage over his JR Motorsports teammate Anthony Alfredo in third.
Berry needed a flawless weekend during the series’ first visit to South Boston in order to overtake Riggs and earn his first CARS LMSC Tour championship. However, the weekend proved to be a struggle for the CARS Tour veteran, as he nearly lost control of his car during the second round of qualifying, which relegated him to an eighth-place starting spot. Although Berry had a comfortable advantage over Alfredo, who was starting 20th, Berry would have to find the speed to chase down Riggs, who was starting on the outside of the front row.
Riggs proved to have one of the strongest cars in the field early on, as he quickly overtook polesitter Philip Morris for the lead on the first lap of the race. Despite losing the lead a few laps later, Riggs was able to constantly challenge Morris and race winner Deac McCaskill during the opening laps of the race, while Berry struggled to work his way up to the front, and found himself in seventh place when the first caution came out.
Berry got the break that he needed on the following restart when Riggs’ transmission broke going into the first turn, which forced the 15-year-old rookie to retire from the race, effectively knocking him out of the championship. Berry, who never cracked the Top 5 during the entire race, only had to contend with Alfredo for the championship and was able to secure the championship from his teammate by only a few points.
“It’s awesome to win a championship for Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Kelley Earnhardt,” Berry said. “They’ve been really good to me, and they’ve always been big supporters. I think this is my third or fourth championship for them, but a touring championship is obviously a big deal. There are a lot of different racetracks, and a lot of work went into this, so I’m really excited to win this championship and check it off the list, and I’m going to enjoy it and get ready for next year.”
Berry’s championship in the CARS LMSC Tour adds another chapter to his brief, but illustrious career in Late Models. Berry got his start in Late Model racing in 2011 at South Boston Speedway, where he made 19 starts and earned one victory, which placed him fourth overall in the track’s final 2011 standings. Since 2012, Berry has been a regular at both Motor Mile Speedway and Hickory Motor Speedway, where he has won over two dozen races between the two tracks and has one track championship at both facilities.
Berry’s success on short tracks eventually convinced Dale Earnhardt Jr. to start fielding a part-time Xfinity car for him, with Berry finishing 12th in his series debut at Iowa in 2014. Berry has made five more starts in the series since his debut with JR Motorsports and Obaika Racing, earning a career-best finish of seventh in the 2015 Virginia 529 College Savings 250 at Richmond Raceway. Berry has expressed interest in running more Xfinity races, but a lack of sponsorship and a commitment to Late Models has prevented him from being more active in the series.
In 2015, Berry began to make select appearances in both divisions of the recently formed CARS Tour, but quickly found his place in the CARS LMSC Tour, where he won three out of the four races he started. Berry carried the momentum he established from 2015 into 2016, where he won five more races and finished in the Top 5 in all of his starts. However, Berry ultimately forfeited his shot at the CARS LMSC Tour championship when he missed the 2016 Summertime Showdown at Orange County due to a commitment with the Xfinity Series, but Berry still managed to finish third in the standings to Deac McCaskill.
Berry would have several new challenges to face for the 2017 season, such as an increased schedule, new tracks and competitors, and dealing with the loss of his long-time sponsor Speedco. However, Berry was able to overcome the adversity and knocked off four more victories in the 2017 CARS LMSC Tour season to secure his first championship in the series, including a season sweep at Concord Speedway. Berry believes that he and his team met all of their goals for the 2017 season, and is proud of the hard work they put into his car despite some of the struggles they faced.
“In 2016, it seemed like things came a lot easier for us,” Berry said. “You just have to learn not to take things like that for granted. We had a lot of ups and downs this year, but at the end, I’m excited to be the champion, and hopefully, we can contend for the championship next year.”
There are many unknowns for Josh Berry going into 2018, but he does plan to return to the CARS LMSC Tour next year with the hope of becoming the first repeat champion in the series’ brief history. Berry has also expressed interest in competing in other divisions next year but added he is still trying to work out many details.
“Right now I’m not exactly sure what I have lined up for next year beyond the CARS Tour,” Berry said. “I can definitely say that I have a few things in the works, but I guess we’ll have to just wait and see.”
The 2018 CARS Tour season will introduce a variety of changes to the schedule and competition for Berry and his competitors, including inaugural visits to Wake County Speedway, Ace Speedway, Kingsport Speedway and Carteret County Speedway. The CARS Tour will also not return to Concord Speedway for the 2018 season, which was a track that Berry was undefeated at during his career in the series. However, Berry is looking forward to the changes and tribulations that the 2018 season will bring him, and remains confident that he will once again be one of the drivers competing for a championship when the season concludes at South Boston next year.
For additional information on the CARS Late Model Stock Tour and the CARS Super Late Model Tour visit www.carsracingtour.com. Be sure to stay active and social with the tour by liking “CARS Tour” on Facebook, following @CARSTour on Twitter, and scrolling through photos on Instagram cars_tour. Additional series information can be obtained by calling the CARS Tour series office, located in Mooresville, NC, at 704.662.9212.